Friday, April 10, 2009

When Sandy asks me for a poem to pen across her sculpture of a male torso...

I have to go through my inventory to see how many poems I’ve written from the male p.o.v., about men, or to men. It brings me up short to see, of course the polarization (towards the female experience), since, wouldn’t you know, I’d just this month publicly noted my emotional response to what I perceived as a lack of focus on female characters in Per Peterson’s novel Out Stealing Horses (“What is the purpose of revealing yourself in memoir?” posted at My point wasn’t that Peterson has to write more in-depth female characters into his novels, but that I feel responsible to write my own stories as a female writer.

Nudged by Sandy’s query, I discover a mere four poems written from male p.o.v. (one as Nefertiti’s sculptor--Thutmose, one as Pharaoh Ahkenaten addressing the sun god Aten, one as my husband, one as a caretaker). Another handful address other men—a hunter, a soldier, a poet friend who recently passed away, my father, stepfather, son). Would a man reading my words see himself accurately portrayed there? I’d have to ask. Not that I believe I should strive to balance the gender ledger overall in my work, but I do find it worthy to observe the habits of p.o.v., to consider how I might grow as a writer by visiting the male psyche as I strive to reveal the female psyche.

Living in the orbit of my husband and two sons, I have no shortage of men to observe. My husband--still addicted to Lee Child crime novels--muses aloud that 1) he can’t seem to put a Child book down, and 2) he can’t reconcile the recurring theme of women portrayed as victims of brutality. Since I’m always looking for a way to insert more poetry into my husband’s life (which he counters by forecasting my future as a triathlete), I was thrilled last month to read a promo snippet for The Man in the Blizzard, Bart Schneider’s detective novel featuring a Private Investigator with a photographic memory of poetry. I rang the bookstore and had it in hand within 24 hours.

I found Blizzard amusing and engaging, replete with a cast of full-fledged female characters (a daughter, an ex-wife, an assistant among others). Schneider encapsulates entire life scripts with levity and ease in the span of a couple sentences, for example describing the main character’s assistant: “Blossom had been a good girl from South Minneapolis...But the summer after her graduation, before she was to head to college...she met a freckly-faced monster named Kevin who charmed her into a few seasons of bondage and a hearty drug habit. She spent the next decade as a living ruin or in prison (p. 26).” Yet, as I discovered, Blossom is no victim in this tale.

I have to admit the book probably ventures closer to my heart than my man’s—with all those references to poetry (from Szymborska to current Sonoma County poet laureate Mike Tuggle)--but my plan is to put The Man in the Blizzard couch-end nearest the fireplace where the Child book usually sits and wait for the slippers to find the right feet and the adjoining body to lose itself in Schneider’s world while the kids plummet off the couch-back onto that familiar washboard gut.

--To sample Sandy's sculpture visit:

--To view list of upcoming questions for Tiny Lights on-line Writer’s Exchange (and guidelines for submitting work) visit: under Guiding Lights.


Ethel Rohan said...

Thanks for such an interesting post. I find I write from the male POV a lot in my work, and I've constantly asked myself what's that's all about? I'm not sure that I've come up with a satisfactory answer other than I think in writing so much from the male POV I'm hoping to understand these male characters more. I try not to worry too much about whether or not, as a woman, I should even attempt to write in the male POV and just trust that all my writing is an effort to reveal and understand the human condition.

Tania Pryputniewicz said...

Thanks Ethel...I value your thoughts about trusting your writing as an effort to portray the human condition--a very balanced way to see things--I suffer from myopia in that area, but love the process of writing for how it forces me to grow. Some years ago, another friend (speaking of how she wrote fiction) encouraged me to pour my emotions through male eyes--I remember being unsure (reflecting on the experience of occasionally reading something and having it not ring true). But maybe I'll try it again. Enjoyed your post at Madswirl.

Jeannette said...

I recently read 'Wandering Star" by J.M.G. Le Clezio. I managed to read it without ascertaining the gender of the author prior to finishing the book. (Perhaps this had something to do with reading it translated from the French?) Two women are portrayed... and JMG is indeed a "he." I enjoyed the book. I read (& enjoyed) your blog this morn. I recognize the Sonoma County you describe. I recognize your braided themes...parenting-writing-reaching in other realms...
You write a very accessible narrative.
You might enjoy reading "Are you Writing a Book for Me?" on my writepurpose blog. I'd be happy for you to get some inspiration from it.

Tania Pryputniewicz said...


The post you mention is a jewel of an entry, thank you for directing me to it. You keenly track the terrain--mining books for what can provide solace to daughters, or reflect an accurate mirror for the entity of relationship: marriage, male/female shared world etc. Mining core experiences--so delicate a process, isn't it? For the writer too must thrive beyond the sharing--if those tales are worthy of bringing to the surface for others. Look forward to your future posts.