Les Femmes Folles

Women in art Find your art on Redbubble

On the Revolutionary and Transformative Effects of Poetry: A Five Part Interview Series with Five Poets from Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence: Jane Satterfield


cover art by Elayne Safir

Super excited to present an LFF EXCLUSIVE!: On the Revolutionary and Transformative Effects of Poetry: A Five Part Interview Series with Five Poets from Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013), edited by Laura Madeline Wiseman. For Five Fridays, I am posting an interview with a poet and the editor Laura Madeline Wiseman, along with a poem. Enjoy and be stirred. (Part 1 featured Rebecca Frost; check it out here. Part 2 featured Gaynell Gavin; check it out here.)

On the Revolutionary and Transformative Effects of Poetry: A Five Part Interview Series with Five Poets from Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013), edited by Laura Madeline Wiseman.

Part III: Jane Satterfield

Laura Madeline Wiseman: Adrienne Rich wrote that “Revolution is poetry.” How has poetry been revolutionary and transformative in your life and work?


Jane Satterfield: On the eve of my first marriage, my aunt gave me a Royal Albert tea set she’d bought on her recent trip back to her hometown in England. It was white bone china, scattered over with a delicate pastel pattern named “Meadow Flower,” the pattern my aunt thought perfect for the quiet young poet I appeared to be. Though I’ve never stood at a barricade, that idea of the woman poet—a cultivator of beauty, a gentle spirit removed from the fray—seems torn from another age. It’s rare that I have time to wander quiet suburban streets, let alone the meadow (if I can find one). Even so, I value the quiet that seems to grow scarcer every year: it’s  impossible for me to write without some degree of concentration—-quiet reflection and inner peace—at least for the time it takes to arrange and rearrange words on the page.

By encouraging reflection, poetry is revolutionary: it has led me to break away from expectations of gender and class; it has deepened my attention and turned me to larger questions. Take that tea set, for example—what hands and histories shaped this object that has passed, at a particular moment in time, into my own? Years after opening my aunt’s gift, I visited a pottery museum in the Staffordshire town where my daughter was born, and read first-hand testimonies of industrial-era workers’ conditions. I remember hoisting the baby onto my hip to read a plaque that included this telling detail—that inspectors actually advised managers to hire women because “their labor is cheaper and they can be more easily induced to undergo severe bodily fatigue than men.”  Today, the same words might be whispered, but I have no doubt that they’re said.

I can think of nothing more revolutionary than the individual voice rising above the daily din to speak about subjects that others—in the fusty air of the boardroom, at the restorative ceremony of tea—would encourage us to turn from. Whether I approach these from a first-person perspective or through the lens of a persona, the goal is the same: to resist the silence of forgetfulness and the chatter of distraction. In writing about the prevalence of sexual trafficking and a mother’s fears for her teenaged daughter, sixteenth century witch trials and contemporary high school cliques, or male artists’ exploitation of models, I hope to raise awareness about the connections between the individual body and the body politic—above all, to pay tribute to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Jane Satterfield

The Body Impolitic

Peak District, England, 1995

I set some record that year

with my rest stop requests,

marriage on life support, 

the ex & I in a beat up Mini,

Sour Times on cassette EP spooling

on what was the only godsend

of that year-long trip:  sound system

that cancelled conversation … .

A singer crooned through

sampled bars & beats

End the vows no need to lie, enjoy

Take a ride, take a shot now …

A long one, really, this ride or even that

we’d raise this child happily, together.


Hugging curves & hairpin turns,

we traveled on as moorland

laced with drystone walls

gave way to coal smoke & cobblestoned towns—

Ashbourne, Bakewell, Buxton, Leek,

the village markets where I bought books,

distinctive cakes or cheese (impolitic? Such appetite!).

The car would overheat, throw steam—each outing

brought some misadventure. 

Not bad, he said,

as the souvenir rat bobbled on the rear-view

mirror, not bad to have puked at the plague

museum.  I’d snapped

photos of stones drilled to hold coins

soaked in medieval disinfectant—vinegar

brining the payment for a dwindling village’s

food supplies.  Back on the winding road

I begged another stop.  So there in the welcoming heart

of the nation, in some dimly remembered town,

the walls of the public loo were plastered

with porn, the peeling pages of skin mags

the anorexic bleached blondes’ orange-tinted

airbrushed tan & practiced gaze

suggestive, always, of utmost oblige—

black markered, stained, & slashed through.                         

No sign of those who plied their trade or were

plied into trade, no visible trace of the hands

who slashed graffitied, bore down

an imprint of heat & hate. Thirteen

years on, my girl child’s nearly a woman.

Walks further from me & into the world.

            Eight months gone, prepared with midwife,

ante-natal class, & all those Mama manuals.

I was, I thought, good & ready.

The Body Impolitic” from Her Familiars by Jane Satterfield, © 2013 by Jane Satterfield and published by Elixir Press. Reprinted with permission of the author.

Jane Satterfield is the author of three books of poems: Her Familiars, Assignation at Vanishing Point, and Shepherdess with an Automatic, as well as Daughters of Empire:  A Memoir of a Year in Britain and Beyond. Her awards include a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in poetry, the William Faulkner Society’s Gold Medal for the Essay, the Mslexia women’s poetry prize, and the49th Parallel Poetry Prize from The Bellingham Review. Satterfield is the literary editor for the Journal of the Motherhood Initiative and lives in Baltimore.

Laura Madeline Wiseman has a doctorate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where she teaches creative writing. She is the author of seven collections of poetry, including the book Sprung (San Francisco Bay Press, 2012). She is the editor of Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence (Hyacinth Girl Press, 2013).



WWR on amazon: amazon.com/Women-Write-Resistance-Resist-Violence

WWR on Facebook: facebook.com/WomenWriteResistancePoetsResistGenderViolence

WWR on Twitter:

LFF’s review of WWR: femmesfollesnebraska.tumblr.com/post/44068695532/mini-review-of-women-write-resistance-edited-by-laura

Past features of other WWR writers on LFF:

Rebecca Foust

Gaynell Gavin

Deborah T. McGinn

Sara Henning

Elayne Safir (cover artist)

Megan Gannon

Twyla Hansen

Laura Madeline Wiseman

Stay tuned for the next in the series, an interview with Ellin Sarot by editor Laura Madeline Wiseman next Friday, August 23.

  1. wearefuse reblogged this from femmesfollesnebraska
  2. femmesfollesnebraska posted this