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NinthWanderer

NinthWanderer

Have Coffee, Will Travel

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No More Masks: An Anthology of Twentieth-Century American Women Poets - Florence Howe I love this book as completely and passionately as it is possible to love a book. I owned a beat-up old copy of the original edition when I was in high school, purchased with a torn cover for a nickel at a yard sale. I spent countless hours lying in bed with this volume of women's poetry and falling in love with these women and with what words could do. It was magical and transformative, this book. It isn't why I'm a writer or why I'm a feminist -- I think no one book can claim that responsibility -- but it arguably has shaped my soul and my values.

Somewhere along the way, I lost my old, beat-up copy. I'm not sure if I left it behind in Ohio, or lost it before then. For years, I've haunted used bookstores hoping to stumble across a copy as I did with Crime on Her Mind, but I faced a glaring obstacle: I couldn't remember the title. I'd thumb through collections of women's poetry, knowing none of them were the one I sought.

Finally, I found No More Masks! by searching "women's poetry" on amazon.com and I thought this sounded close enough to my long-lost, once-treasured volume that I'd be content, even though I didn't think it was the one for which I'd searched. The cover was different, you see.

I ordered the book, paid a paltry $.75 plus shipping. It arrived about 10 days later. I tore open the plastic envelope and sat in my comfy reading chair and started thumbing through its pages and quickly realized that this was, indeed, the same book I once loved, but a newer version. My heart actually swelled with joy at the knowledge. I wanted to hug the book to my breast and never let it go. Oh, H.D., Amy Lowell, Anne Sexton, Nikki Giovanni, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Marianne Moore! How I'd missed you all! How I welcomed you back into my life!

There were some noteworthy absences. Gone was May Sarton's "Invocation to Kali," which I had adored as a teen. The editors themselves noted a couple of other omissions because of conflict over rights.

But most of what I loved was intact. Nikki Giovanni's "Seduction," for example, was about the hottest thing I'd ever read when I was 15. I'm thrilled to have found this and added it to my personal library once again. I look forward to many winter evenings curled up in my comfy chair with a heavy blanket, steaming mug of tea in one hand and this book in the other. I look forward to reclaiming that lost girlhood and of shedding my own masks through the power and beauty of poetry.