Feminist Poetry Movement of the 1960s

Portrait of Maya Angelou in a home setting

Jack Sotomayor / Getty Images 

Feminist poetry is a movement that came to life during the 1960s, a decade when many writers challenged traditional notions of form and content. There is no defining moment when the feminist poetry movement began; rather, women wrote about their experiences and entered into a dialogue with readers over many years before the 1960s. Feminist poetry was influenced by social change, but also by poets such as Emily Dickinson, who lived decades earlier.

Does feminist poetry mean poems written by feminists or poetry about feminist subject matter? Must it be both? And who can write feminist poetry—feminists? Women? Men? There are many questions, but generally, feminist poets have a connection to feminism as a political movement.

During the 1960s, many poets in the United States explored increased social awareness and self-realization. This included feminists, who claimed their place in society, poetry and political discourse. As a movement, feminist poetry is usually thought of as reaching a greater apex during the 1970s: Feminist poets were prolific and they began to achieve major critical acclaim, including several Pulitzer Prizes. On the other hand, many poets and critics suggest that feminists and their poetry have often been relegated to second place (to men) in the "poetry establishment."

Prominent Feminist Poets

  • Maya Angelou: This incredibly prolific and powerful woman is one of the most well-known feminist poets, though she hasn’t always fallen in line with the cause. “The sadness of the women’s movement is that they don’t allow the necessity of love,” she wrote. “See, I don’t personally trust any revolution where love is not allowed.” Her poetry has often been praised for its depictions of Black beauty, female women, and the human spirit. Her book Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water 'fore I Diiie, published in 1971, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in 1972. Angelou received the Literarian Award in 2013, an honorary National Book Award for contributions to the literary community. She died at the age of 86 in 2014.
  • Maxine Kumin: Kumin’s career spanned more than 50 years and she won the Pulitzer Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award. Her poetry is deeply connected to her native New England, and she was often called a regional pastoral poet.
  • Denise Levertov: Levertov wrote and published 24 books of poetry. Her subjects reflected her beliefs as an artist and a humanist and her themes embraced nature lyrics, protest poetry, love poems and poetry inspired by her faith in God.
  • Audre Lorde: Lorde described herself as a “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” Her poetry confronts the injustices of racism, sexism, and homophobia.
  • Adrienne Rich: Rich's poetry and essays spanned seven decades and her writing tackled issues of identity, sexuality and politics and her continued search for social justice, her role in the anti-war movement, and exploring her radical feminism.
  • Muriel Rukeyser: Rukeyser was an American poet and political activist; she is best known for her poems about equality, feminism, social justice, and Judaism.
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Napikoski, Linda. "Feminist Poetry Movement of the 1960s." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/prominent-feminist-poets-3528962. Napikoski, Linda. (2023, April 5). Feminist Poetry Movement of the 1960s. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/prominent-feminist-poets-3528962 Napikoski, Linda. "Feminist Poetry Movement of the 1960s." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/prominent-feminist-poets-3528962 (accessed June 9, 2023).