The ABQ Women of the World city finals is my favorite night of poetry here, bar none.
It’s hard to put my finger on why, but always, the women of our scene bring not only their best work, but usually the best work of the year. I’ve heard it said it’s a different kind of competition; a women’s space. So many poems knock me out, I tend to forget the forgettables faster.
When the Women of the World slam started, in early 2008, I was against it. The argument many of us had was simple: Since women don’t appear to be able to win at the mixed-gender national competitions, it seemed insulting to create a special competition for them. We feared starting a parallel competition would take the pressure off the systemic reforms necessary in the other events. And it’s hard to argue that didn’t happen.
But something else did happen, which I can only assume the proponents at the time could see much more plainly than I could: It was exhilarating. Gathering English-writing women of all colors, backgrounds, sexes, and creeds under a one banner for a week is powerful medicine. For everyone. I first attended in 2012, in Denver. By the end of the first bout, I realized no man had yelled at me in over an hour. And the poems these women brought to the stage were circumscribed by a certain safety. This was a women’s space. A holy space.
Albuquerque, like any American city, is far from free of misogyny. And so it’s all the more important—all the more magic—to hear only women’s voices for a night. No, it certainly doesn’t happen often enough, but that it happens at all is an important first step.
Oh, and congratulations to Mercedez Holtry! This is her second, back-to-back WoWps title.