Sunday, June 24, 2007

Guess the Sex



The eleven short-listed finalist poems of the TLS/Foyles poetry competition 2007 are posted online here. Click on the link at the bottom of the web page and download the poems in an adobe acrobat file which will print on one page of A4 paper. You can vote for a winner yourself before 28 June.

I thought it might be interesting to set a little challenge for readers of Connaissances: guess the sex of the poets on the basis of the poems. Have a read of the poems, each poem has an identifying letter in front of the title, and then record in the comments of this post the letter identifying the poem and whether it is a man or a woman writing.

Add your reasoning as well if you like. If I get enough contributors, I'll publish the statistics.

On 13 July we'll get the results.

9 comments:

clare said...

A. Male
B. Female
C. Female
D. Female
E. Male
F. Male
G. Female
H. Male
I. Male
J. Male
K. Female
This was really difficult - bet I'm 100% wrong!

Jonathan Wonham said...

Thanks Clare, here's my guess:

A. Male
B. Female
C. Male
D. Male
E. Female
F. Male
G. Male
H. Female
I. Male
J. Male
K. Female

Has a nice ordered arrangement to it don't you think?

Beverley said...

A) F
B) F
C) M
D) F
E) UNDECIDED
F) M
G) UNDECIDED
H) M
I) M
J) M
K) M

denise said...

a male
b female
c male
d female
e male
f male
g female
h male
i female
j female
k female

V said...

A. Woman
B Man
C Man
D Woman
E Woman
F Man
G Man
H Woman
I Woman
J Man
K Woman

Lesley said...

I find this an impossible task. Just when I think I'm sure, I reread a line that makes me change my mind.

Jonathan Wonham said...

Thank you all for your thoughts.

I think it is quite an interesting exercise, non? You have to read the poems quite carefully in order to glean information that might help.

Saying that, I'm not sure I could justify my choices, apart from F which definitely seems to be written from a male point of view.

Of course, this is no guarantee...

Hopefully a few more people will have a go yet.

Lesley: I thought you would be good at this! There's no need to be sure sure. Slightly sure will do.

George S said...

Hmm. And have you drawn any conclusions from the guesses, Jonathan - never mind whether they are right or not?

On what basis are people guessing?

What are the essential(ist) assumptions being made?

That is, beside subject matter?

Do the guesses say more about the guessers than about the guessed?

And could we tell whether a guesser was male or female from their guess?

Does positive/negative value of any kind attach itself to either guess?

Do short people write short poems? Or do they compensate by writing long ones?

Could we tell a masculine female poet from a feminine male poet?

Would we want to?

What does the question mean?

Are these typically male questions?

Does that mean they are less fitted for saving the world?

Jonathan Wonham said...

Hello George

What I have mainly noticed is that it is women who have bothered to have a go at this exercise.

Perhaps this might indicate that women are more interested to know whether it is possible to be "gender recognised" in an anonymous context. Or perhaps not.

My personal interest was simply to find out if there is something substantially different in the way men write compared to women. I don't want to put a value judgement on this. I just want to see if such differences can be recognised in this type of anonymous context.

Your comments suggest that you consider that, in the final assessment, it is the poem that matters, not the writer. This may be true, but it does not help to explain why the poetic canon is so dominated by the writings of men, be they short or tall.

All the best
Jonathan