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KNAU and Arizona News

Poetry Friday: "Nasty Women"

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This weekend is Flagstaff’s third annual Nasty Women Art Exhibition. The term -“nasty woman” - became a global movement after it was famously used as an insult during the 2016 presidential election. Since then, it’s been reclaimed as a slogan of empowerment for women, minorities, the LGBTQ-plus community and others worldwide. Flagstaff’s Nasty Women Art Exhibition is organized by the non-profit, Together We Will, Northern Arizona. And in this week’s Poetry Friday segment, three members of the advocacy group share what being “nasty” means to them, and recite poems embodying the philosophy.

Lori Poloni-Staudinger, President of Together We Will, Northern Arizona:

The Nasty Women Art Exhibition is actually a worldwide movement. We have had in the past everything from drawings by young girls – as young as 2 and 3 years old – about what it means to them to feel like they are empowered or to have strength, all the way up through work by nationally and internationally known artists.

Today, I’m going to read a poem by Amanda Lovelace. It is an excerpt from her book, The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One. 

I didn’t come here to be civil.

I didn’t come here to sit you down

with a mug of tea and a blueberry muffin

to coddle you as I try to convince you

that respecting my existence

is essential.

You’ve had plenty of chances,

and you took a hard pass every time.

So, I came here to watch your anger overtake,

until you finally combust.

I’ll use your light

to read.

Christi Zeller, Vice President of Together We Will, Northern Arizona:

I believe that what has happened since 2016 is really just an exposing of things that have existed in our society for a long time: Misogyny, racism, xenophobia, homophobia. And really, we’ve experienced some real low lows and some extraordinary highs. And I think women, especially, have shown incredible resilience, humor, determination and a real gritty, deep commitment to making the world better for our children. For me, that’s what being a “nasty woman” is.

My daughter especially, she’ll ask me what the words she hears in the media mean. Some of them are hard to answer, talking about the ways that women and minorities are being treated around our country and around the world right now. Mostly, I try to answer very honestly, but I also try to infuse hope and positivity so she knows that we can make a difference if we try hard enough.

I chose a poem called He Tells Her, by Wendy Cope:

He tells her that the earth is flat —

He knows the facts, and that is that.

In altercations fierce and long

She tries her best to prove him wrong.

But he has learned to argue well.

He calls her arguments unsound

And often asks her not to yell.

She cannot win. He stands his ground.

The planet goes on being round.

Shannon Wells, member of Together We Will, Northern Arizona:

My mother, who raised me in the South, would not have liked the word “nasty”, but she was “nasty”! She was quiet, but powerful, and she taught me that. She taught me that you can be yourself and still harness the energy of those around you for doing what’s right, for always reaching out a hand and helping one another.

Today, I’m going to read an untitled piece by poet Nayyirah Waheed. She posts primarily on Instagram.

the bright tired, the wise tired.

the tired that always comes before.

a universal shift.

the kind of tired that is alive.

Poetry Friday is produced by KNAU's Gillian Ferris. If you have an idea for a segment, drop her an email at Gillian.Ferris@nau.edu.

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