Poetry Reading with Carmen Giménez Smith

On October 18, feminist poet and Virginia Tech professor, Carmen Giménez Smith, read sections from one of her most recent works, Milk and Filth, to a captive audience of quietly observant Wake Forest students and staff. Smith is a proud feminist and social advocate who grew up in the San Francisco bay area, so much of her work is inspired by her college experience and time spent living in the city. Before the reading began, she gave a brief description of her professional and personal background and emphasized her style of writing as combining elements of several post-modernism and post-feminism traditions and anti-traditions in order to explore the theme of what it means to be a woman today. The goal of this particular publication is to redefine the typical archetype of a modern woman as someone who is independent, steadfast, but also vulnerable and humble. Of the selections she read, I noticed a clear underlying theme of social defiance in the face of the patriarchal society, which is conveyed through her use of imagery of the female form, unrhymed verse, and commentary on the dangers of modern media.  

One poem that stood out to me was “When God was a Woman,” which speaks to the anxiety and social implications surrounding media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. She uses the metaphor of the “like” on social media as tool for social approval/denial and as a statement of a political message. She makes subtle references to Trump and other political leaders who use Twitter as a battleground for pushing the conservative agenda and a tool for perpetuating misogynist ideas.

Smith further explores the idea of social media and pop culture as a driving force for constructing social norms in the poem, “TV Mon Amour.” Smith mentioned that she loves watching TV and certain shows, such as “I Love Lucy” and “The Brady Bunch,” were an influential part of her childhood. However, in this particular poem, she makes an argument against the typical portrayal house wife, mother, or daughter portrayed in shows like this as being damaging to young women. She said, “Television helps us develop our folklore and builds our social archetypes…they construct a reality for us.” However, through her poetry, she encourages women to work towards their goal beyond becoming just a house wife or mother, and instead grow up to be the individual they want to be, whether it be a lawyer, mechanic, businesswoman, etc.

If you want to learn more about Smith or read more of her works, check out her website: https://www.carmengimenezsmith.com/