Lana Wood has sold her poems to Playboy
full color photos of her body.
The words were written in squiggly letters
across her breasts and down her shining oiled thighs;
and the body performs the acts of the mind
and the acts of the mind are performed by nobody.
Surely the boys who ride the trains in the morning
will read the words because of where they are written.
Surely there will come the night
when their bodies will feel music.
They will look for the words on the breasts,
seeking the poetry of the womb.
There will be body, and no words,
and the boys who ride the trains in the morning
will hate us for our lies.
There is more than this.
The girls who wait in the town at the end of the line
will arise from their cots in the morning
finding new breasts upon them,
obvious and lovely.
They will sway before their mirrors,
running young hands along their bodies,
and wait for the poems to appear
along with all the rest.
There will be breasts and thighs
and oil for them, sold for 29 cents at Kresge’s,
but no poems, not one, anywhere.
– The Massachusetts Review, “Woman: An Issue,” (Lee R. Edward, Mary Heath, Lisa Baskin eds.) Vol. XIII, Nos. 1 & 2, Winter-Spring, 1972
Woman: An Issue, Little, Brown and Company, Boston, 1972
Lana Would was my first published poem. This double issue of The Massachusetts Review, a quarterly of literature, the arts and public affairs (published with the support of Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, and Smith Colleges, and the University of Massachusetts), appeared at the height of the feminist movement at a time when, as the editors noted “…those patterns we believe conceptually fixed as both root and mirror of society no longer seem either so permanent or so accurate as they once did.”
I felt honored to be in the company of writers such as Lucille Clifton, Anne Halley, Audre Lorde. Maxine Kumin and Anais Nin and feminists, such as Congresswoman Bella Abzug, whose essay, “Women and Politics: The Struggle for Representation” called for immediate passage of the Equal Right Amendment and “…the repeal of all laws affecting a woman’s right to decide her own reproductive and sexual life. “
Although much has changed since Woman: An Issue was published four decades ago when anger was fueling social change, rereading it in 2015 is a stark reminder of what has not changed enough — economic inequality, gender bias and exploitation, sexual violence and trafficking, and legislation that threatens women’s freedoms.
Check out this blog by Susan Bailey, former Director of Wellesley Centers for Women, Wellesley College.