This is a conundrum. Every day I receive The Writer’s Almanac daily email, and usually I read the title of the poem and plunge straight into the poem without seeing the poet’s name.
If the poem is striking, even in part, I play a little game with myself: is the poet a man or a woman? Is it possible to tell the poet’s gender through his/her use of language, choice and treatment of topic, attitudes?
I’m not talking about gender-specific poems, just general life kinds of things that could rationally have been written by either sex. (And of course, as I always remind students, the voice of the poem is not necessarily the voice of the poet: Was dear Emily actually dead when she heard that fly buzz?)
It is astonishing to me how often I am correct in my guesswork. Is there a gender-based difference in poetics? Or is Garrison Keillor just drawn to poems that reflect the poet’s sex?