|Raising Lilly Ledbetter: Women Poets Occupy the Workspace
Edited by: Carolyne Wright, M.L. Lyons, Eugenia Toledo
Pages 264/120 poems
Price:$21.00 U.S./$26.00 Canada
Publisher: Lost Horse Press (2015)
Order from: Amazon
About the Book:
In January 2009, after President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act into law, his first legislative act after taking office, poets
Carolyne Wright and Eugenia Toledo began to think about the need to hear more from women about their workplace experiences‐not just
pay and promotion inequity, or workplace harassment and intimidation, but all matters relevant to women and work in an increasingly
globalized world, including the ever-widening range of occupations in which women are engaged, and their joy and satisfaction of work well
Six years after the signing of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, however, women's pay has continued to average 77 cents for every dollar earned by men; pay for women of color has averaged even lower. Despite the activism of the Occupy Movement, more congressional legislation
for women's pay, and a rising minimum wage in many states, women's overall pay continues to lag, even at the highest levels
of elite careers!
Meanwhile, Wright and Toledo, along with co-editor M. L. Lyons, set out to edit an anthology of poetry about women in the workplace,
knowing that it would be a daunting, yet important task. They hoped to bring together voices of women poets in the workspaces they occupy‐
much as Studs Terkel illuminated the lives of working people in his interviews, as Woody Guthrie celebrated in song, and as the iconic Mary
Harris "Mother" Jones (at one time called "the most dangerous woman in America") fought for in labor strikes, union organizing, and a seminal autobiography. Wright, Lyons and Toledo have brought together voices of women poets in the workspaces they occupy: from cotton rows to corner suites, trawlers to typing pools, nursing stations to space stations, factory floors to faculty offices. These voices bear witness to women's workplace lives, and act to re-envision and refigure the world of work for women.
This remarkable anthology, gathered in tribute to Lilly Ledbetter with a toast to Carolyn Kizer, gathers the lyric art of working women, writing from the depths of at least sixty-two occupations. These are the poems of the heavy-lifters, night-shifters, line and piece workers, writing with grace and often with humor: poets who punch clocks, woman the phones and decks, weave, weld and can, cotton-pick and
cold call, thread-spin, typeset and teach. They sex-work, they ship-build, plaster and preach, butcher and drive the bus. This is anthology as page-turner, as fist in the air, as do-it-yourself manual against despair. Here, and in gratitude to Lily Ledbetter, is the music of a movement, and it is one of the best of our time.
When we open Raising Lilly Ledbetter, we enter a world that has been, like women's work and working women historically, silenced or trivialized (or both). The poems gathered in Raising Lilly Ledbetter counter all that. They break the cultural remainders (reminders) of that silencing by speaking loud and clear. They bear witness to the meaning of women's lived experiences of work. They are large
and contain multitudes. They prove that the stories they memorialize must not only be told, but also excavated, put in conversation with each other, and heard, for without the poetry, the stories will be forgotten, their information and wisdom lost to us. This beautiful anthology, with its marvelous and rich array of poems, performs a great service to us all, and the editors are to be thanked for their hard (and joyous) work and celebrated for their vision.
‐ Cynthia Hogue
About the Authors:
CAROLYNE WRIGHT is the author of nine books of poetry, four volumes of poetry in translation from Spanish and Bengali; and a collection of essays. She lived in Chile on a Fulbright Grant during the presidency of Salvador Allende; and spent four years on fellowship in India and Bangladesh, translating Bengali women poets. After visiting positions at universities around the country, Wright returned to her native Seattle in 2005, and teaches for the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts' MFA Program and for Seattle's Richard Hugo House. She is a Contributing Editor for the Pushcart Prizes.
EUGENIA TOLEDO was born in Temuco, Chile, grew up in the same neighborhood as Pablo Neruda, and came to the U.S. for doctoral studies after her university instructorship was eliminated following the 1973 military coup. She has published four books of poetry and a creative writing text in Spanish. An award-winning bilingual manuscript of poems is Trazas de mapa, trazas de sangre / Map Traces, Blood Traces‐written after a return visit to Chile in 2008 with Carolyne Wright. Poems of hers in translation by Wright have appeared widely. With her husband, Toledo divides her time between Temuco and Seattle.
M. L. LYONS was born and raised in Southern California by her Iranian father and American mother. Lyons earned an MFA in Creative Writing and was awarded a Klepser Fellowship through the University of Washington. She translated the poetry of Forough Farrokhzad as part of her MFA thesis on Farrokhzad's influence on modern Persian poetry. As a longtime advocate for women's rights, she created the first Women in the Arts Festival at the University of Washington. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Raven Chronicles, Terrain.org and Pontoon, among other
From the Book:
by Grace Bauer
Bent over Singers like saints
before altars, half the women
I knew sat, row after row, stitching
the pockets, inseams, cuffs and flies
of men's dress trousers and boy's
sports slacks. For forty hours a week
at Modern Clothing they labored themselves
into eyestrain and bad backs.
Now and then one of them‐ would sew
through her own skin, the relentless machine
piercing three or four times
before her foot winced off the pedal
and the needle, stippled red, came to rest
against her finger bone, drab threads
imbedded in her flesh like a crude tattoo.
Piece Work, they called it. And for years
I saw my future there, hunched like my grandmother,
who worked waistbands and hauled home
bags of scraps she stacked
in closets and corners. Having forgotten
what she was saving for, she continued,
for decades, to save, until the room
we were forced to share left little room
for us, and I developed a need
for space, the urge to discard.
I despised every square inch of cloth
she found a use for: the mismatched
slip-covers and pillow cases, doll clothes
of severe navy serge, the piecemeal wardrobe
she persisted in wearing despite
drawers full of better dresses
she was saving for good‐ an occasion
I realized early on would never be
good enough for her to squander
on something store-bought, not made by her hands.
She died with her hoard still piling up‐
a stash of stuff we deemed useless,
carted off to Goodwill, where today I am
searching for a bargain, hoping to find
something vintage perhaps, a garment
that has survived long enough to come back
into fashion, a remnant from a stranger's life
I can salvage and put to good use.