The poetry forum series continued with critically acclaimed poets Loretta Collins (pictured, left) and Paula Bohince, moderated by The New School's Tiphanie Yanique.
The two poets discussed their works in relation to gender, feminism, and womanism. While reading from her work in The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman, Loretta said, "There are a lot of twelve-foot women [in San Juan]. Not just metaphorically. Graffiti is a big thing in San Juan, and there are a lot of twelve-foot women on the buildings—most often painted by men. I reclaim some of these women and give them voices and kind of imagine them coming to life."
Paula's thoughts on gender came from a personal experience. "My ideas of men and women come from my own experiences with my family. My parents didn't go to college, so in some ways this separation between men and women's work was pronounced in my household. It seemedlike their worlds would never touch. For example, my aunt would serve my uncle every day ... This just worked its way gradually into my poems. My dad did his laboring job and never talked about it, so there's a male loneliness there that I feel. There's a loneliness I feel there for my mom, being stranded alone in the house. There's an idea of isolation and estrangement being tied to gender that has worked its way into my published books."
When asked what it means to be writers who are based outside of the big literary centers, such as New York, both poets spoke on their personal experiences. Paula reflected on her ambitious drive as a young woman living in New York City. "It was what I needed. But now, with the Internet, there's a virtual community connecting people."
Having lived in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Loretta spoke on the richness of the possibility of connections she can make in the Caribbean. "Connections are made across island boundaries. Living in a culture where you're surrounded by so many different cultures, so many different islands, and so many different linguistic possibilities, I get to make close connections with other writers in a supportive community that transcends island, racial, and language affiliation. It's not what I was looking for necessarily, but what I found is much better."
Loretta Collins's most recent work, The Twelve-Foot Neon Woman, won the Bocas Prize for Caribbean Literature in 2012. Her numerous awards for poetry include the Academy of American Poets and the Pushcart Prize. Collins’s work has appeared in the New Caribbean Poetry anthology, The Caribbean Writer, TriQuarterly, Black Warrior Review, Antioch Review, Quarterly West, and The Missouri Review.
Paula Bohince's first collection, Incident at the Edge of Bayonet Woods, received Sarabande Books' inaugural Aleda Shirley Prize. Her second collection, The Children, was published by Sarabande Books in 2012. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, Poetry, The Hudson Review, Slate, and The Yale Review. She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Amy Clampitt Trust, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference, in addition to the 2010-2011 Amy Lowell Poetry Travelling Scholarship.