Subsoil Plowing

Subsoil Plowing

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In a series of dramatic monologues, Dorothy Brooks conjures the inner lives of two foremothers of American feminism, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Brooks’s deft poems illuminate their friendship, their successes and defeats, the years of “subsoil plowing” that Anthony admits “may not bear fruit/in my lifetime.” Poems set in the present—about marriage, the 2016 election, and a 15-year-old’s pride in “beating the boys” in a sailboat race—add a depth of field and a shimmering resonance to parallel tales of the struggle for women’s rights. Subsoil Plowing is a beautifully written exploration of how we came this far and how far we’ve yet to go. Review by Joyce Peseroff