Lavinia Kumar


If I had not been discriminated against or had not suffered persecution, I would never have received the Nobel Prize

Rita Levi-Montalcini (1909-2012)
Nobel Prize, Physiology or Medicine, 1986

Don’t shout “barrier” to her

in case she climbs over it.

She had the nerve to fight

patriarchy, dictators,

all those preconceived rules

ill-advised for a lively woman

who grew chicks in her bedroom,

ran from bombs to her basement,

used sewing needles as scalpels,

dissected to learn, to tell us

just what there is to know

how her nerves were able to grow.

X and Y

Nettie Maria Stevens (1861 – 1912)

’Tis a woman’s fault

they said, and said again,

whether birth in a ditch

or in a lady’s chamber.

Then Nettie Stevens

looked at eggs insides,

tested beetles’ larvae,

found where gender resides –

she saw the different shapes,

following Mendel’s guess,

found (all identical) ladies eggs

don’t determine boy, or girl.

She showed sex a gentleman’s fault:

‘tis true and true again,

whether birth in a ditch

or in a lady’s chamber.


Lavinia Kumar’s books are The Skin and Under (Word Tech, 2015), and The Celtic Fisherman’s Wife: A Druid Life (2017). Chapbooks are Let There be Color (Lives You Touch Publications, 2016), Rivers of Saris (Main Street Rag, 2013), and Beauty. Salon. Art. (Desert Willow Press, 2019). Her poetry has appeared in US, Irish, & UK publications.