I Am A Woman’s Poet by Marie Cartier

MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405This is the first poem I ever wrote and had published.

I wrote it in the early 80s at the height of the second wave of Women’s Liberation.

Having just returned from the final Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, I publish it here with FAR today as an homage to that time period, to those women (myself among them), to many “womyn with a ‘y,’” and what we accomplished—battered women’s shelters, rape crisis centers, health clinics, women’s studies programs, bookstores, festivals, music and culture etc. etc.

Much of what we accomplished is because we learned to listen to each other’s repetition until, as Nelle Morton said, we “heard each other into speech.”

I Am A Woman’s Poet I
Am A Woman’s Poet

I was so relieved to learn
that women talk in circles
and men talk in straight lines.
I am a woman’s poet.
I talk in a circle.
I repeat myself.

I repeat myself.

Close your eyes and picture a circle.
Imagine the words to the poem
running over each other onto the circle
until the circle is black and bold
and only you
would know how to decipher it.

cartier2-story of ohhh

Installation Piece “Story of Ohh…” by Marie Cartier, mixed media, Claremont, CA, 2004

Keep in mind,
if something is very, very strong,
one should carefully
guard its strength.

I have practice in talking in circles.
I don’t get to the point
Many people have trouble hearing the words
of women.
We are trained to repeat to repeat
to repeat.

It is our language.

A circle goes around and around itself.
It gets broader and blacker
and bolder and bolder
and bolder, and you don’t know
where it started
unless you began at the beginning
I learned to talk in a circle.

It is almost like a secret code.
My language.


Marie Cartier, Photo by: Lisi Hartouni

Unless one starts at the beginning,
it is hard to understand.
Unless one starts early
with a second language,
it is hard
to understand
a circle going over itself

It cannot snap
like a straight line.
Like a straight line.
Like a straight line.

I was so relieved
to learn that women talk in circles
and men talk in straight lines.
I am a woman’s poet.
I talk in a circle.
I repeat myself
in a circle


Repeated growing
stronger. I repeat myself.
I talk in a circle

It is strong.
It is very
I am a woman’s poet. Women
Strength lies in
practice, and we have become
very strong. I repeat
in circles unbroken.


I am a woman’s poet.
I repeat my language.
I talk in a circle.

Very strong.


Very  very  strong.


— Marie Cartier



Categories: Activism, Art, Feminist Awakenings, General, Music, Poetry, Women's Power

Tags: , ,

13 replies

  1. A very powerful, resonant, and beautiful poem. Thank you so much for posting this here. We owe so much to women’s culture and women’s circles.


  2. Oh what a beautiful poem. Naomi Goldenberg and I once wrote a tongue in cheek interview of a man applying for a position at a feminist university. One of the questions was: Can you think in circles? Wish I still had a copy of it. I love your paen to the time when we re-defined “difference” in positive ways.


  3. Thanks, Marie, for circling back to the 1980’s. The repeat as stutter step, or stutter step as a circle-like continuity in your poem, also seemed to me wonderfully dance-like and fascinating!!


  4. Thank you for sharing your poem. I particularly like the idea of a circle being hard to break. It reminded me of the spiritual mat the Circle Be Unbroken.


  5. I loved this! Thank you. We owe so much to the work and love and circles of women’s liberation.

    Re: Carol’s comment. I am a professor on a military base and I actually do ask my students if they can think in circles. I tell them they have to learn how to think in circles rather than lines. Some of them stare. Some of them laugh in approval. Some of them, after taking classes with me for years (and after serving in the military for 30 years), stand up during the final night of class and thank me and the other students for helping them soften their edges and become less linear.


  6. Circles/cycles are the way of the universe and the way to so much truth. Thank you for this wonderful reminder of how much progress we made and how much that shift from millennia of thinking in straight lines to going back to ancient circles moved and is moving us forward. It reminds me of the words that have closed so many circles I have attended in the last 40 or so years – the circle is open but unbroken…


  7. Not just a circle but the journey seems to me more like a spiral and that’s why it is never broken, always open and ever-changing!!


  8. Beautiful! Thank you!


  9. Splendid poem, splendid sentiments. Yes, the whole universe seems to be more circular than linear. I think men invented linearity to explain “progress,” which often is not progressive in any humanitarian sense but merely more steps in one isolated directions.

    I bet you saw my daughter-in-law in Michigan. She said the festival was wonderful.


  10. I love your poem, the repetition, the circling, the rhythm which draw me over and over, around and around to the center and around and around out again and circling in…thank you for dancing the circle dance of women.


  11. I’ve just come from sipping a cup of Lover’s Tea and reading the first chapter of Cakes for the Queen of Heaven. We are indeed traveling in circle. Thank Goddess, we are traveling in circles. Thank you for that beautiful beautiful poem.


  12. Beautiful poem, and beautiful tribute to women’s circles and the power of the days when we were rediscovering them. May we discover them all over again, spiraling to deeper meanings and connections! I love the circling repetition, rhythmic and powerful, of this piece.


  13. I’m a woman who during the 80’s, during the “changing times”, had built a (circular!) wall around myself for protection from the world who had and kept on (circular!) treated me so badly. It took me many years to break down those walls, (walls within walls, circular), and even now, at age 68, there are still a few bricks left standing here and there. Therefore, I am ever thankful for wonderful women like you, Marie, and the other wonderful and brave and strong women pioneers who fought the fight to win us our freedoms! Thank you, again and again. I’m finally becoming who I was always meant to be. I love your poem, and can really, really relate to it!


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