Amanda Auerbach’s poem “Rights” appears in our Summer issue. Here, she remembers the two voices—one from the left and one from the right—that inspired it.
I wrote the poem “Rights” in early February, on a drive up to Winter Park in Colorado, where I was going for my first ski day of the season. Back home in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where I’m a graduate student, it was the first day of Jorie Graham’s spring-semester poetry workshop. Even though I was missing the first day of workshop for skiing, I decided I would still make this my first day of poetry. I hadn’t been able to write since the election; there had been so many sources of anger to sort through that I was left feeling empty. I wasn’t sufficiently energized to create or do much else beyond working on my dissertation.
Attending the Boston Women’s March in January had helped pull me out of that state. I was struck by all of the politically relevant expressions of joy I encountered there. My favorite was probably the pervasive pink pussy hat, which casually baited the religious right. Though I came to the march sans poster and sans pussy hat, feeling like I didn’t have anything to add, I discovered, from participating in the chants, that I did. I had a voice I could use to say the same things as everyone else.
I wanted to try saying something in that protesting voice to see how it sounded. As my father-in-law drove me and my husband up Highway 40, the first two lines of “Rights” came into my head: “I do not do well without my chattel. / I do not do well without doing what I will with my chattel.” I assumed, after writing these lines, that my speaker was a stock Trump supporter. Then the language of the Women’s March protestors started to make its way into the poem as well. “It will bite your fingers,” the poem says. This came from the posters that said, THIS PUSSY BITES BACK. The place where these two lines meet is righteous indignation. What would happen, I thought, if I blended the language of the left and the right into a single voice? Read More