Every month, we shine the light on a book from our collection – one which is new to the library, which has been particularly enjoyed by a borrower, recommended by a volunteer, or which seems salient to the month’s events or happenings. To see the archive of past books of the month from this year, click here.
The current book of the month is…
September: She Is Fierce ed. Ana Sampson
Gifted to us by the anthologist herself, ‘She is Fierce’ (edited by Ana Sampson) is the most recent acquisition to the library. The first thing that strikes in picking up this anthology of women’s poetry is the ground that Sampson covers in pulling this collection together. The table of contents is peppered with familiar names of great female writers: Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, Sappho, balanced against contemporary stars of the current poetry scene: Mary Jean Chan, Hollie McNish and Hera Lindsay Bird. Sampson is also attentive to including much lesser-known writers, voices writing from all corners of the female experience, such as the younger poets Amineh Abou Kerech and Shukria Rezaei, and ambassadors of the slam poetry scene such as Abigail Cook.
As diverse and wide-ranging as the voices are the themes covered in the anthology. The collection refuses to stick to the subjects that “female writing” has historically adhered to: “family, friendship, dutiful religion and the prettier corners of nature” (as the Introduction identifies). There are poems here about growing up, protest songs, poems confronting the body, poems that wander the solar system, about being truly happy, about knitting sheep, about queer love, about feeling like a bird. Each section of the collection is prefaced with a thoughtful summary on how the poems speak to each other, with Sampson’s confident anthologizing making sense of the sheer range of experiences on show here.
It’s an energizing read. The title is “She is Fierce” which conjures up the outspoken, unapologetic revolutionary. There is undoubtedly that energy in this collection: Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” and “Protest” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox, to name just a couple. But fierceness here is reconfigured to mean so much more than the call to revolution. There is fierce self-celebration in Clifton’s “Homage to my Hips”, fierce self-knowledge in understanding one’s own wishes as a shy person in Dora Greenwell’s “A Scherzo,” fierce love for a friend in “Fiere” by Jackie Kay. The “she”s in the collection are fierce because they persist true to themselves, they speak their own experiences with clarity and claim their place in the world, whatever that may look like.