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Ofall the genres in literature, poetry conveys emotions by using fewerwords than others genres. The words have a deeper meaning than theway they appear in the poem. Poets express their personal orcollective feelings through a subject matter. They recollect thesefeelings from their everyday experiences and their social life, andcraft them into creative works of art during their moments ofemotional tranquility (Sexton 47). Male and females poets presenttheir emotions using different objects and style in poetry. Thus,poets capture the significant emotions that surround a particularobject, subject matter, or event. Whereas people’s feelings aresometimes hidden even from themselves, they do not get erased in thesubconscious mind. Poems differ in how they use emotional languagedepending on whether they have a masculine or feminine attitude.While feminine poets use subtle connotations by carefully choosingdiction that send the intended, masculine poets adopt astraightforward approach. This essay intends to demonstrate how topoems, one written by a man and another by a woman present theiremotions in a manner that has gender bias connotations. Gender bias,in this case, is presenting emotions that portray a particular genderas unequal to the other. The poems show that male and female poetstreat and present emotions quite differently.
Maleand female poets differ in the way the way they express and presentemotions in their poems. Males induce masculine elements in theiremotional themes while females also induce feminine elements.Masculine elements in poetry entail themes and events involving warsettings. For instance in the poems under analysis, both poets useemotions in different settings. While the first poet writes in a warsetting, the second poem, “Sorting Laundry,” is a home setting.Evidence of a war setting in the first poem is in stanza seven, linessixteen, and seventeen, in which the persona in the poem says he justkilled a man and helped “drop napalm on women and Children”(Rottmann 15). Drooping napalm on women and children is supposedlyduring the Vietnam War when American soldiers used it. Napalm wasconsidered a non-aggressive method against women and children eventhough it had very severe effects on the victims (17). The warsetting in the poem is proof of the masculine elements in the poem.The poet intended to create a subtle protest to the war by suing hismother’s response to communicate the reservations they had aboutwar.
Othermasculine elements in poetry are direct style that is direct to thepoint. For instance, the first poem uses short and straightforwardlines that show the reader how the persona in the poem feels whilefar away from home, probably in war on behalf of his country. Thereader of the poem can figure out the conversation between the boyand his mother. For example, the lines, “in her next letter, themother pleaded,” do not have any hidden emotions other than as thediction shows and sounds. Another interesting line that shows how thepoem lines are straightforward is, “Don’t hold back. How it isthere,” which simply shows the reader how the boy’s mother wasworried.
Aquick pace through short two to three line stanzas is also evidenceof the masculine attitude in the poet. The first poem ranges from twoto three lines in each stanza, implying that the poet does not havethe patience to deliver the message in many words. For example, thefirst stanza has only three lines that read as follows:
“Ayoung man once went off to war in a far country,
Andwhen he had time, he wrote home and said,
“DearMom sure rains a lot here.”(18)
Finally,male poets tend to use words and themes that treat women as fragile.They also related to their mother rather than fathers. In some cases,they only address the mother, while in other cases they address themales as third parties rather than main parties in the poem. In thesecond poem, the father is protective of the mother by telling theyoung man not to write letters involving killing people to his motherbecause they depress her. The young man’s father says,
“Andthe father wrote right back,
“Pleasedon’t write such depressing letters. You’re
Upsettingyour mother” (19)
Asmentioned above females authors also induce feminine elements intheir poems. Feminine elements in poetry include aspects such aspaying attention to domestic things such as clothes, utensils, andsometimes jewelry. In the second poem, “sorting laundry,” thepoet picks an emotional tone that aims to communicate to her overwhat she feels for him. The poet also mentions other domesticobjects such as “table cloths, king-sized sheets, and pillowcases.”Very long, descriptive poems embody a feminine attitude by the poetwhere they want to say a lot to their intended audience. Forinstance, the second poem is longer than the first one with fourteenstanzas yet the lines are very short. Many lines and stanzassymbolize the huge pile of clothes that the author says, “Could notfill the empty side of the bed.” By describing the clothes, theauthor intends to give a full emotional view of her lover through theworld around her.
Althoughthey may not be confirming the patriarchy of most societies, theyoccasionally intertwine their thoughts and life experiences aroundthe traditional roles of a woman. They choose diction that sensuallyconnects with the reader. For instance, in SortingLaundry, thepoet writes,
“Foldingclothes, I think of folding you in my life,
Ourking-sized sheets/like table clothes/for banquets of giants,
Pillowcases,despite so many washings/holding out dreams together”
Here,the female poet describes her thoughts, creating mental picture ofher doing her husband’s laundry. From her choices of metaphors andsimiles, the experience is pleasant and she considers it herresponsibility. They show a lot in action, but she still takes apassive position in the entire poem. All that she talks about isemotional imagination, probably not embedded in the laundry she talksabout, but in the romance she intends to show her lover. Thisexplains how female poets actually differ from male poets. If it werea male poem, the choice of words would explicable at a glance.Interestingly the entire poem, SortingLaundry,simply intends to express affection without limiting the word, lines,and stanzas used an indication that female poets have more controlover their thoughts with subtle attention to the actions.
Inconclusion, the two poems are manifest of gender bias in poetry thatemanates from the choice of themes and styles of presenting emotions.In this case, both poets present emotions in a manner that portrays aparticular societal gender construct. The second poem, “sortinglaundry,” portrays feminine emotions through the lanes of women’ssubordination to men. They actually wash all the laundry for themwhile feeling insecure that the man might leave. The poems show thatmale and female poets treat and present emotions quite differently.
Rottmann,Larry. Voicesfrom the Ho Chi Minh Trail: Poetry of America and Vietnam, 1965-1993.Event Horizon Press, 2007.
Sexton,Anne. Thecomplete poems.Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011: p.45-78