PMS poemmemoirstory is so good that the journal’s already-annoying title becomes extra irksome.
The allusion to menstruation is a turn-off for men. Many women who don’t already know the magazine don’t take it seriously. One potential reader contacted by this reviewer said she assumes the content has a “whiny” tone, with poems like those found at a “bad poetry slam.”
Because of this, the selection from the Afghan Women’s Writing Project in the 2010 issue is unlikely to be seen by a wide audience. This is a shame, as the project’s founder Masha Hamilton offers the work “in hopes that…these stories will connect us Americans to Afghan, and broaden our understanding of our complex relationship with Afghanistan and its compelling people.” Unlike the bestselling book Three Cups of Tea, about building schools for Afghan girls and was reportedly picked up by military men after their wives read it in book clubs, the latest issue of PMS will very likely be read only by already-loyal female readers. Because of this, Tabasom’s entreaty in “Far From You”: “I am a jungle of burnt trees. / Come, find me here” will not be found by many. Shogofa’s statement in “Kill Silence” that “as much as we women are quiet or keep silent, we are destroying our lives and our future” will also be kept quiet.
To its credit, the journal’s title does foster the intimacy found in “girl talks.” There’s also a feeling of feminine pride that comes from reading excellent work written by women. Kerry Madden’s “from the editor-in-chief” note, though, thanks at least two men for “for their reading and editing.” This suggests the magazine’s content does have appeal for male readers.
And how could it not…with pieces as strong as “Rise” by Nancy Rutland Glaub, where the image of hummingbirds caught in a screen porch reflects a couple’s marital troubles after the death of their son. Valor Brown’s compelling poem “How to be a Battered Woman” tells a complete, insightful and novel-worthy story in 100 urgent lines. Bryn Chancellor’s fiction piece “All this History at Once” tells the story of an artisan falling down the steps at the craft festival in front of her oblivious ex-husband. Katherine Jamieson’s memoir “Ain’t Ready for no Man” says the author “was haunted by the ‘Save the Children’ ad campaign” when she was young, then as an adult fell in love with one of those children. Garnett Kilberg Cohen instantly engages the reader with the first line of “Alzheimer’s Daughter”: “My mother has taken to calling me her mother.” Donna G. Thomas’s memoir “Kiddie Land” centers on a terrifying Ferris Wheel experience that she never reported to her parents.
All of the pieces in this magazine, including those from the Afghan Women’s Writing Project, are excellent, serious, non-whiny literary works. All deserve a large audience of both women and men. May readers spread the word that, despite its problematic name, PMS should be widely read.