Women poets, for the first time in history, have a deep and wide female literary tradition from which to draw. Switchback Books seeks to advance some of the best writing emerging from our unique cultural moment. As the fortunate inheritors of the social, psychological, and linguistic spaces carved out by the artists and activists who have come before us, we seek to honor those visions and achievements while at the same time celebrating the multiplicity of voices that continue to emerge in women’s poetry.
One of these visions has been left to us by Virginia Woolf, who concluded A Room of One’s Own with the following passage:
For my belief is that if we live another century or so […] and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; […] if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners […] she will be born. As for her coming without that preparation, without that effort on our part, […] that we cannot expect, for that would be impossible. But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while.
Adrienne Rich echoes this hope that women writers will work for each other (and the dark underside, the difficulty and loneliness of that work) in her poem, “Letters to a Young Poet”:
I wanted to go somewhere the brain had not yet gone I wanted not to be there so alone.
Thankfully (and these are no small thanks), women poets are no longer quite so alone, and they no longer feel so strongly the burden of silence that was once their collective literary past. But there is always more work to be done, and it is the goal of Switchback Books to support and celebrate women poets during this exhilarating moment in their history.