expert jury; Female poets: talented or talentless?

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The Independent Online
Are female poets, as Germaine Greer's new book claims, mediocre victims and egotistical exhibitionists?

AS Byatt


Well, there's probably a certain amount of truth in what she's saying. But I'm not really very interested in high-powered moral criticism - I am quite interested in poetry. I don't understand this business of taking up "positions". I was brought up to take poetry and see how it works.

I am on the side of those women who don't want to be known as women writers. The time when we looked at women's writing as a group together because it was by women is surely passed now.

Literary feminism is really less interesting than any other feminism. Political feminism is extremely important, but literary feminism has actually done as much harm to women writers as good. There are very few writers for whom their gender is the most interesting thing about them.

Julie Burchill

Columnist and novelist

It seems to me that Germaine Greer's attempted to pick off every aspect of women's art work, one by one. What can come next - hairdressers, fashion designers? - until she proves that women are no good at anything. Is there no female artwork that she's got something good to say about?

The problem with Germaine (right) is that she's an iconoclast, and we always thought that you couldn't be iconoclastic enough. But if you express that iconoclasm by just attacking everyone around you, what does it achieve? You don't have the equivalent black critic going around saying that all black artists are crap.

What's the opposite of a cheerleader? A gloomleader, I suppose. Well, for some reason we've been blessed with this gloomleader that no other group seems to have.

Suzanne Moore

Feminist writer

I agree that you shouldn't just like something because it's done by women, and if you are trying to look at the place of women's poetry it's completely legitimate to say it has to be as good as the stuff men are doing. But I think - why this book now?

If she's so concerned about what's wrong with contemporary feminism, why didn't she write a book about that? I can't begin to know the workings of her mind, and she's never been very consistent.

I think it's important that critics are able to say this work is good or this work is bad, regardless of gender. I just think it's a strange thing to be doing now - but she does a lot of strange things these days.

Ros Coward

Critic and writer

I haven't read the book yet, but I think it's good to begin to turn the tables on this idea that everything that women have done is as good as - or better - than what the men have done, but that history has simply been unkind to them. But one can't help but think - God, she's trying to get into the limelight again by this endless contrariness. You know, "I've been raped, the menopause is good, and there are no decent female poets".

Linda France

Poet and anthologist of women's poetry

Germaine Greer knows she's no longer the only woman in this country with something to say and who isn't afraid to say it, so maybe that's why she has to talk louder and louder, with greater eccentricities. She's certainly keen on the limelight, and she likes a good scrap.

But underneath all the blether and brimstone I actually agree with what she's saying. I just find her manner of expression very unfortunate.