If you were fortunate enough to catch the recent “She Who Wrote” exhibit at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York City, you saw a remarkable display of texts written by the ancient Mesopotamian high priestess and poet Enheduanna (circa 2300 BCE), the “earliest-named author in world literature.”
But that important literary fact wouldn’t have taken you by surprise if you’ve been keeping up with the entries on the Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project, founded by Kim Bridgford in 2010, with the idea of making visible to all the “vast legacy and richness of women’s poetry not only in this country, but across the world.” Timeline subjects in this thriving collection range from Kim Addonizio to Phillis Wheatley, and each entry has a photo, a data summary, and an essay written specifically for the database by a woman scholar or poet. Many entries include poems by the subject or links to her poems.
When it comes to Enheduanna, the Women Poets Timeline Project got to the subject before the Morgan did, with an entry by the poet and novelist Pat Valdata. The entry begins, “Enheduanna is the first identified poet in recorded history. Only a few centuries after cuneiform had fully developed as a writing system, this woman of extraordinary talent completed a body of work that influenced Sumerian and Babylonian literature for the next 500 years.” It goes on to discuss the poet’s work and life and give several examples of her writing.
The Women Poets Timeline Project is free and open to everyone. And every year women contributors to the Timeline meet at the Poetry by the Sea Conference to discuss their work and share ideas.
If you’re interested in volunteering to write an entry, contact Anna Evans. If you’re interested in joining this talented group of women writers this year at the Conference, you can register for the Timeline Project Seminar.