‘Woman and Scarecrow’ by Marina Carr


Excerpt from Woman and Scarecrow by Marina Carr

Enter the thing in the wardrobe, regal, terrifying, one black wing, cobalt beak, clawed feet, taloned fingers. It is scarecrow, transformed. Stands looking at woman, shakes itself down, woman stares at it.

Scarecrow takes woman’s hand, pierces vein in her wrist, a fountain of blood shoots out. Scarecrow dips quill into woman’s wrist. A cry of pain from Woman.

Woman We don’t belong here. There must be
another Earth. And yet there was a moment when
I thought it might be possible here. A moment
so elusive it’s hardly worth mentioning . . . an
ordinary day with the ordinary sun of a late
Indian summer shining on the grass as I sat in the
car waiting to collect the children from school.
Rusalka on the radio, her song to the moon,
Rusalka pouring her heart out to the moon, her
love for the prince, make me human, she sings,
make me human so I can have him. And something
about the alignment of sun and wind and
song on this most ordinary of afternoons stays
with me, though what it means is beyond me and
what I felt is forgotten now, but the bare facts, me,
the sun, the shivering grass, Rusalka singing to
the moon. And I wonder is this not the prayer
each of us whispers when we pause to consider.
Make me human. Make me human. And then
divine. And I wonder is it for these elusive
prayers we are here, these half sentences that
vanish into the ether almost before we can utter
them. Living is almost nothing and we brave
little mortals investing so much in it.

Scarecrow You’re determined to go with romance on your lips.

Woman I know as well as the next that the arc of
our time here bends to tragedy. How can it be
otherwise when we think where we are going?
But we must mark those moments, those
passionate moments, however small. I looked up
passionate in the  dictionary once because I thought
I had never known it. And do you know what passion
means ?

Scarecrow It comes from the Latin, pati, to suffer

© Marina Carr , all rights reserved

Excerpted from *Woman and Scarecrow, published Gallery Press, 2006.

scarecrow cover

Gallery Press celebrated their 43rd Anniversary in publishing this week of February 2013. Marina Carr is a playwright known to us for the excellence of her work. I was incredibly privileged to witness Marina read from her play Woman and Scarecrow in Galway during Gallery Press’ 40th Anniversary celebrations three years ago. I blogged about Carr’s reading here.

I  am interested in how writers use the theatrical-space to create image and symbol, as much as I am interested in how poets use the theatrical-space for poetic works. Gallery Press publish both poetry and drama, thus I wanted to look at Marina Carr’s use of structure and symbol in Woman and Scarecrow. Thank you to Suella from The Gallery Press who has helped me to find the relevant sections of the play, and who has often aided me in the past with regard to permissions for hosting Gallery poets on this blog.

  • Images from Woman and Scarecrow can be found at the SecretSpaces blog

‘Introspections, the Poetry and Private World of Dorothea Herbert’ by Frances Finnegan

The Rights Of Woman,

Or Fashions for the Year 93 - being the Era of Women’s literally wearing the Breeches.  - Health and Fraternity !

Whilst man is so busy asserting his Rights
Shall Woman lie still without gaining new lights
Our sex have been surely restrain’d enough
By stiff prudish Dress and such old fahion’d stuff
Too long have been fetter’d and tramelld I wot
With Cumbersome Trains and the Strict petticoat
Yet should a poor Wife dare her Tyrant to chide
Oh she wears the Breeches they tauntingly cried
But now we’re enlighten’d they’ll find to their Shame
We’ll have the reality not the bare Name
No longer will Woman to Satire be Dupe
For she is determin’d  to figure Sans Jupe
And once she is rouzed she will not be outdone
Nor stop at this one Reformation alone
For mark me proud Man she’ll not yield thee a Jot
But soon will become e’en a true Sans-Culote
And flourish away e’er the Ending of Spring
Sans Jupe, Sans Culote , in short – sans any thing

– Ca va et ca…ira
–Liberty and Equality for ever ! 

© by Dorothea Herbert

from ,  Introspections, the Poetry and Private World of Dorothea Herbert  by Frances Finnegan , Congrave Press 2011.

This poem is tagged found books , as I hit upon it whilst looking for something else. The cover image of the book caught my eye. I contacted Frances Finnegan in the last week and requested permission to use two poems from her recently published book about Dorothea Herbert, and she generously recommended that I use two of the shorter poems, or indeed excerpts from one of the longer poems. I thought to publish another of the poems (or excerpts) with a review of the book , at a later date.

Information about Introspections, the Poetry and Private World of Dorothea Herbert  by Frances Finnegan is available at  Congrave Press  . It seems remarkably careless that poets of Herbert’s talents are so easily consigned to dusty archives, though it appears to be a peril that disproportionately affects the woman writer and poet in Ireland.


A poet-companion,Tess Gallagher translates Liliana Ursu.

There are two posts on this blog which link to short poems by Lilian Ursu.  The poems are from the Poetry Book Society Recommended Translation of The Sky Behind the Forest, by Liliana Ursu. The volume had two translators, Adam J Sorkin and Tess Gallagher. Interestingly, the volume does not initial the translators work beneath the text , so  it is very hard to identify which poems were translated by Gallagher. This blog is dedicated to the work of women writers, editors and translators, so I thought to examine Gallagher’s approach to the poet and to her work.  I am referring to  the  published notes on the translations throughout.

Liliana Ursu is Romanian, she was born in Sibiu in 1949 and  lived in Bucharest during the Ceaucescu regime. She graduated in English at Bucharest University and taught part-time there for ten years. Ursu has published two books of short stories, six books of translation and  books of poetry. She travelled as a  visiting professor to Pennsylvania State University on a Fulbright Grant in 1992-1993. I have decided to include here a Bloodaxe page about Ursu, as well as a link to Lightwall.

 Tess Gallagher describes herself as a poet-companion in her preface to the Poetry Book Society edition of Ursu’s The Sky Behind the Forest. It is an apt description for a fellow-traveller in the arts.Bad translation has been a bugbear of mine for some years, given that  wide internet dissemination has  sometimes led to appalling and quite inflexible machine-spewed translation. The ability to translate  from an academic, collaborative or empathetic base is what wholly contributes to the poetry reader’s pleasure in coming as close as it is possible to the spirit of the poem and to the intent  of the author.

I chose The Gallagher translation of Ursu as an exemplar of collaborative translation, but I could just as easily point to Hugh Maxton’s wonderful  translations of Ágnes Nemes Nagy’s Between , or Marion Glascoe’s edition  of Julian of Norwich. Gallagher is a collaborator  both  as a poet and as a woman, and her ability to communicate the Ursu text , along with Sorkin, hinge on collaborations and on  poetic sympathy.

Her approach is not solely academic but  occurs at a  level of universality, which is indicated in her approach to the work here ,

In the Dusk.

by Lilian Ursu.

” In the dusk the statues smile more enigmatically.

Not a breath of wind troubles their gaze.

You look at me and know how autumn makes its way.

In the dusk, under our bodies the hill sinks to ruin -

weightless, at last.

from The Sky Behind the Forest. Publ. Bloodaxe ,  1997.

A Saturday Woman Poet, Maria Laina.


A mauve bird
with yellow teeth
red feathers
green feet
and a rose belly
is not
a mauve bird.

by Maria Laina.

Published in Pacific Quarterly Moana (Hamilton, New Zealand). Vol. 5, No. 3, 1980, and in Ten Women Poets of Greece. Wire Press – San Francisco, 1982


I ignore poetry
– not all the time -
when the blood throbs on walls
when pottery falls to pieces
and life uncoils
like thread in a bobbin
I spit at my sorrow and completely
ignore poetry
when colours plague my soul
yellow blue and orange
I withhold my hate and calmly
ignore poetry
when your eyes tie my stomach
into knots

What’s more
– not all the time -
I ignore poetry
when it becomes a quaint ambition

a rare find
on a love-bench in a future hall.

by Maria Laina
Published in Contemporary Literature in Translation (Canada) No. 27, Summer 1977, and in KUDOS (UK),  Issue Six, 1980 , http://www.poiein.gr/archives/2192/index.html

Notes on the Poems

Rather than imagining that the problem is with how a woman poet uses her voice, I expect that the issue is more with how literature (serious poetic literature) is often still considered to be a male preserve. As I have said before now , male poets mature with age and women poets disappear ! Luckily England does not seem to share the disappearing poetic-lady syndrome!

Here’s Laina’s Wikipedia page and list of poetry  books  ,

Ενηλικίωση (Coming of Age), 1968
Επέκεινα (Hereafter), 1970
Αλλαγή τοπίου (A Change of Landscape), 1972
Σημεία στίξεως (Punctuation Marks), 1979
Δικό της (Of her own), 1985
Ρόδινος φόβος (Rose fear), 1992
Εδώ (Here), 2003

On transcriptions, from Women Writers, Women Books.

“This short post is related to what I do on the Poethead blog and I suppose to the area of women’s writing that has been a concern for a few years now.

Many of the poems that are a part of Poethead have found their way into my possession as gifts, or from the libraries and collections of people who bought (or ordered) the books when they were originally published. Quite a few of the books  that I have been privileged to read are not obtainable from our local friendly bookshops, though they can often be had through Amazon or other such internet outlets.

picture of a poetry notebook

The poems on the site were in the main transcribed from books by me, though not all of  them are.

I started transcribing poetry as an exercise a few years ago because of something I had read in A.S. Byatt’s Possession. Roland Mitchell’s thoughts on the teaching methodologies of his superior regarding transcriptions stuck with me. I wanted to test how  I would do if I were to know a poem through  the copying  of it. I soon learned that  no  matter how carefully one attempts a transcription, it is incredibly easy to mess up the  simplest things and change the  sense of the work completely. “

The whole article is available at the  Women Writers, Women Books Blog  , it is related to two pieces on Poethead, which I  am linking here, Hannah Weiner‘s  Book of Revelations and Nagy’s Hemisphere. I thought to add in Nuala Ní Chonchúir‘s piece about the Saturday Woman Poet also,  here  at Nuala’s Blog.