Based on historical, biographical and geographic research, Sometimes a Woman explores the lives of 19th-century women—prostitutes and madams—who helped settle America’s Wild West . Filled with voices that were mostly silenced in their era, these poems convey a variety of emotions, personalities and voices sometimes angry, usually feisty, and occasionally humorous. The poems, which vary in style and form, ranging from lyrical and narrative lineated poems to prose and found poems, pay tribute to and celebrate these women.
‘In richly varied forms that range from experimental shape poems to found poems to ballads, Sometimes a Woman powerfully confronts the false mythologies of the American Wild West. Here, women, working as prostitutes, but romanticized and erased as “The Yellow Rose of Texas” or “Calamity Jane,” speak with unflinching honesty and raw power of their own experiences. The opening poem “I am Legend: Emily West Morgan” announces, “They made a song out of me…Sometimes they still/sing it, and it makes me laugh,” and it’s this litany of feminine voices, their complex music, that makes this collection so compelling. I couldn’t help but think of Thomas Hardy who in his novels and poems such as “The Ruined Maid,” challenged Victorian sexual hypocrisy. Sometimes a Woman similarly pulls out all the stops – employing ironic wit, formal inventiveness, and tonal variation. While Kimberly Williams’s collection recovers the voices of the women themselves in vivid defiance of an earlier era, these poems also speak to the hypocrisies of our own time, challenging our assumptions of feminine identity and experience.’
‘The great story of the American West is one that primarily stars male characters: cowboys, gunslingers, sheriffs et al. But women were there too, and they had their own stories, their own experiences, their own voices – whether or not anyone was listening to them. Kimberly has listened, and the reverberations across history are translated by her into these poems, in voices that are inquisitive, combative, sorrowful, even ever so slightly optimistic. ‘Not all doves are soiled’, says the persona in one poem early in this collection; and surely that is a sign. Not all women in her poems are soiled; not all are silent; few of them are compliant.’