Women in Public
Women in Public
City Lights Spotlight Series No. 13


"The book as a whole functions as a grotesque carnival of embodiment, and our speaker's performance a type of poignantly raunchy clowning, an intentionally obnoxious and uncomfortable striptease aimed at the gaze itself. . . . Kahn’s collection is more than simply a retaliation to society’s ogling of the female in public. It is also an inquiry into the self situated within a Plathean lineage of women’s identity poetry, and it is this inquiry that peers at turns through our speaker’s sardonic tomfoolery, reminding us just how not-simple the issue is. Inasmuch as our speaker’s vulgar clowning seems a sarcastic play off the confessional, her bites are shot through with a real vulnerability . . ."––Kelly Jean Egan

"(Cool Girls Read) Reading for Resistance"
Feb 20, 2017

Elaine Kahn's book appears on this list for resistance reading: "Published by City Lights Books, this collection of stark, intense, and biting poetry from Elaine Kahn explores the mind, the body, the private, and the public aspects of female experience."

- Lipstick Party Magazine

"21 Books to Read While You Ride Out Winter"
Feb 19, 2016

Women in Public on The Fader's list of books to read in the winter. 

"You can read this amazing book of poetry over the course of just one substantial subway ride. It has squishy imagery and also really good metaphors to make you feel things. 'A Voluptuous Dream During An Eclipse' is probably our favorite, but we love every single one of these poems."—Liz Raiss

- The Fader

The Fader

"You can read this amazing book of poetry over the course of just one substantial subway ride. It has squishy imagery and also really good metaphors to make you feel things. 'A Voluptuous Dream During An Eclipse' is probably our favorite, but we love every single one of these poems."––Liz Raiss

"30 Must-Read Poetry Debuts from 2015"
Dec 8, 2015

Women in Public among the 30 must-read poetry debuts of 2015 on Literary Hub.
"What kind of film would your book be and who would direct it? If my book were a film it would be a puppet show directed by Catherine Breillat."

- Literary Hub

"Best of 2015: Best Poetry Books & Collections"
Dec 7, 2015

Women in Public included in Entropy's list of the 50 best poetry books & collections.

- Entropy Magazine

Small Press Distribution

"Elaine Kahn's debut full-length poetry collection, Women in Public, explores the odd continuity between motherhood, blow-up dolls, lack, and love, asking the question: 'What does the world hate more / than women / in public.' The poems read as attempts to capture the contradictory nature of the feminine––to live on the edge of being, both subject and object, consumer and consumed. In this attempt, Kahn navigates the distance between the McRib and the abject with a dark eroticism. She wields metaphors, or more so, absences, in ways that leave you feeling as if you're falling into them. These are poems about to unravel."

"Women in Public chosen as one of Entropy Magazine's 'Books That Have Devastated Us'"
Sep 21, 2015

Entropy presents a list of books that "broke our hearts, brought us to tears, down to our knees, then built us back again with the beauty of their language, their honesty, their courage. Here are some of those books, as nominated by the Entropy community."
Chosen as one of these books is Women in Public by Elaine Kahn.

- Entropy Magazine

"Elaine Kahn on God-Talk, Cat-Talk, and Women in Public"
May 11, 2015

Elaine Kahn interviewed on Real Pants for the series "Skunk Hour". 

- Real Pants

Publishers Weekly

"Kahn's precise and attentive debut full-length collection probes at notions of femininity with a sharp dagger, her terse but assertive stanzas carrying an understated conviction. 'Listen, I'm not political, I am distracted,' she proclaims, though her focused language will convince readers of her intelligence and savvy. Kahn examines and attempts to understand womanhood, relationships, and the abjection surrounding both. Deeply personal, her poems exude a careful intimacy."


"With Elaine Kahn's Women in Public in my back pocket, I am wondering how is it that anyone could ever identify with anything other than the abject, and how did the image of the poet ever become synonymous with that of a dandy? 'Do you think that you are greater than a mom?' Elaine Kahn writes later in the same poem, and then, later still: 'Life has its good points / And the fat, white thigh-bones / of a tourist.'"––Brian Nicholson


"Kahn's poems don’t end on the page. The ideas bleed from poem to poem, constructing a venous universe surging with the complexity of meaning making and the numerous contradictions so often forced upon the gendered human form … Kahn packs her poems with a density as complex as the systems regulating the human body itself. However, where there could be claustrophobia, Kahn creates an opening, a portal for new meanings and definitions."––Alexandra Wuest

"Poetry Is Not the Final Girl: Elaine Kahn"
Apr 30, 2015
Elaine Kahn is interviewed by Trisha Low for Poetry Foundation's Harriet Blog: "Elaine Kahn and I have a long-standing agreement that either of us can flake on any scheduled date we have to hang out because of reasons of emotional distress and/or exhaustion. This means that we don't see each other often because one of us is usually always crying, but that doesn’t really matter. The feeling of knowing that your friend is letting you self-care is often the higher form of love than actually hanging out. And I love Elaine exactly as she is. Distressed, exhausted, and most of all, crying on Instagram.

"My friend Claire says often that if you see a woman crying on the street, and you ask her why, chances are that she’s crying because of some reason that is ultimately reducible to just being a woman, which might be the greatest horror there is. But on the flip side probably the best thing thing about being a woman is having the prerogative to burn it all to the ground. And no one knows this better than one Ms. Elaine Kahn. So her and I will say thanks very much and goodbye hey also I’d watch out for that gasoline if I were you."

- Poetry Foundation's Harriet Blog

"On Being-Hated: Damien Hurst, Alli Warren, Kissing the Wall"
Apr 8, 2015

A report from the Women in Public reading at City Lights bookstore as well as other observations by Trisha Low.

- SFMOMA Open Space

"The Write Stuff: Elaine Kahn on Being in Between Things and Walking into Another Room"
Apr 2, 2015

Elaine Kahn, author of Women in Public, answers questions for the SF Weekly arts blog, Exhibitionist.

- SF Weekly

"Woman on the Verge"
Mar 10, 2015

The Women in Public book party at City Lights is profiled in SF Weekly.

"Poet and musician Elaine Kahn celebrates the publication of her first full-length collection, Women in Public, the 13th title in the City Lights Spotlight Poetry Series, with a reading and discussion at the landmark bookstore." --Evan Karp

- SF Weekly