A Review of Women in Print 2010

About 35 people braved the rain and wind to attend Women in Print on February 24, 2010 at the Worcester Public Library. Braving the elements paid off, as all attendees were met with an assortment of refreshments, courtesy of the WWHP Events Committee, followed by an engaging presentation by three local women authors.

A common thread between the three authors is that all write poetry. However, the style and inspiration for their writing varies considerably. Judy Finkel, WWHP Events Committee Chair, greeted the audience and introduced the three authors, beginning with Laura Jehn Menides.

Menides is Emeritus Professor of English at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She is a scholar of the poet Elizabeth Bishop, who was a Worcester native. While Bishop is mostly known for the tragedy present in her work, Menides likes to focus on the comedic elements. According to Menides, “Comedy is more than just humor. Comedy is survival.” Menides claims that Bishop could find the humor in tragic situations, and used the example of Bishop’s poem “One Art” to indicate this. “One Art” is a poem about loss, but uses exaggeration in order to create humor and to convey that the poet will survive despite the loss. Menides also mentioned that her own poetry has been inspired by Bishop’s poetry. She illustrated this point by reading Bishop’s poem “First Death in Nova Scotia”, followed by her own poem entitled “Destiny”. Bishop’s poem is written from the point of view of a child attending a funeral for the first time and referring to the adults as “kings and queens”. “Destiny” is written from the perspective of a child wishing to discover her real parents are a king and queen who will arrive and take her away from her own family. Both poems showed the humor in situations unlikely to be funny if told from a different point of view.

The second author, Karen Sasha Tipper, introduced herself as “a Wilde woman”, referring to her longtime fascination with and extensive research on the Wilde family. Tipper first became interested in the work of Irish writer Oscar Wilde while pursuing her undergraduate degree at Mount Holyoke College. She wrote her masters thesis on Wilde, followed by a doctoral dissertation comparing Wilde with Baudelaire. While working on her dissertation, Tipper began to learn about Wilde’s mother, Lady Jane Wilde, whom she has since spent many years researching while on sabbatical from teaching English at Nichols College. Tipper’s research has resulted in a biography entitled A Critical Biography of Lady Jane Wilde: Irish Revolutionist. Wilde is considered revolutionary because she felt that women’s rights and women’s education were important. Wilde was a voracious reader and writer of letters. People kept the letters Wilde wrote and they are now housed in numerous libraries all over the world. Tipper has spent letters, from which she has based her research for the biography she has written on Wilde, as well as two other books entitled Lady Jane Wilde’s Letters to Froken Lotten von Kraemer and Lady Jane Wilde’s Letters to Mr. John Hilson, the latter which will be published later this year. Tipper ended her talk by sharing five of the poems she has written, which reflected some of her own life experiences including running, a moment with her teenage daughter, and the death of her mother.

The final author of the evening was Reverend Catherine Reed, who is Associate Pastor at Worcester’s John Street Baptist Church and a Worcester native. Reed began by saying that she has kept a diary since she was young, which is how she started writing poetry. She noted, “Ministry keeps me grounded, poetry helps me dream, and my family keeps me real.” Reed said she stopped writing poetry for a while when she started her career as a minister, but realized she needed to write to keep balance in her life. Some of Reed’s poems reflect events in her own life, such as “I Can’t Even Tie My Shoes”, which discusses the struggles of being a single mother, but she also writes in many other voices. Reed read from her two books of poetry: Crossing Boundaries, which is about overcoming diversity, and Between Midnight and Dawn, which reflects how many events happen between those hours and “people learn a lot from those stormy times”. Before reading her poem “The New Library”, Reed quipped, “Right now, you all might be sitting in my old living room,” since the poem talks about how the current Worcester Public Library was built on the site where her childhood home once stood.

As always, Women in Print proved to be an enjoyable, informative evening for all who attended and I look forward to Women in Print 2011. Many thanks go to Judy Finkel and the WWHP Events Committee for all their hard work in organizing this annual event.

Published Date: 
February 28, 2010