Women in Art
Mar 31, 2017
By Colorado Review Associate Editor Emily Harnden
Over spring break, my sister visited Fort Collins. We did all the typical FoCo things: hikes at Lory State Park, breakfast at Lucile’s, beers at Funkwerks and Odell’s. But before any of this, I had to pick her up at the nightmare that is Denver International Airport (at least for me, for I am not what one would call a calm driver and the moment the highway splits between Departures and Arrivals will always give me pause—Is it me who is arriving here or her?). Once I got her, we drove to my home and I showed her where she would be sleeping for the next four nights: beside me on a very cramped double bed covered in books.
Are you reading all of these at the same time? she asked, hand covering her mouth in a large yawn. Where am I going to sleep? The floor?
My sister started to pick up some of my books—ones whose places were marked with pens that began to spill all over my bed, losing my stopping points. Wait—I yelled. Careful! Once she turned around and assessed the mess on my desk (more books) she looked at me. This is why people have bookshelves, she said.
I bring all this up (not just because I like talking about my sister) but because, as I began to clean my tiny little room and make space for her, I noticed that all the books on my bed were written by women. At any given time, I find myself often working my way among three short story collections, a book of poetry, and a novel—and in this way the books start to speak to one another. My brain connects them and I think of course Roxane Gay and Mary Miller must be best friends for I am reading both of their stellar collections simultaneously.
Seeking out female writers isn’t something I’ve done consciously per se, rather the work I find so fascinating, the work I think is most exciting and brave and honest right now, happens to be by women and this feels important and true to me. In Bright Dead Things (one of the books with multiple pens) the gorgeous poet Ada Limón, writes in “How to Triumph Like a Girl”:
I like the lady horses best,
how they make it all look easy,
like running 40 miles per hour
is as fun as taking a nap, or grass.
I like their lady horse swagger,
after winning. Ears up, girls, ears up!
But mainly, let’s be honest. I like
that they’re ladies.
And I agree with her: I like that all the writers on my bed are ladies too. Limón will be visiting Colorado State’s campus next week, April 6th, for a reading at the Cherokee Park Ballroom in the Lory Student Center, so I must learn how to gush reasonably, without stars in eyes, tied tongue, etc., when I ask her what books she has taking up space in her sleep. I’d like to know whom she is reading right now, whose work keeps her awake.
Like the books strewn across my comforter, my computer is no different when it comes to relative chaos—currently I have twenty-two tabs open and, since beginning this post, have compulsively bought Caitlin Horrocks’s This Is Not Your City on Amazon and dived down a Meg Freitag poetry hole in the Internet from which I don’t particularly want to surface (she is amazing and I want to be her . . . check out her poet’s sampler on Boston Review). If I were to end this thing with an equation, it might look something like this: female artists > everyone else. If I were to end this with a list, it would be one concerned with all the women I am reading/listening to this month, so here goes:
Laura Marling, Semper Femina
Valerie June, The Order of Time