To be looked over, not to be overlooked

A preliminary list of female poets whose work is primarily, usually, or often visual, or who describe themselves as visual poets, or who have published one or more sustained/influential works of visual poetry even if their main body of work (quantitatively) isn’t “visual” or “poetry” (as if all poetry weren’t “visual”); who are alive, writing in English, have been published visual work in at least one poetry magazine (most of these women have chapbooks), self-describe as “poets” (although their self-descriptors may be in constant flux– many will say, as Katrina Rodabaugh says, simply “I make things” — poet as “maker” in the rawest sense), write substantive work (i.e. it is visual poetry, not just words put through Photoshop to look cool), and are on my radar. And who I haven’t inadvertently forgotten to mention. (Also… I haven’t yet broached the world of e-poetry… this is just a list of paper-based vispoets!)

Brenda IijimaMichelle DetorieK. Lorraine GrahamAnne BoyerT.A. NoonanJess RowanJessica BozekSheila MurphyHelen WhiteSusana GardnerJennifer ScappettoneTina DarraghAlixandra Bamforda.rawlingsSharon HarrisRobyn ArtAya KarpinskaAngela SzczepaniakJo CookMichelle Naka Pierce – sandra guerreiro – Chris Turnbull – Jill Magi – Jen BervinJulie PattonJohanna DruckerSusan HoweJennifer Karmin Kristy Bowen w/Lauren LevatoCatherine Daly – Julia Drescher – Christine Wertheim Matina StamatakisJenny SampirisiMarilyn R. Rosenbergangela genusaKS ErnstHolly JohnsonC Mehrl BennettAndrea Baker – Marcia Arrieta – Thalia Field Janis Butler HolmCecilia VicuñaJoan RetallackSuzan SariAysegul Tozeren Amanda Earl Emily GooddenCamille Martinannie-claude généreuxAdeena KarasickMaria DamonErica Van Horn – me (Jessica Smith) – cia rinneStacy SzymaszekWendy Collin SorinDonna KuhnNancy BurrKatrina RodabaughHazel SmithLisa Linn KanaeLisa AsagiGaye ChanMeredith QuartermainAnne Lesley Selcer – Julie Jefferies – Lisa Moren – Melissa McCarthy – Bernice Kew – Shin Yu PaiSharon Mesmer – Sophie Robinson – Marianne Morris – Frances KrukAlice NotleyKaia Sand – Elizabeth Treadwell – Caroline Bergvall – Carol Wattsjen hofer – Nicole Mauro – Derya Vural – Maja Jantar – Moniek Darge – Ersi Sotiropoulos – Saskia van Herwijnen – Maggie O’SullivanPaula ClaireStephanie StricklandAna Hatherly – Kristianne Meal – Oni BuchananNance Van Winckel

Who says there aren’t women in visual poetry?

Many of these poets have been published in my magazine Foursquare and some were featured in my special section on women in visual poetry in last year’s Phoebe. Other good places to look for contemporary female visual poets are Ferrum Wheel, Light & Dust Anthology, UbuWeb, Fluxlist (UbuWeb and Fluxlist both demonstrating how awesome Fluxus was for female vispoets… I didn’t include Yoko Ono on this list because she self-describes as an artist, but of course her work is very influential for poets), zaoem, Plantarchy, Other Clutter, Otoliths, eratio, Essex, WOMB and Dusie. Important chap/book presses for women writing visual poetry include Womb/Hex, Dusie, Coach House Books, Tinfish, Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs, Litmus (especially for vispo in translation) and Bookthug (who else? Don’t let me overlook anyone). Thanks to Michelle and Drew for thinking aloud with me.

About Jessica Smith
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38 Responses to To be looked over, not to be overlooked

  1. Lynn Behrendt says:

    Jessica — this is a great list. Thanks for compiling it.

  2. Thanks Lynn. Who have I left out? I’m sure there are many people I haven’t thought of or simply don’t know… including people who may be obvious (I only remembered Joan Retallack this morning!)

  3. Lbehrendt says:

    ..don’t know who you might have left out–at least I’m not the person to ask. You could check Geof Huth’s blog –he’s got a lot of interesting links. Or maybe, for ideas. I hope you keep building the list, though, and adding links. It would be a great resource.

  4. “Who says there aren’t women in visual poetry?”

    Is that a straw-person rhetorical question or did somebody actually assert there aren’t?

    I enjoy the list — see many interesting things at the sites to which you linked.

    Your concern in the comment above, that there are others “simply don’t know… ” a re-states with different words the final element of your task, which as defined in in your post was to list (1) female gender poets who do vispo; and (2) “are on [your] radar.”

    In other words, by definition the list is about your radar as well as female vis-poets.

  5. @Lynn FYI, this is partly a response to Geof Huth’s selection of visual poetry for Poetry magazine, which only included one woman out of 13 people. I think a more accurate representation would have been at least 1/3 women. Vispo is still male-dominated, like the rest of the poetry world, but it will continue to be so as long as women are overlooked for publication.

    @Steve yes, it’s been said a number of times… in fact if you google “women in visual poetry” you will see a smattering of examples. I am more referring to casual comments on blogs and in person when I make the strawman though. … And yes, of course the list is always about one’s radar. (Ehem.)

  6. Lbehrendt says:

    ohhh. I haven’t seen that issue of Poetry yet. and oof — those numbers are pretty bad.

    Have you told Geof your thoughts on this? He’s a pretty open-minded person in general, I think.

  7. @Lynn, Well, I sort of spoke to him about it but not really. I’m not angry at him on a personal level, and I think his selection was good. I’m thrilled that Mike Basinski and derek beaulieu were among his chosen peeps and I’m thrilled that vispo got a chance to be featured in a prominent magazine. So this isn’t an angry response so much as it is an asterisk, like, “hey don’t overlook the obvious work being done by scores of women.”

    I should mention that there are actually two women featured, KS Ernst (a.k.a. Kathy, if you’re Googling for her older work… I am not sure why she uses a non-gendered name now) and Sheila E. Murphy, but that they have collaborated, so they are reduced to one page. Although there are author pics for the other poets, these two have chosen not to have one… I am not sure why (Kathy or Sheila want to respond to this?), although I know from experience that having a visual personal presence as a female poet is a double-edged sword.

  8. Drew K says:

    was thinking Shin Yu Pai as well…

    also I’m very happy to see you compiling this list…

    thank you for doing so…

  9. Wade says:


    thanks for posting this. I too was very disappointed in the feature in Poetry, which I eagerly went out and bought at first. It’s nice to see vispo featured there, and with such intention to quality in the reproduction, but the feature itself feels like a failure to me as a whole. While it’s not a shock, it’s still really disturbing to me that Poetry would go to print which a section that’s so obviously skewed towards men.

    I do encourage folks to check out last spring’s Phoebe for Jessica’s feature on women visual poets. It too is not definitive, but it’s another perpective in the discourse.


  10. @Drew of course, Shin Yu! One of those people who’s so obvious that you forget to name them 😉

    @Wade Of course, no collection outside a Borgesian model could be “definitive,” but this fact does not excuse such a low ratio of female to male poets (and should we begin to discuss race and socioeconomics?)… one should try to give a broader sampling with regard to demographics especially when there’s historical underrepresentation of a group, unless one has set out to feature one specific group.

  11. Susana says:

    just thought of some…Sharon Mesner, Sophie Robinson, Marianne Morris, Frances Kruk (many UK poets…you would LOVE …though technically Kruk is Canadian) Alice Notley (perhaps earlier work), Kaia Sand, Elizabeth Treadwell, sure more will come later—

  12. Susana says:

    oh and thanks for the Dusie mention! Forgot to add that earlier…Caroline Bergvall (amazingly so), Carol Watts,…UK on the brains…

  13. Susana says:

    jen hofer, Nicole Mauro (forthcoming Dusie books of these poets as well)

  14. @Susana… Most of these names are at least a little familiar… I think I have tried to get a couple of them for 4SQ. Thanks! Let me know if you think of more– you have a different perspective there on the other side of the pond–

  15. @Susana I’m skeptical of listing people like Treadwell, Notley, and as Drew was mentioning, Stacy S and Kristin P, because I can’t immediately call to mind their visual work. A few illustrations do not vispo comprise, right? I mean, if we are to prove to The Visual Poets (see textimagepoem) that there are female vispoets, the works of those women don’t seem to make a strong case, unless I am overlooking pieces of their work that I should know about? Like I would not call Bruce Andrews a vispoet although much of his early work is visual, but I would call Steve McCaffery a vispoet because although his work is less and less visual, he made some important contributions to the field in his early work. Please advise.

  16. Susana says:

    I know what you mean I guess. And even Caroline Bergvall (though I feel like she must be…though perhaps there is another terminology for these other kinds of poetics which are visual in word play etc) to be honest i don’t really think of myself as vispo per say–though there is certainly that feeling there…of attempting to create work sometimes that fits in no other form, and collage and splintering of texts and stutterances that at least *now* fits no where else…but certainly Boyer, Detorie, scappetone, bozek, early notley (even Allette) does this for me…long car rides to buffalo might clarify it all!

  17. Ha– certainly–

    Yeah, I think that for many of “us,” “vispo” isn’t a satisfying term, which is maybe why although there are many women creating vispo, there are few women who self-describe as vispoets. Lorraine often even struggles about calling herself a “poet.” I’m happy to be called a vispoet, but I see “Garamond 10 pt black font on white paper” as a constraint– as a chosen constraint for much of my work, which I think most vispoets wouldn’t see as vispoetry. And there’s a lot of vispoetry that I don’t see as “poetry” because it doesn’t pay attention to the sound/meaning– so for my purposes it’s just vis art that happens to have text in it. So once we start drawing lines between subgenres and genres it gets very confusing, which I think is why a lot of these women prefer not to draw lines, but to work with whatever medium happens to suit their needs at the time.

    So maybe there aren’t very many women in vispoetry after all, because the term is (after all) too limiting.

  18. Helen says:

    Yay! Between us (all) we should have got round to making this list ages ago.

    I have to bear partial responsibility for the crappy ratio in Poetry though, since I saw the call for work on Geof’s blog and didn’t submit anything (badbadbad).

    Here are a few more poets. Most of the vispoets I know don’t use English as their main language to make visual poetry in, though, and I’m not sure the requirement of ‘writing in English’ makes all that much sense in a form of poetry that isn’t necessarily legible. Aysegul Tozeren and Suzan Sari, on your list, are Turkish and Aysegul certainly works in Turkish as well as (more than?) English.
    -Derya Vural is another Turkish visual poet who sometimes uses English.
    -As do Maja Jantar and Moniek Darge in Belgium.
    -Ersi Sotiropoulos in Greece (she sometimes uses English in visual poetry. She’s also a novelist writing in Greek.)
    -Saskia van Herwijnen in the Netherlands (as half of the group SAGE, which is a woman+man team).
    -Maggie O’Sullivan and Paula Claire in the UK.
    -Stephanie Strickland if you’re including e-poets, although I don’t know if she works visually on paper.
    -Ana Hatherly (in Brazil?), one of the first visual poets I ever fell totally in love with, but her work is hard to find. I think she is still alive but maybe no longer making vispo. Johanna Drucker includes one of her poems in Figuring the Word.

    There’s a huge list of visual poets (including man poets) here:

    Are dead people allowed? In which case Mary Ellen Solt and Hannah Weiner (of course), Ketty La Rocca. I’m not sure whether Ilse Garnier is still alive or not.

  19. mark young says:

    would draw your attention to my e-zine Otoliths which also has a print edition & in which many of the names you’ve listed above – plus a few more – have appeared.

  20. @Helen, I put the “writing in English” constraint on just to excuse myself from knowing so little about vispo in other countries. I suspect there is tons in Scandinavia and S. America that I don’t know about… and what if we start counting ideographic/logographic languages? … and no, no dead people in this particular list because it is meant as a response to Huth’s collection, like, “look at all these awesome living female vispoets that you could’ve read (‘cuz they were in English and everything) and published (‘cuz they were paper-based, not web-based).” If we were to put together a history of women in vispoetry… it would be quite an undertaking, just to make the list of names. Also, because “vispo” is a rather recent concept, there are so many women doing other text-based art like photomontage or heck, embroidery, that would fit into the concept of vispo but where the women, because of their historical moment, didn’t consider themselves poets.

    Thanks for the names.

    Evidently, there is going to have to be some sort of collection or history of women in vispo. Like I needed any more dissertation ideas. There is precedent for discussing poetic precedence, so discussing the domestic arts (collage/scrapbooking, embroidery, calligraphy) would surely be relevant to a larger discussion of women in vispo (and perhaps shed light on why women can’t fit into a category like “vispo”– we are too damned artistically well-rounded).

    @Mark Otoliths, of course! Thanks!

  21. Clayton Albachten says:

    The link to Jill Magi’s work doesn’t work, it links to Johanna Drucker instead. I thought maybe if then I clicked on the link to Johanna Drucker, I would be linked to Jill Magi, but it also links to Johanna Drucker.

    Is there a link to Jill Magi’s visual work? I believe I knew of one a little while ago, but I seem to have lost it.

  22. @Clay sorry…. You can probably google “Jill Magi” and come up with some things, yes? Most of these links are just me using Google and then linking to something interesting. I’ll repair and add links when I have a few minutes of spare time.

  23. Kaz Maslanka says:

    Hi Jessica,
    This is such a refreshing list!


  24. Bob Grumman says:

    Yes, Very Useful List–many names new to me.

    –Bob Grumman

  25. hysperia says:

    Oh thank you. I know very little about visual poetry but when I saw this article in Poetry Mag I noticed the lack of women immediately because women are on my radar, so I went looking for them. I found some of these on my own but how wonderful to have a list to explore! I’m also glad I’m not the only one who noticed – my first question was, aren’t there any women involved in visual poetry? Glad to know the answer.

  26. Two Canadian visual poets not on your list: Peggy Lefler and Judith Copithorne

  27. Donato Mancini says:

    hi jessica, good list

    one person not to neglect is the artist Kelly Mark

    she has been doing these elaborate lettraset pieces for years now. to me they are easily the best lettraset drawings around. she’s does a lot of really striking work.

  28. K.S. Ernst says:

    Regarding Poetry magazine, I have no idea why they didn’t publish my photo. I did send them one – twice. I think that part of Geof’s constraints in choosing work was trying to find things that would actually be readable and print correctly (dot gain, etc.) in the tiny space available on the page. He told me he got a lot of work that didn’t fit the parameters although he made them clear with the call for work.

    BTW, I have always used “K.S. Ernst” for everything possible because when I got married I became the third “Kathy” in the Ernst family. Confusing! The problem is that once I meet people, they call me “Kathy” and then forget that I don’t use that name formally. So it’s not necessarily “older” work that pops up under “Kathy.”

  29. Jessica, I’m teaching a poetry course at Bucknell this term, and we’re looking at POETRY OFF THE PAGE. So I’ve given my students your website and all the great links to visual poetry by women. Thanks! It was a bit amazing that Poetry Mag’s special issue on this subject included ZERO women.
    I’d love to be included on your page. My website will have a link to what I call PHO-TOEMS. These are my conjoinings of photography, poetry, graffiti, and mural art.

    continued good luck and good wishes, nance

  30. Jessica,
    There is so much women’s visual poetry I don’t know! Thanks for adding me in your informative list. I very much would like to be part of one of your web pages. Please let me know how.

    Best wishes, MRR

  31. Marilyn R. Rosenberg says:

    Jessica, When you do a reading or a show in New York City, I want to know and to go. Please put me on your mailing list!

  32. Marilyn, I would love it if you sent work to Foursquare, my magazine. I wonder if we’ve met before, actually… were you ever at the Louisville conference? … I’ll be in NYC at the ACA Galleries, reading as part of the d.a. levy reading series, May 19. I don’t send out announcements, generally, but I hope you’ll see this and try to make it– it’ll be a fantastic night celebrating dusie press.

  33. Pingback: Women in Poetry (Again) « looktouchblog

  34. Pingback: FOURSQUARE’s Last Issues « looktouchblog

  35. jwcurry says:

    you might be interested to know that i’m currently in the process of posting PAGING PEGGY LEFLER: A REVISED BIBLIOGRAPHY OF HER WORK & EFFECTS in my Flickr site ( i’ve only just begun but give it a couple more months & it should be up to date.

  36. JeFF Stumpo says:

    Hi, Jessica – Have you thought about Lisa Jarnot because of Some Other Kind of Mission?

    Great list.

  37. Jill Stengel says:

    Wonderful list! Love !
    Please include me as well!
    Thx– Jill Stengel
    (for visual work online see Dusie 4th Kollektiv I think it was, other pieces previously online as well but not sure online any longer; _mem_ 1 in print, also some of chap _History, Possibilities ;_ others.)

  38. jessyrandall says:

    Me! Jessy Randall, poetry comics and diagram poems, no frills list here

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