75. 33. 28. They are beautiful numbers—and those numbers were once unthinkable. The Best American Poetry series has just released its 2012 edition. Seventy-five (75) poets are represented, and 33 of them are women. That’s 44 percent—something rarely seen in a collection.  Twenty-eight (28) of those women are over the age of 40. And, just for the record, 10 of those women are in their 60s and two are over 70!  In a time when inequity has outlasted reason and when ageism defies the truth about productivity in later years, this volume speaks to enlightenment and undeniable reality.

Oh, of course there are lovely poems by the young in Best American Poetry 2012—valuable poems, poems with promise of things to come and information about the way things are. We salute them with the sensitivity to reverse-ageism that we mean to embrace. Today, though, we present some lines from our contemporaries—all of whom have appeared here at Women’s Voices for Change on previous Poetry Sundays. These poets we count as our close friends, while recognizing all poets as friends of the truth and paying special tribute to the 28 women poets over 40 who have labored long and hard to be recognized for doing their best—and have indeed produced the best that the Guest Editor, Mark Doty, could find.


From “For Furious Nursing Baby,” by Julianna Baggott:
            Then when wrenched
                        loose you’ll eat sorrow loss—
                                                 one flexed hand twists
            as you open your mouth
                                     to eat your fist.


From “In a Kitchen Where Mushrooms Were Washed,” by Jane Hirschfield

In a kitchen where mushrooms were washed,
the mushroom scent lingers.

As the sea must keep for a long time the scent of the whale.


From “Hate Mail,” by Carol Muske-Dukes

But, let me tell you, especially you. You like
To think that you can think faster than
The rest of us—hah!  We drive the car

In which you’re a crash dummy! . . .


From “Samara, by Lucia Perillo


Somewhere Darwin speculates that happiness
should be the outcome of his theory—

those who take pleasure
will produce offspring who’ll take pleasure,

though he concedes the advantage of the animal who keeps death in mind
and is so vigilant.


From “Playacting,” by Kay Ryan

Something inside says
there will be a curtain,
maybe or maybe not
some bowing, probably
no roses . . .

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  • BigLittleWolf October 7, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    This is good news.

    With the passing of Adrienne Rich this year, we lost a strong and eloquent voice. We forget how powerful poetry can be. Like music, with lessons.

    I’m looking forward to Best American Poetry, not only to encounter new poets, as well as to enjoy some we already know.

  • Patricia Yarberry Allen, M.D. October 7, 2012 at 12:04 pm

    Since its inception, Poetry Sunday has arrived without fail every week, introducing us to new poets and sharing the words and wisdom of those and others known to us. I count on Poetry Sunday for this time of reflection and renewal in a sometimes overwhelming week. It is indeed wonderful to hear that women and women over 40 are recognized in the 2012 best American Poets. This is a collection I look forward to reading. Thanks for this weekly gift.