Horrified today to see, via Arc poet Jackie Wills' blog, that an 'unknown' - as Jackie puts it - American poet called Eleanor Ross Taylor has been recognised for her talent with the Ruth Lily Award.
What horrified me was not the poet herself, or her poetry, or indeed the award, but the apparent equanimity with which some people seem to accept without question the US critic Kevin Prufer's description of her work (taken from a recent blog entry on the NBCC Award shortlisted finalists):
Her speakers are most often mothers and wives thinking about their grown children, the complexities of marriage, and (increasingly in the later poems) their responsibilities to the dead and their own impending demise. Sometimes these voices emerge from an ostensible past, as in “My Grandmother’s Virginhood, 1879” or “Motherhood, 1880.” More often, they take place in an undefined domestic present. Occasionally, they rise from more surprising places, as in “Kitchen Fable,” where the flatware itself takes on the consciousness of a frustrated wife.
Wow, and there I was thinking we'd got past the ludicrously sexist 'Look, a woman who writes about domestic issues! Quick, let's give her an award and encourage other women to steer clear of politics and the 'big' issues, and write about their children and husbands instead.'
Granted, for some women, writing about being a wife and mother is all they want to do as poets. And for some women, writing a poem about being a woman is a political act in itself.
But let's at least stop and examine why Eleanor Ross Taylor has been so suddenly plucked out of obscurity to be given this award, if it isn't to suggest - perhaps at a subliminal level - to female writers that good girls who keep their heads down and only write quiet, domestic poetry will be recognised for their modesty and humility in the end.
Even if it's only with a pat-on-the-head style encomium from some highly placed male critic.