“I discovered sexism’s glass walls—which do exist still, to a shocking degree—later rather than earlier. A great blessing, that belatedness. As a young person, I felt the world’s heritage of art and literature was mine to forage.” (Jane Hirshfield)
This week’s blog post contains just two small links because family duties had called me away from my desk. While I was away I got totally enraptured by Paul Celan‘s Todesfuge, translated by John Felstiner, which I am writing about elsewhere. For today I am adding a conversation about Women and Poetry which is related to two published posts here at Poethead.
To preface my first excerpt and link, I want to say that the VIDA interview resonated with me in relation to a letter by Anne Hays which I published in January of 2011. The letter has been hit 4,819 times, it details a lack in women’s literary publication which I can only describe as a deadener. I am adding the letter here. I thought to publish excerpts from the VIDA interview and link in the context of the Hays letter.
“We each need the speech of reason and we need the speech of feeling. And when I’m asked the unanswerable question about the origins of poetry, my speculation is similarly multiple: prayer, courtship, work song, grief song, rituals of passage and of harvest, war song, lullaby, memory-keeping mnemonic. Each of these must have pulled poetry onto early human tongues. Most are experiences shared by both men and women, and if war-making’s drum cry has more often been the domain of men, that’s counterbalanced by the murmur that sends an infant to sleeping. If one had to guess which came first, lullaby’s as plausible a guess as any.” (Jane Hirshfield)
I wonder often about how we dream a poet, I imagine that in Ireland, we think of him as a speaker of our truths.
The above paragraph is so critical to our understanding that there are areas in poetic experience in which the gender of the poet cannot be ignored, and that is hugely important to emerging women poets to see and to read other women. If all we think about are our great male-poets when we imagine our singer of tales, then the experience of the woman-poet achieves an invisibility, a chorus. Think of T.S Eliot‘s chorus from Murder in the Cathedral, Atwood’s serving girls from The Peneliopad, or the mother nodding beside the cot in Sylvia Plath‘s art. Those are the voices of the harem, the brothel, the nursery and of the chorus-line.
Poetic invisibility becomes not a diminishment of the voice of woman but a nowhere for a woman writer to hang her hook, or to resonate with women’s experiences of war, of birth, of death. VIDA alluded to this issue in The Count, which I have linked here. Eavan Boland spoke of this lack in our imagining here .
Links to the Jane Hirshfield and Eavan Boland interviews are here,
- Exploring Poetry’s Lesser Space ,Interview with Eavan Boland http://www.boston.com/ae/books/articles/2007/03/11/exploring_poetrys_lesser_space/