The poems contained in this series, “Liberating Words,” came out of an interdisciplinary course for high school juniors at The Winsor School, an all-girls school in Boston. The course, “The Personal Is Political: An Interdisciplinary Look at Feminism,” is co-taught by Libby Parsley, a history teacher, and Susanna Ryan, an English teacher. The second unit of the course focuses on the history and literature of second-wave feminism: the women’s liberation movement of the 1960s and ’70s. Students read a compilation of poems by women writers from that period and then wrote their own poems; the assignment asked them to represent an issue or problem they see as central to 21st-century women’s experience through the very personal genre of poetry.
By Elizabeth Kim
this woman smells
like baby powder
like soothing lullabies and chicken gruel
like olive oil and laundry detergent
sharp, like her husband’s cologne, and sweet, like her daughter’s favorite strawberry smoothies
she smells of fresh glue
binding the pages of a high school textbook
she smells of sour acne cream
of low grades and low self-esteem
like the musty velvet lining of an old instrument case
like her husband’s schemes to achieve
like a tight-lipped farewell at an airport
like single motherhood and college rejection letters
like a marriage,
like a yo-yo on a string.
this woman reeks
of the lives of others.
This woman is a giver, a regular saint mary
No longer the youthful ballerina
Vain, gifted, beautiful,
The Belle of all belles.
A Scarlett O’Hara
Minus the man.
How little teenage apathy understands.
Her daughter’s hands are delicate
They remind her of her own, once upon a time
When she was young
The boundless world
A toy globe
A plastic plaything
To roll between her fingers.
Elizabeth (Betsy) Kim is an avid writer and violinist. In her free time, she enjoys attending classical music concerts and watching her favorite TV shows, Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead.
Photo courtesy of UN Women Asia and the Pacific on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0