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Liesl Jobson

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

International Women’s Day – a day of gratitude

A string quartet plays in the garden this International Women’s Day and camellias are floating in the pond, the champagne is chilling on ice. Metaphorically, of course. It’s the garden party of my heart.

So I’ve lit the candle-lanterns that swing in the summer heat and the kids, allowed up after dark, wave sparklers and scoff brownies. Before the night’s out I’m raising a toast to the savvy, smart, honest, beautiful, funny, generous and wise women who people my tribe in the broadest sense of the word.

To those sisters in writing who raise families and manage lovers, hold down day jobs and edit journals, write their own work and publish others’ work, who stay with the schlep that is the writing life, and still glow in their wit and humanity, I can’t pass up this chance to wish you all well.

So many women writers show me all is not lost in my messy words; they patch up my muddles and drop me emails; they talk me down off high ledges and send me straight talk; they bail me out for the day, or sometime just a minute; they write their own shimmering texts that make me proud to know them; they believe that what we’re all trying to do is worth staying with even when it sucks, the whole indecent catastrophe. And of late it has sucked, sharp stones in spades.

Tonight this huge party is for all the women around the world who have made a difference to each other, hand-holding and cheerleading, proffering tissues and tips, reading first drafts and attending readings, and kindly souls who help me go on when I’m ready to quit.

The music is sublime at the party tonight, and the fat lady is singing for those dear hearts and far darlings whom I appreciate so much. Thanks for the sweet hours, the kindly encouragement, those brief minutes even that mean so very much. You have saved the day, you’ve saved my ass (those dismal poems that aren’t haunting me in Cyberia). Thanks for all that; this one’s for you:
Yvette Christiansë and Gabeba Baderoon, Karin Schimke and Ingrid Anderson, Helen Moffett and Alex Smith, Jo-Anne Richards and Colleen Higgs, Karina Brink and Ingrid de Kok, Sophy Kohler and Diane Awerbuck, Finuala Dowling and Henrietta Rose-Innes, Antjie Krog and Ann Donald, Karen Press and Estelle Jobson, Joanne Hichens and Corina Van der Spoel, Tania van Schalkwyk and Melissa Butler, Zukiswa Wanner and Sarah Frost, Megan Voysey-Braig and Hazel Frankel, Dawn Garisch and Erica Emdon, Margie Orford and Jennifer Ferguson, Liz Trew and Verushka Louw, Isabella Morris and Sarah Lotz, Lauren Beukes and Pamela Nichols, Moira Richards and Maire Fisher, Crystal Warren and Isobel Dixon, Madea le Noble and Sarah Ream, Anindita Sengupta, Michelle McGrane and Susan Kigali; and my best best writing teachers: Kim Chinquee, Tiff Holland, Claudia Smith, Utahna Faith, Carol Novack, Ellen Parker, Heather Fowler, Gail Siegel, Jennifer Pieroni, Avital Gad Cykman, Darlin’ Neal, Liz Cashdan, Ann Fisher-Wirth, Patricia Fargnoli, Ann Hostetler, Louisa Howerow, Alicia Ostriker, Girija Tropp, Kathy Fish, Rishma Dunlop, Tricia Dower, Lydia Copeland, Kay Sexton, Maryanne Stahl and Mary Akers.

And thanks also to Annie Finch who started WOM-PO and Amy King who keeps it running. This Women’s Poetry Listserv has given me more to think about than there is space in my head for thinking.

And because Lucy Pijnenburg, over at Poetry International, has focused her attention on this cause for celebration, and how women’s poetry still doesn’t get equal air time, it makes sense to link to her article:

Juliana Spahr and Stephanie Young’s 2007 article ‘Numbers Trouble’ highlighted the fact that women poets are still underrepresented in publishing in the USA. In countries where more male poets are published, the publication of a poem by a female writer, even if it is not an overtly “political” poem, can be seen as a political act in itself. Should a 50:50 men to women publishing ratio be aimed for? Are there simply fewer women poets writing and trying to get published? And if so, why? ‘Numbers Trouble’ shed new light on how editors go about representing women whilst ensuring that the aesthetic merit of poetry is kept.


Recent comments:

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Fiona</a>
    March 9th, 2010 @07:47 #

    This is a lovely post. There's a lot to be depressed about in terms of the state of women's rights world wide, but there's also much to be thankful for. Thanks for pointing that out, Liesl.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Ingrid Andersen</a>
    Ingrid Andersen
    March 9th, 2010 @08:28 #

    We are family
    I got all my sisters with me
    We are family
    Get up ev'rybody and sing...

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Liesl</a>
    March 9th, 2010 @08:56 #

    Good party song, that one.

  • <a href="" rel="nofollow">Helen</a>
    March 9th, 2010 @10:08 #

    Thanks so much, dear Liesl. I have been despairing, and therefore curmudgeonly, of late. This party, as Fiona says, reminds me of how much there is to celebrate.

  • Estelle
    March 9th, 2010 @10:09 #

    Amen, sistah! My inner gospel soprano would like to offer her solo services at the party. Publishing, along with nursing and teaching, is what they call 'pink-collar work', peopled by women and often paid accordingly. But look at how much support and sisterhood is to be found amongst the pink collars.

  • Ben - Editor
    Ben - Editor
    March 9th, 2010 @11:19 #

    Nadine Gordimer and Desmond Tutu are signatories to an IWD press release demanding respect for women's rights in Africa, posted by Muhammad Shamsaddin Megalommatis in the American Chronicle:


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