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In our Poem Suites, we bring together the voices of emerging and established poets exploring a common theme. In today’s Poem Suite, two poets explore images of monsters and monstrosity from feminist perspectives.
Mary Shelley: My Mother’s Monsters
By Melissa Knox
By the time I came along she bowed to convention
She married, so monsters crawled on the midwife’s hands
Which plunged into my mother, who protected me
But not herself, ten days into her savage death she
Said she felt an ecstasy—“your pains are eased,” my father said
And watched her die and I, the cause, the cause,
Became his monster; he never looked my way
Until I ran off with the mad poet, wrote the mad tale
Of everything ruthless that should be rejected
Of all you should run from:
Never look back when they beg you for love:
You’ll see your own face in the mirror
When your child dies, dream of warming
The little thing by the fire til it wakes
In time to run from you
That women should have power,
Not even over men, just over themselves
This monstrous idea gave birth to others:
“She sucks manfully!” my mother wrote
Of the daughter birthed without benefit of husband.
To Make a Woman into a Monster
By Rebekah Bergman
First you must strip her
of a nonessential body part.
You could replace this
with something symbolic and sinister or else leave her
bare, bald, and alone.
Next you must give her a power nobody would ever want
to wield over anyone.
You should make it passive;
she doesn’t do it to others, they do it to themselves just because she is there.
Of course you must make her ugly
from birth or as a consequence
for some minor atrocity.
Also, it helps to make other women envy her despite her obvious monstrosity.
Lastly make her death heroic,
a triumph in someone else’s story. That way when we think of her later, it is only in passing
when we talk about him.
Melissa Knox teaches at the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. Her poems have appeared in Aberration-Labyrinth, Non-Binary Review, The Kitchen Poet, and The Voices Project. She writes a blog, The Critical Mom.