Developing the literary section of the epWIN website threw me into big questions both about feminism and literature. I had offered regularly to provide French or English poems or texts written by women. I dreamt the texts to be encouraging and inclusive, powerful and tender, extraordinary in a way or just touching my soul, heart or mind.
This however turned into a bigger plan. A regular literary supplement entails fundamental choices as to what, who, which books. As I suggested for me the literature on this website should be literature written by women in all its subheadings, feminist, meanstream, lesbian, indigenous… you name it. Sometimes going with the canonized authors, I would however also actively look for lesser-known authors who speak to our common heritage.
In other words, what I do will be a personal choice. However, in order not to limit this section of our website, I would need your input, suggestions and contributions, so that it can become a fuller, richer kaleidoscope.
I won’t always be able to analyze and put in the broader context of general literature what I would propose. That might be over ambitious and too time consuming.
I hope to stimulate you all to reach for more poetry and literature. This way this part of the website might just be a bit of sand in the wheels of establishment. I’ll try however to avoid the risk of the website becoming a specific subculture. I see this section as a minute addition to the existing canonized literature, although some of my favored authors whose work I intend to present have in the mean time reached cult status.
Of course I need help. I do not have a comprehensive view of world literature in French and English. I’ll sneak in a few German writers… the comments will however always be in English. So be sure that your and my high expectations will be disillusioned. I dedicate this section to all of you Eva’s and Lilith’s. Even Abel and Cain are welcome to read – who knows we might yet prevent fratricide and start the world all over again in fresh innocence…
I’ll start with a canonized writer: Maya Angelou.
In all ways a woman
A woman who survives in tact and happy must be at once tender and tough. She must have convinced herself, or be in the unending process of convincing herself, that she, her values and her choices are important.
Still today we live in a world where men hold sway and control and the pressure upon women to yield their rights-of-way is still enormous. And it is in these circumstances that a woman’s toughness must be in evidence.
She must resist considering herself a lesser version than her male counterpart, she is not a sculptress, poetess, authoress, negroess. She is the thing for it’s own sense of self and she must insist for the education of those ill-informed. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but a woman called by a devaluing name will only be weakened.
And a woman must prize her tenderness and be able to display it at appropriate times so as to prevent her toughness from gaining total authority and to avoid becoming the mirror image of those men who value power above life and control above love.
And it is imperative a woman keeps her sense of humour in tact and at the ready. She must see herself as the funniest, looniest woman in her world, which she should also see as being the most absurd world.
It is said that laughter is tears inside out. But is also true that laughter is therapeutic.
Woman should be tough, tender, laugh as much as possible and live long lives.
The struggle for equality continues but the woman warrior who is armed with wit and courage will be among the first to celebrate victory.
Extracted from Maya Angelou.
She was born April 4 in 1928 in St. Louis. She then was still called Marguerite Johnson. She was raised in Arkansas, rural and segregated.
Her life was al but rural: she married a South African freedom fighter, lived in Cairo were she edited The Arab Observer, the only English language weekly in the Middle East it seems. She lived in Ghana, where among other things she taught at the university. From 1960 she became a voice to be reckoned with and President Ford appointed her to the Bicentennial Commission and President Jimmy Carter choose her for the National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year.
She is a strong voice in contemporary literature and was one of the first African-American women to get to the bestseller list with ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’. She is a gifted speaker and can hold a large auditorium spellbound. One could say that love is her theme: ‘The honorary duty of a human being is to love.’ She certainly is inclusive and says: ‘I am human, and nothing human can be alien to me.’
With fire, verve and sharp perception she captivates us all.
At the request of President Bill Clinton in 1993, she became the second poet in U.S History who wrote and recited original work at a president’s inauguration. She has won many awards, is a poet, a playwright, an actress, a civil-rights activist and has about 12 best-selling books to her name. She also wrote and produced a ten-part TV series on African traditions in American life.
… Men themselves have
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can’t see.
It’s the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breast,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman