Blog of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research

Celebrating Period Poetry in New York City

May 21st, 2013 by David Linton

The World’s First Menstrual Poetry Slam, The Red Moon Howl, will occur the closing night of the SMCR conference, June 7, at Marymount Manhattan College in New York City.  Featuring the works of noted poets such as Lucille Clifton, Sharon Olds, Anne Sexton, and Ntozake Shange as well as new works by emerging poets such as Coriel O’Shea and Maria Billini, the evening event will offer a variety of artistic perspectives on the menstrual cycle.


Given the history of menstrual lore and the way knowledge of the cycle has been shared by women over the span of human history, it is particularly appropriate that the topic of menstruation find an outlet in the form of poetry, the original form of oral creative expression.  The event will literally “give voice” to a commonly hidden, taboo topic.  In keeping with the conference theme, “Making Menstruation Matter,” the poets and performers will offer yet another contribution in the ongoing effort to bring the period out of the closet.


The evening will not be limited to just those who are on the performance roster.  Everyone planning to attend the conference is encouraged to prepare a piece for the open mic portion of the evening which will open the event.


Some questions have been raised about the nature of poetry slams.  Frequently such events have a competitive element as participants vie with one another for the favor of audience or judges.  That’s not the case this time.  Instead, the organizers are emphasizing the fact that the main difference between slam poetry and the more traditional, familiar variety is that poems presented in the slam setting are meant to be “performed,” that is, read or recited out loud so that the fundamental elements of the human voice engaged with the nature of spoken words can be savored by those in attendance.  In this regard, the poetry slam is a reinvigoration of the original sources of the poetic impulse.


Following the conference, video samples of the performances will be available on line.  Stay tuned for more information.

8 responses to “Celebrating Period Poetry in New York City”

  1. Just a note. The menstrual poetry slam is a great idea. However, it is not the ‘world’s first’. I’ve attended and participated in several myself in the past. The Justisse group held one on Vancouver Island 2006 as part of a variety show tilted “The Wandering Menstruals Show” Fri. July 14, 2006.

  2. David Linton says:

    Geraldine, Darn, I thought we were the first. Well, maybe we’re the first in the U.S. The Canadians beat us to it I guess. So maybe we should just call it the first in the States, or just settle for the first on June 7, 2013. But I hope you arrive with a poem at the ready.

  3. No problem David. I will not be in NY but perhaps I’ll get it together to send some of my menstrual poems with my colleagues for them to read, or encourage them to join the slam. If it can happen in NY it can happen anywhere, right?

  4. Chella Quint says:

    David, perhaps you could alter the poster to ‘New York’s first menstrual poetry slam’.

    Geraldine, I’d love to hear about that slam and variety show! Sounds ace!

  5. David Linton says:

    Actually, since it’s New York City, a town known for hyperbole and grandiosity, we’re thinking of changing it to something like “The First Menstrual Poetry Slam in the Universe!!!” – or, maybe, “You Ain’t Seen Slamin’ Yet” – or, “Let’s Bleed This City Dry,” – or . . . .

  6. Chella Quint says:

    I think judges should award bonus points for best and worst menstrual pun

  7. Lisa Leger says:

    Here are some of the contributions from the Poetry Slam that was part of the “Wandering Menstruals Show” at the Errington Hall in British Columbia, 2006. This event was part of the Women and Girls Health Conference hosted by Lisa Leger and Parksville Pharmasave and attended by fertility educators and women’s health activists from New York, Edmonton, Toronto, Calgary, and Vancouver Island.

    4 words: woman, moon, freedom, cycle

    When Gaia sang and conjured
    The Siren’s tune
    Staring at the estrogen moon
    A freedom bounced back to
    All women, again, and again, and again,
    Like the never ending cycle
    Knocking on humanity’s door
    Forever resonating every unborn soul’s core.

    Just like the
    Women have their
    Monthly cycle
    As I grow old
    There will be
    Freedom from within

    Mother Moon
    Teachers her daughters
    The freedom
    Of becoming woman
    As they cycle with her

    In celebration of being
    A true Red Goddess of
    Wise Woman status
    In celebration of my younger sisters
    I will honour them
    By riding my cycle
    At month’s end
    And howling at the moon
    To request freedom for all women

    I cycled in freedom
    Arms outstretched
    Up and down
    Round and around
    Flowed and ebbed
    Dancing with my woman self
    Beautiful red moon

    Wandering woman
    Seeking freedom
    Cycles the moon
    And finds herself

    Freeedom, freedom
    To be me as I am,
    A woman.
    Let me dance
    In the light of the moon
    And celebrate, me, us,
    With each cycle
    Of the moon
    I will rejoice
    In being woman

    The blood red moon
    For women
    The blood red moon
    Cycles for freedom
    The freedom of the blood
    Red moon cycles
    For women.

  8. Laura Wershler says:

    Thanks, Lisa for the reminder of these spontaneous poems, a little more uplifting than the offerings from commenters on Jezebel, who wrote about the event yesterday. The Parksville event was videotaped for posterity. We must get it up on Youtube!

    David, are their plans to film Red Moon Howl?

Readers should note that statements published in Menstruation Matters are those of individual authors and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Society as a whole.