We’ve been following conversations on Facebook about this week’s Poetry Project event, “Short Texts on the Future Nature of the Reading.” CAConrad writes: “THOSE OF US WHO WERE AT THE POETRY PROJECT LAST NIGHT WILL NEVER EVER FORGET WHAT EILEEN MYLES SAID!! There are some FUCKED UP old man poets who are the Bill Cosby’s of the poetry world RIGHT NOW. LET THE RAPIST, MYSOGYNIST CREEPS BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE!!” Jennifer Tamayo asks: “I have questions about accountability. what happens after names have been named. what happens after bodies have been counted. WHAT HAPPENS AFTER.”
Slate logs the textual alterations Claudia Rankine has made before each printing of Citizen, such an instant classic that it’s now in its third printing.
Last night, I was on the C train on my way to a meeting of feminist poets, standing facing an MTA poster that first went up a couple years ago, announcing the return of the Poetry in Motion program. “Many of you felt parting was not such sweet sorrow,” reads the poster, but whenever I see it, I wonder, Did people really write or call the MTA clamoring for poetry? I then thought about how easy it is to run into a poet on the subway or on the streets of Brooklyn, and figured that it was possible that I lived in a city where people were hungry for more poems to read on their commutes. Still, I was skeptical.
After the meeting, I came home, scrolled my feed, and saw an article reporting that the MTA’s new courtesy campaign announcements would target “man spreaders.” Man spreaders! I thought to myself. “Man spreaders!!” I said aloud and then posted on Facebook along with the article, delighted by the elegant ridiculousness of the term. I felt a wave of relief go through my body, a cultural-linguistic tingle similar to what I’d felt the first time I’d heard the term “mansplaining.” Oh, there’s a word for that. And then suddenly many separate incidents, many men, rushed forth from memory to cluster around the term. Man purse (or murse), Man sandals (or mandals), and man nanny (or manny) had only ever made me laugh or roll my eyes, but a term like “man spreaders” does something different.
Besides sounding vaguely like a personal assistant who will spread Nutella on toast for you when you ring a little bell, “man spreaders” more importantly offers a succinct, clever, easily-rolled-off-the tongue way to name those guys on trains who spread their legs over three seats while those around them stand hunched over by the weight of three bags. #NotAllMen are spreaders, and not all spreaders are men, but on an average day on the train, the person sitting with his legs splayed is usually a man, and the person standing holding three bags is usually a woman. (The reasons for those three bags are for another post, but from one bag lady to some others, it’s true.)