Subverting the “Girlie” Calendar: January

janelewis_JapaneseBlind
Ms. January
All January wanted was a home,
and not these crows, and not these frozen trees,
limbful of snow. It was a home, with these:

a door to close, a chest of drawers, a comb.

 

A “girlie calendar” makes one think of men’s lockers, walls of auto repair shops or a military barracks: They’re typically collections of nude or scantily dressed women in provocative poses, designed for the male heterosexual gaze.

But what if a girlie calendar is designed with a lesbian gaze in mind? That sort of subversion is what lesbian poet Mary Meriam has in mind with the title of her new poetry collection, Girlie Calendar, and for the Ms. Blog she is excerpting from the book a poem-of-the-month (she began in October and continued in November and December). Meriam is also selecting accompanying artwork for each month from both historical and contemporary lesbian-related images.

January’s artist, Jane Lewis, is a painter and printmaker. She produces work oblivious to fashion, trends or movements. Her work has been shown in solo and group exhibitions throughout the UK, where she lives, and internationally. In 1980, she participated in the groundbreaking “Women’s Images of Men” exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, an early turning point in her career. Bloodaxe Books has used more than 20 of her paintings as covers for their poetry publications. Here’s what she says about her work:

I began drawing at 2 years old, developing a passion for making pictures which has continued throughout my life. My aim is to produce technically immaculate paintings which often contain subversive imagery, a paradox at once seducing and challenging the viewer. Pictures within pictures are a frequent motif. The human figures and objects depicted, the stillness and impression of time arrested, are all part of a personal narrative expressing the relationship between conscious thoughts and an inner world. My figure and still-life paintings and prints are a combination of actual and invented people and objects arranged into a composition of the imagination. I painted this picture [above], “Japanese Blind,” in 1997 and, being so much younger then, my gaze on women had a different edge to now. These days I don’t paint the female nude because, unlike the aging male artist, to me it does not seem appropriate.

“Japanese Blind” reprinted by permission of the artist

MaryM

 

Poet Mary Meriam is the founder of Lavender Review, cofounder of Headmistress Press and author of The Countess of Flatbroke, The Poet’s Zodiac, Word Hot, Conjuring My Leafy Muse and Girlie Calendar.

 

About

Mary Meriam advocates for the right of women to love each other in their poetry and art, and strives to give their work a place at the table. She writes about and publishes such work in the journal she founded, Lavender Review, at the press she cofounded, Headmistress Press, and at Ms. magazine, The Critical Flame, and The Gay & Lesbian Review. Her poetry collections, The Countess of Flatbroke, The Poet's Zodiac, The Lillian Trilogy, and Lady of the Moon, honor a cosmos of strong, creative women. Her latest collection, My Girl's Green Jacket, was published in 2018, and her poems have appeared recently in Poetry, Prelude, Subtropics, and The Poetry Review.