Shakespeare's Sisters: Five Centuries of Poetry by Women

This is the approved revision of this page, as well as being the most recent.

This article is about the poetry seminar. For other uses, see Shakespeare's Sisters (disambiguation).

Shakespeare's Sisters Class of 2007.

Shakespeare's Sisters: Five Centuries of poetry by Women is part of the O.B. Hardison Poetry Series at the Folger. Shakespeare's Sisters is a free ten-week seminar for selected students in grades 10-12, which meets once weekly at the Folger; all books and materials are provided free of charge. Additionally, participants will be invited to a variety of poetry readings at the Folger Shakespeare Library during the seminar.

The Folger Shakespeare Library is eager to assemble a group of students genuinely interested in working with people from a wide variety of educational and cultural backgrounds in an atmosphere of mutual respect. All students in grades 10-12 in the DC metropolitan area are eligible for the program. Students with an interest in creative writing or gender studies are particularly encouraged to apply.

Participants read and discuss selected poems by British and American women poets from the mid-sixteenth century to the present, and write poetry of their own. No experience in writing poetry is necessary. The seminar also looks at some poetry written by men about women in order to see more clearly how perspectives can differ. The seminar culminates in a free poetry reading held at a branch of the D.C. Public Library. Shakespeare's Sisters students read from their own poetry, as well as from the work of their favorite poets from the seminar.

Teri Cross Davis, poetry and lectures coordinator at the Folger Shakespeare Library, and Kim Roberts, poet and editor of Beltway Poetry Quarterly, lead the seminar.

Apply for the 2015 seminar

Shakespeare's Sisters is currently accepting applications for the 2015 seminar. The deadline for applications has been extended; applications must be postmarked by Friday, November 28, 2014. The seminar will meet on Wednesdays from 4-6pm, beginning on January 7 and ending on March 11, 2015 at the Folger.

To apply, please complete the student application form and the teacher recommendation form.

Mail the completed forms to: “Shakespeare’s Sisters” Seminar, Poetry & Lectures Program, Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 East Capitol Street, S.E., Washington, DC 20003. You may fax an application to 202-608-1719, but please also mail a hard copy.

Further information, please contact Terri Cross Davis at or 202.675.0374.

2015 seminar syllabus

  • Week 1, January 7: Poetry About Women: The Male Tradition in the Renaissance with Petrarch, Edmund Spenser, William Shakespeare, John Donne
  • Week 2, January 14: Early Women Writers of the Renaissance: Queen Elizabeth, Isabella Whitney & Aemilia Lanier
  • Week 3, January 21: Women Writers of the 16th and 17th Century-Lady Mary Wroth, Katherine Philips & Mary Sidney Herbert.
  • Week 4, January 28: A Royal Treat: Rare Books & Manuscripts from the Folger Shakespeare Library's Vault
  • Week 5, February 4: Pioneers in a New World: The 17th Century to Early 19th Century in America
  • Week 6, February 11: New Forms & New Ideas: The 19th Century in America & England
  • Week 7, February 18: Public & Private Bohemians: 20th Century in America
  • Week 8, February 25: Pioneers and Revolutionaries: Later 20th Century Voices
  • Week 9, March 4: Contemporary Sisters Speak Out
  • Week 10, March 11: Student Publication, Poetry Reading & Party

Earlier student poetry

Even Atlas Bows His Head

Marissa Dearing

And that Sunday

when I came upstairs to find my missing sock,

I passed your room

your door was half closed

and you were standing there in front of the window,

faintly mouthing the words of a familiar song,

twisting your hair.

And the song wasn’t very pretty,

and your hair was tangled,

and the way the light did not dance in your eyes,

but slid over them,

was like watching Superman, asleep, drooling

or Rambo wringing his heavy hands.

Out of the Fireplace ...

Madeline Holland

The beautiful thing about fairy tales

They end in happily ever after

No tomorrows, no ensuing details

Only wedding bells and tinkling laughter

In her gown and glass shoes that magic night

She did not realize what she had begun

But what happened when Charming wasn’t quite?

And they found that in common they had none

Except for small, breakable shoes and vows?

Oh, Fairy Godmother, where are you now?

Icarus Rising

Marissa Dearing

You often told me angels failed to glide

with my ethereal grace; yes, even vixen Eris

could not cause such rousing chaos. You, yearning, sighed,

and with reckless bravado, you preached Paris,

Venice, Bangkok, Rome, and Ireland. Instead,

we hunted romance in Las Vegas lights.

Back home: lipstick gone, bland toothpaste in its stead,

Passionate nights languish into wrangling fights.

Chaos contained, footsteps firm, Cupid yawned and passed us by.

Amid the missing socks, the crumpled sheets, Gravity,

swift, turned back and plucked us from our breathless sky.

Here, no scandal, no glaring depravity,

but it seems that between debt and apron strings,

even angels lose their wings.

Image gallery