Kanye West’s ‘Famous’ Women Poets Sculpture: A Who’s Who Guide

Kanye's latest endeavor, the Famous Women Poets Sculpture.

Kanye has always been a major supporter of the arts. He did a lot for Taylor Swift’s career, he supported heroic actor Bill Cosby in times of trouble (“BILL COSBY INNOCENT !!!!!“) and now, in his latest bid for most-talked-about guy in all of history (and perhaps an homage to his mother, a retired English professor), he made a decidedly feminist follow-up to ‘Famous‘, the sculpture recently unveiled at Blum & Poe in Los Angeles, which may or may not be selling for $4 million.

In this new sculpture, instead of 13 boring pop stars and politicians, Kanye put 11 of the most talented women poets naked in bed together. Why only 11? Who knows; maybe he could only think of 11.

Here’s a look at who he picked to immortalize in silicone (and his favorite quotations to prove it!).

AUDRE LORDE. An obvious choice, Lorde is described as both a feminist and a womanist—only her civil rights work rivals her emotionally wrenching poetry. Gallerists shared Kanye’s two favorite Lorde quotes, and they make so much sense: “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” And, perhaps most poignant, “Your silence will not protect you.”

ELIZABETH BISHOP. Everyone was surprised by Kanye’s inclusion of Elizabeth Bishop, especially because his style—so personal, so confessional—directly opposes her contemplative, observational approach. And yet everything makes sense when you read the quotation he picked: “The armored cars of dreams, contrived to let us do so many a dangerous thing.” So telling.

EILEEN MYLES. It wasn’t a surprise, on the other hand, to see Guggenheim Fellow and TV Muse Eileen Myles in bed with all these talented women. Plus, there’s a ton of crossover between Kanye and Eileen: they’ve both been interested in the presidency, and Kanye must admire Eileen’s radical approach of asking for write-in votes on MTV before he even mentioned having an interest in serving our country. “Why shouldn’t something I’ve always known be the very best there is”, Kanye’s favorite quotation from Eileen Myles, speaks directly to his magnificent self-love.

ERICA JONG. A controversial choice, critics say Kanye chose Jong because “her ass is like fruits & vegetables.” His favorite Jong quotation has nothing to do with the feminization of produce, however—it’s about dark places and courage, a trend we see emerging in his list of favorite quotations: “Everyone has talent. What is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads.”

CLAUDIA RANKINE. Arguably, if Kanye were a thoughtful, politically-minded poet, and a woman, he might write what Claudia Rankine writes. Then again, no one can write what Claudia Rankine writes. The plot thickens when you read the quotation he selected: “You are you even before you / grow into understanding you / are not anyone, worthless, / not worth you. / Even as your own weight insists / you are here, fighting off / the weight of nonexistence.” Heavy stuff, Kanye. Is this an inkling of self-doubt? Or a reaffirmation of godlike immortality?

SYLVIA PLATH. Her presence in the bed is somewhat of a mystery, except she did win a Pulitzer prize, which fits the ‘famous’ requirement, and maybe Kanye just really likes her poetry. He picked three Plath quotations, which is more than he included from anyone else. (1) “I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead; I lift my eyes and all is born again.” (2) “I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am.” (3) “Kiss me and you will see how important I am.” Perhaps his interpretation of her suicide is linked to a sense of power over existence? This immortality thing?

YOKO ONO. Though not primarily a poet, her fame likely influenced Kanye’s decision. Her quotation,”Art is my life and my life is art,” definitely fits the Kanye mold.

MARIA LUISA BOMBAL. Also not exactly a poet, but certainly a representation of experimental literature, Kanye’s attraction to Bombal is definitely connected to her description of watching her own funeral (Kanye’s greatest regret is that he won’t get to see himself perform; exploring these anxieties is vital). Her quotation, “How pleasant it is to be ignorant!” is a bizarre choice. It’s also a fragment of a larger quotation about Mozart.

ADRIENNE RICH. It’s unclear why Kanye settled on this particular award-winning poet, but rumor has it he told Kim once, “who doesn’t love being [R]ich”? His favorite Adrienne Rich quotation offers startling insight into the way he’s lived his life: “Every journey into the past is complicated by delusions, false memories, false namings of real events.”

EMILY DICKINSON. A classic. Kanye and Dickinson are like two peas in a pod, and this quotation proves it: “Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul – and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.”

RITA DOVE. A Pulitzer-prize-winning powerhouse and United States Poet Laureate, Dove definitely fits the bill for this bed. It’s the quotation Kanye selected that’s confusing: “Libraries are where it all begins.”


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