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First published in 1973, the poems in No More Masks span 75 years and trace women's poetry and women's lives in twentieth century America. A revised and updated edition, edited by Florence Howe, was published in 1993.

No More Masks
with Florence Howe


 

No More Masks

During the seventies the second wave of women's liberation was a powerful force. It was an exciting time to come of age as a poet. And I had a truly amazing offer come my way. Florence Howe, who founded The Feminist Press, had been my teacher at Goucher College and she asked if I'd like to co-edit with her an anthology of poems about women. This was like a dream come true, except that I could not have dreamed up anything so wonderful.
 
Just to give you a sense of feminist consciousness in 1970, Florence and I initally set out to do an anthology of poems by both men and women about women. The idea of an anthology of solely women's poetry was something so foreign that we didn't even think of it until we'd been collecting poems for some months. Gradually we realized there was an abundance of poems by women, yet relatively few were included in standard anthologies, so we decided that it was high time for a collection devoted to women poets.
 
I spent several happy years reading virtually every poem written by an American woman in the twentieth century. It's incredible to imagine now, with the plethora of women's poetry, that the field was small enough then that this was possible! Living in Cambridge, I had access to the Radcliffe Library and I'd load up cardboard boxes of books and carry them home. Then I'd dig in, marking pages for further consideration. Luckily, the first xerox shop had just come to town, so I could photocopy the poems that Florence and I would then pore over during our meetings. Each summer, she rented a house in Wellfleet on Cape Cod and we'd walk on the beach, swim, eat bluefish and clam chowder, and read, read, read poetry. Day and night, we talked about the poems. We tried to include a wide range of subject matter, with a special emphasis on work which illuminated aspects of women's lives that weren't commonly addressed in poetry. But mainly we chose poems that we liked and that we thought would be accessible and meaningful to readers.
 
In 1973, we published No More Masks! An Anthology of Poems by Women (Doubleday). For the first time there was a volume which presented twentieth century women poets—87 of them—exploring themes both private and public. The epigraph to the book is from the great poet Muriel Rukeyser: "No more masks! No more mythologies! And the fragments will join in us with their own music."


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