“A Grain of Brain”: Women and Farm Animals in Collections by Ariana Reines and Selima Hill
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The historical figure of the cow as a symbol is treasured and ancient, yet simultaneously this animal in many societies exists de facto for people’s plates. The cow, like other animals, exists in parts: as treasured symbol, and as commodity. Looking at collections by contemporary Anglophone poets, Ariana Reines (The Cow, 2006), and Selima Hill (A Little Book of Meat, 1993), I will consider how each writer’s self-reflexive critique of animal representation reorients the material subjects of their poems, intersecting these innovative poetries with contemporary thinkers on animal studies, to realize the limits of a poetic perspective on animal bodies. Both writers work either against or deliberately within a lyric mode critiqued for its objectifying address in order to interrogate modes of rendering that position the animal’s existence as a resource. From Reines’s scatological slaughterhouse to Hill’s surreal landscapes I will explore how the symbolic and literal exploitation of an animal’s “flesh” in their poems is counteracted.
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