1) On a given poem, do a man and woman read the same thing?
I'm not sure how you'd be able to say that, TomMark. In the late sixties, college age folk could often get into fierce arguments about how much of male development or female development was tied to developmental factors. Nurtue, in the nature/nurture discussion. I'm told a lot of the more recent research doesn't support that, that guys and dolls are just different, and that they read and write differently as well.
One the basis of gender alone, you'd probably have to say that men and women read different poems from the same text, at least to some degree. Having said that, I'd probably havde to add my own personal opinion, which is that everybody reads a slightly different poem out of the same text because their lifetime of experience has been different and the associations the poem brings up for them will be different, won't they?
2) Do you have different mind-sets in approaching poems by men and women?
I think yes, if in fact I know in the first place they are a man or a woman. I've been avoiding writing to answer this posting because by feeling and thought are confused, somewhat, about it. I think it's hard enough writing a poem in the first place without putting yourself in a box of some sort or another as a woman poet or a black poet, or a proud white male poet, or a gay poet, or a Hispanic Poet. A lot of the energy that needs to go into your writing ends up going into meetings of one sort or another, and then your poems start to be about the meetings and the things people are saying in the meetings and the enemies of the people you're fond of in the meetings. Some people can do this without seeming effort and it doesn't get in the way of their poetry, like the late Denise Levertov, who was both a political firebrand and a very fine poet. It really can be done. The question for me was how badly did I want to be known as a hyphenated poet. I was born Jewish, I have strong Daoist interests, I have strong interests in this or that. Did I want to be known as a Hypenated-Poet, assuming that I ever grew important enough to think about me at all. My decision was, I'd rather be known as Bob, and if I ever got known as a poet, then it was their business what I was.
If the poem is a man's poem and I read it, I have some general ideas about men that male poets play with when they write their poems. I understand some of these conventions about the make views of friendship, safrifice, country, and family to some extent. The male poet uses those, I understand the ins and outs of those and that's a help. One of those conventions has to do with saying that women are strange and foreign. Different countries say this in different ways. The convention is cross cultural, I don't know how much truth there is in the reality of it.
As Harry Stack Sullivan said, "We are all much more simply human than otherwise."
When I know a poem is written by a woman, I know other things about her experience. I know her relationship with her friends is different than mine, I know she has different feelings about power and justice than I do because she's had a more direct experience of being excluded from both. I know this tells me things about her experience of envy and rage and that she'll probably have some strong responses to me exerting any sort of authority, but the response will have traces of ambivalance in it. I know there are conventions she will follow cross culturally about men and the need to manage them because they can get dangerously out of control.
How much of this is actually true, I don't know, but probably at least a little, just as men's assumptions about
men are not entirely accurate, either. While I call them "assumptions," the reality is that they are fantasies about men and women.
If there wasn't a certain amount of accuracy, I would have been pushed under a car by somebody by the time I was ten. You've got to have some abilities to get along in order to survive. Mine, like most of the rest of us, are good enough.
Beyond that, it's up to the poet. I'm about evenly split about the number on modern women poets that I find nourishing and the number of modern male poets that I find nourishing. Really, if you can make the words do delightful things and actually entertain me, I'm a cheap date. The second you stop entertaining me, I'm looking at the legs of the next attractive poem in the room. As far as I'm concerned, anyway, all the great poems are women; and the gender of the person who wrote her is an accident.
It may help some of the women poets to think of their poems a guys, but I pretty much think I'm right about my conclusion there. I'm happy I kept writing till I got there. All the great poems are women, the gender of the person who wrote the poem is an accident. Yep.
Are these the kind of answers you were looking for?
My very best, TomMark, my Very best.