Maxine Kumin (June 6, 1925 – February 6, 2014) is known primarily as a poet, but she was also a prolific writer of children’s books, fiction, and essays.
She was born Maxine Winokur in the Germantown neighborhood of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to Reform Jewish parents. Her father was the largest pawnbroker in the city of Philadelphia; her mother was a socially ambitious woman who loved dressing for nights at the symphony or the theater and discouraged any mannerisms that might, in her view, make her children appear to be immigrants.
Maxine was directed to list her father’s occupation as “broker,” rather than “pawnbroker,” whenever a form required that information. Read More→
Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin were significant twentieth-century poets who provided deep friendship and support for one another as they developed and mastered their craft. Literary Ladies Guide has offered fascinating musings and insights into several significant literary friendships between women writers:
But none of these compare in intensity to the literary friendship of Anne Sexton and Maxine Kumin, a relationship brought to life in The Equivalents (2020) by Maggie Doherty, an exploration of the first group of poets and artists to be part of the Institute for Independent Study at Radcliffe College (later the Bunting Institute, and now the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study). Read More→
May Sinclair, (born Mary Amelia St. Clair Sinclair; August 24, 1863 – November 14, 1946) was a British novelist, philosopher, poet, and suffragist who was regarded as England’s “leading woman novelist between the death of George Eliot and the rise of Virginia Woolf,” according to David Williams, a critic who wrote for Punch.
She explored the inner lives of ordinary women in some twenty-three novels, while also publishing two works of philosophy, a biography of the Brontës, several collections of poetry, and dozens of short stories.
May Sinclair is largely forgotten today. All of her works had fallen out of print when Virago Press, the noted British feminist publishing house, reissued three of her most significant novels in the early 1980s. At present, however, only The Life and Death of Harriett Frean (1922), which many regard as her masterpiece, is in print. Read More→
The Age of Phillis by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers illuminates the life and significance of Phillis Wheatley Peters, the enslaved African American whose 1773 book of poetry, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, challenged prevailing assumptions about the intellectual and moral abilities of Africans and women.
In The Age of Phillis (Wesleyan University Press, 2020), which won the 2021 NAACP Image Award for “Outstanding Literary Work—Poetry” and was long-listed for the National Book Award, Jeffers portrays the life of the poet both before she was taken from her home in West Africa and throughout her lifetime in the United States, first enslaved and later free.
I became aware of the book by attending a virtual reading and can attest that Jeffers’s reading style is dynamic and worth searching out in audio and video recordings on the internet. Read More→
Square Haunting: Five Writers in London Between the Wars by Francesca Wade (2020) sheds new light on fascinating female literary figures of twentieth century and their sojourns in the Bloomsbury district of London the interwar years. First, a brief description from the publisher:
“In the pivotal era between the two world wars, the lives of five remarkable women intertwined at this one address: modernist poet H. D., detective novelist Dorothy L. Sayers, classicist Jane Harrison, economic historian Eileen Power, and author and publisher Virginia Woolf. In an era when women’s freedoms were fast expanding, they each sought a space where they could live, love, and—above all—work independently.
With sparkling insight and a novelistic style, Francesca Wade sheds new light on a group of artists and thinkers whose pioneering work would enrich the possibilities of women’s lives for generations to come.” Read More→