A Quiet ‘Resistance’ at Strand Bookstore

Emma Cotter
"Women of Resistance" is a book of varying poems from various poets on resistance and change.

In the rare book collection of the world-famous Strand Bookstore, a group of women and men gathered on March 13 to listen to poems for a new type of feminism. Every seat in the facility was filled, with every attendee eager for words of wisdom from the women behind the book “Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism.”

The first speakers were first-time editors Danielle Barnhart and Iris Mahan. Mahan explained the project’s genesis in 2016 as a response to the 2016 presidential election. The two editors predicted the book would be a small-scale piece of work –– at best, a handbound chapbook. They never imagined that it would grow to become this widely received anthology of poems.

Latina-Jewish poet Rosebud Ben-Oni spoke next, reading an essay that she wrote specifically for the event. Her essay quoted the words of the poets that were to follow and married their ideas of resistance with her own. Ben-Oni spoke of tangible ways to resist, like standing up for the correct pronunciation of your name, and of abstract ways, like defeating a demon in your dream. She talked about embracing your heritage but not losing yourself in what you are expected to be.

A partial reading of poem “The Secret Life of Mary Crow” followed. It held a wealth of wisdom, with quotes like, “all things fall as low as they can go” and “the girls are unapologetic for what they’ve become.”

The words washed over the silent crowd, capturing the essence of the resistance: we are allowed to sink to low places, but when we rise from these sunken versions of ourselves, we should be proud of who we are.

A short Q&A session ended the evening. Different writers from “Women in Resistance” were extremely candid about the pressures and power of poetry. “Nothing is more fearful than having your poem in print,” one writer said.

Others were open about how it was their first time reading their poetry in front of a crowd. “I didn’t really know what I doing, to be quite honest,” another writer said.

But the writers of this anthology now know what they’re doing — volume two is underway and will be released soon.

The goal of “Women of Resistance: Poems for a New Feminism” was to touch on the 19th Amendment and move away from white feminism. Barnhart and Mahan looked for an array of diverse poets that were willing to share their work with them.

To the editors and writers, poetry is a powerful tool that can unite and center marginalized voices, allowing people to take back power. The search for poems that shed new light on old issues became a book that represents how beautiful and varied humanity can be.

Email Emma Cotter at [email protected]

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