Women + Poetry

Friday, January 5, 2007


Q. Why only women?

A. The short answer: Because we felt compelled to gather, solicit, and create a space specifically for poems made by women. By doing this, we hope to bring more attention to all of the exciting work currently being done by women poets. We find the idea of looking at a collection of poetry by various women really exciting.

The long answer: We believe in multiple genders, and believe the term "“women"” includes multiple genders. We hope this multiplicity is evident in the work we showcase.

Womb is partly inspired by the riot grrrl scene, and the zines that came out of that community. These zines were exciting because they mixed academic discourse about gender with D.I.Y. aesthetics and attitude. They made use of, and incorporated, traditionally "“feminine"” or "“girly"” imagery, while simultaneously challenging that imagery. Nothing was off-limits. Like riot grrrl, which existed within the larger context of indie rock and punk, we hope WOMB will work as something that exists within the larger context of online publishing. That is to say that we see WOMB as something within -- – not against --– the online poetry community. This point is especially important to us.

The other thing of course, is that an online journal which focuses on work created by women provides a context that will allow all of us to explore the role gender plays in poetry, performance, and cyberspace. We don'’t have an answer to this, but we do believe that gender is something worth thinking about. Will WOMB be different from other journals because it focuses on work created by women? We're not sure.

There are some amazing venues which focus on poetries created by women. Check 'em out: HOW2, belladonna*, Superflux, Wicked Alice, Dancing Girl Press, Kelsey Street Press, Switchback Books, and others listed in our sidebar.

Also: Many people have written about women-only spaces as an essential aspect of attaining world-wide gender equality. If you are interested, you can check out this piece which argues that women-only spaces are still vital to achieving gender-equality in the west, or this article on the benefits of women-only spaces in the quest for gender equality in Africa .

Q. Is WOMB just for women?

A. The short answer: WOMB is for everybody! One of our main goals is to make a meaningful contribution to the exciting world of online journals, and for us that means making something that is for everybody.

The long answer: Although WOMB is for everybody, we do hope to provide a space that allows women to find/connect with other women more easily. The internet is a sprawling, rhizomatic space. We hope that WOMB might become a "hub" or sorts. One of the ways we are trying to do this is by building a comprehensive blogroll of poet / bloggers who identify as women.

It goes without saying that this resource will also be of interest and useful to everybody.

Q. Are you looking for "“women'’s writing"”?

The short answer: No.

The long answer: The short answer is no because we'’re not really sure what "“women'’s writing"” is, but it seems like most people who've used this term think "“women'’s writing"” is writing that addresses or discusses "“women-specific"” issues (rape, pregnancy, domestic violence, ect.). Of course we are open to poetry that deals with these subjects, as we are open to poetry that deals with any subject. We have no preferences content-wise. We like all sorts of stuff, which we hope is evident in our weekly links and the links in our sidebar. Check '‘em out!

*That said, there is the term "feminine writing" or "écriture feminine," as coined by Helene Cixous in The Laugh of the Medusa. If you are interested in this term you might want to start here. Additionally, there is Nu shu or "women's script," a form of writing invented by women hundreds of years ago in Jiang Yong Prefecture, Hunan Province, China.

Q. Why the name WOMB?

It'’s a word we'’ve always liked, and it's a not a word you hear very often.

We also like the figurative/connotative properties of the word "“womb."” The etymology of WOMB, and the connections made to "womb" in other words' etymologies, is also interesting.

You can read more about the why we like the word "womb" as a title for a publication here.

Q. Why the funny mark-ups in the title?

It'’s sort of our little homage to thirteen year old girls, which is where we got the inspiration. Something about the urge to decorate text -- – whether it be using bubble letters or tildes and asterisks and underscores -- really appeals to us. We also like how it turns a mark that has a "standard use"” into something decorative. In this sense, thirteen year old girls have successfully appropriated these marks to suit their aesthetic preferences. We think that'’s pretty hip.

Q. I am an artist who works in genres / media other than poetry. Can I still submit to WOMB?


We consider poetry inclusive of all media. Really. Some "types" of poetry include: Visual and Concrete Poetry, Tactile Poetry, Gestural Poetry, Sound Poetry, HTML and digital poetry, Video Poetry, Found Poetry, Prose Poetry, Altered Texts, and Book Arts.

Anything is poetry if you say it is.

Q. Why online?

It's accessible 24/7 worldwide. It'’s less expensive for us. It'’s free for readers. Plus, it will allow us to include lots of images, movies, and poetry which requires an online/digital environment. Plus, we plan to archive everything forever.

Q. Is WOMB a blog? A zine? A journal? What?

For now, WOMB exists here -- at wombpoetry.blogspot.com -- as a blog. But we are working on a website, and when WOMB launches in January 2007, it will be at our website. We'’ll always have a blog, which we like because it'’s easy to update and is open to comments.

As to whether WOMB is a "zine" or a "“journal," we'’re not sure, and for now we don't really care. Call us whatever you want.

Q. Is WOMB feminist?

The short answer: YES.

We like the deinition bell hooks offers in her book Feminisim is for Everybody. feminism is a movement to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression”

The long answer: There are many types of feminisims. The one thing we'd like to make clear is that we are feminist because we love everybody -- including men. We are feminist because we believe everybody should have the same rights and freedoms. We believe feminisim is good for everybody.

Q. What can I do to help or become involved with WOMB?

A. The short answer: Spread the word! Link to us! Submit!

The long answer: We are always grateful for your thoughts and feedback. Feel free to write to us at wombpoetry at gmail dot com. And if you have any special skills that you'd like to volunteer, particularly with web design, we'd love to hear from you!

Monday, January 1, 2007

WOMB as a title for a publication

Some people seem to think that "womb" is a pretty provocative/controversial title for a publication. I'd like to unpack why that is. But first I'd just like to say this:

-I like the word "womb," it's etymology, and the letters w-o-m-b and their suggested visual echoes: b-o-m-b (a buzzing or booming sound), c-o-m-b (a toothed object), t-o-m-b (to swell). I have always liked the "om" combination. I also have an intense fondness for words containing "ov." And I like almost all the words used to describe female and flower anatomy. They are tasty, tangy words. I also like the word "speculum." And "hem." And "hone." And "bone." And "elixir." But I digress.

- wombs -- the body parts -- are not required for publication in WOMB.

- WOMB publishes the work of people who SELF-identify as women.

- WOMB publishes the work of multiple genders.

- WOMB is feminist.

- WOMB is for everybody.

I think one of the reasons some people are put off by the name has to do with the body, and the way certain parts/areas of the body can become sites of political discourse and how this is enacted through language. The idea of the anatomical womb and it's function as a reproductive organ is frequently used as way for others to claim possession of/power over women's bodies. In case it isn't obvious, I think this is really gross.

I think another reason why some people are made uncomfortable by the name has to do with the way WOMB seems more sincere than say, words like "pussy" or "cunt." "Pussy" and "cunt" seem more ironic and distanced...and in some ways, this irony/distance is what makes many people, especially men, more comfortable. In case it isn't obvious, I think it is okay to make people feel uncomfortable. Especially if the discomfort reveals some sort of occult privilege.

It also seems that some people make the assumption that the title WOMB is meant to be a sort of synecdoche. That the journal is a sort of "all wombs on deck" call to poets. Or else that the title is meant to glorify fecundity/fertility. Both of these assumptions tend toward an interpretation of the title as a means of being divisive. Additionally, these assumptions also align with a tendency to value women because they possess wombs, or -- even worse -- to value the womb more than the woman. In case it isn't obvious, I think these tendencies are really, really gross. It is, in fact, a desire to squash those tendencies that compel me to use words like "womb" and "ovary" and "fallopian tubes."

I know that not everyone will like the title/name of every publication. And I know language will always be the site of conflict. I like poetry because it is a radical use of language. And yes, I do think "WOMB" is a radical name for a publication.

Colloquially, it is not unusual to hear someone say that so-and-so has "balls." It also isn't unusual for people to call things "seminal," or to call a person "cocky," or to say that someone got "shafted" or is a "tool." And did you know that the word "pencil" comes from the diminutive for penis? Yes, next time you use a pencil you can think "little penis." Or "tail," which is where the word for penis comes from.

The word womb comes from the word for belly.

And check this:


1373, from O.Fr. matrice, from L. matrix (gen. matricis) "pregnant animal," in L.L. "womb," also "source, origin," from mater (gen. matris) "mother." Sense of "place or medium where something is developed" is first recorded 1555; sense of "embedding or enclosing mass" first recorded 1641. Logical sense of "array of possible combinations of truth-values" is attested from 1914.

More here.

Other things: Womb Chair from Design Within Reach & knit a womb. Also this.

WOMB POETRY Volume One is live. Check it out!