By: Alicia Otto
Turning negative into positive came easy for Dr. Marianne Kunkel as evidenced by her collection of poems about the first major-party female presidential candidate. Poems aren’t a new thing for Kunkel.
“I guess I would say I was four or five,” Kunkel said of her first efforts. “I remember writing songs.”
Kunkel’s mother was able to stay home with her and would help with the songs.
“I remember coming up with the rhymes, and my mom would help me with the words,” Kunkel said. “My dad actually wrote songs on guitar, and my mom was very musical.”
Kunkel did not write a lot after her first poem at three, but really began focusing on English and writing in high school. In college, she received a B.A. in poetry from Auburn University, An M.F.A. in English (poetry) from the University of Florida and a Ph.D. in English from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
A Google search shows one of Kunkel’s most popular poems, “A Sloth First Hears Its Name.” “Who doesn’t do a Google search on themselves now and then?” asked Kunkel.
Written by Kunkel was around ten, the poem speculates what it means for someone to be called something that also means something else — in this case — one of the seven deadly sins. But the sloth just thought he was a sloth.
As a teenager, Kunkel read a lot of second-wave feminism, specifically Gloria Steinham, but did not associate with that time.
“I was intrigued by the women that came before me and wanted to understand their impact on my present time,” Kunkel said. Kunkel feels that now is an exciting time to be a feminist. “… more than ever, feminists are thinking about gender equality in relationship to many factors of ethnicity, race, age, sexual orientation, physical ability and more — though feminism could always be doing more to support these intersections.”
Kunkel’s most recent publication, “Hillary, Made Up,” has gotten more attention than her last book. It is a collection of creative poems from the perspective of makeup and hair products speaking to Hillary Clinton.
“The book is political because Hillary is very political,” Kunkel said. “But at the heart of it was me kind of thinking about makeup and these rituals that women and some men go through to be taken seriously in the work place.”
Hillary Clinton was an obvious choice for the comparisons because she is an aspirational woman who has tried to be President of the United States twice.
“I tried to talk to [Clinton] directly, but I could not, so I thought the poems were interesting, because makeup could get this direct access to her,” Kunkel said. From all that Kunkel has read or can read between the lines, Clinton is not one to “dream about the next lipstick color.”
“Around the time I started writing the book after the election, there were some things coming out about Clinton making public appearances and whether or not she was wearing makeup,” Kunkel said. “I wasn’t the one to create the correlation, but I took it and ran with it.”
Even if politics aren’t your eyebrow pencil, hopefully these words help draw a clearer picture of both Clinton and Kunkel.
“Thank you. Thank you for helping women dream big,” Kunkel would say to Clinton.