A woman and a poet

Women  poets interested in publishing in An Index Of Women Poets  can contact me at c(dot)elizabethmurray (AT) gmail (dot) com

Unlike Eavan Boland, few contemporary Irish women poets (and editors) appear to be asking certain disrespectful questions of the tradition. In the seven years since I designed and set up Poethead, I have noted a mild improvement in the visibility of women writers, yet it is recent and it is generally weak. There has been an unbecoming editorial resistance to experimental poetry and to decent critical analysis evident in the historic treatment of women poets in Ireland. In fact, an editorial draw to nostalgia and poetic safety leaves us in the mire of mediocrity and canny self-dialogue. It is indeed ironic that poetry editors are concerned with the poem as ‘product’ and that they eschew avant-gardeism in the poem itself. The effect of marketting ‘product’ as opposed to bringing on a generation of poets will be felt later, as the desire for safety in poetic work during the modernist era is felt now, as lack. The story of Irish poetry is set on the back of a few giants that attract the US market, and the old establishment has been replaced by a new establishment with a similar modus operandi.

That we have neglected mid-century women poets is discussed by Emma Penney here. We cannot even point to early Irish female modernists or poets such as a Stein or a Dickinson. One assumes that Irish poetry editors took some form of oath against modernism, or that the whiff of female anarchy displeased their rather delicate nostrils. Tokenism is rife. A vague recent improvement in the publication of Irish women poets has been in no way matched by an improvement in their academic study, or in the critical recognition of women poets in Ireland. 

Poets featured on this blog include, Mirjam Tuominen, Ágnes Nemes Nagy, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Doris Lessing, Medbh McGuckian, Simone Weil, Eavan Boland, Liliana Ursu, Sarah Clancy, Denise Levertov, Katherine Duffy, Alice Oswald, Assia Djebar, Kate Dempsey, Hanna Weiner, Tess Gallagher, Marina Tsvetaeva, Sylvia Plath, Edith Sitwell, Vona Groake, Carol Ann Duffy, Liz Lochead, Sue Hubbard, Eilis Ní Dhuibhne , Ann Sexton, Ruth Fainlight, Julian Of Norwich, Marion Glasscoe, Anna Akhmatova, Nessa O Mahony, Eithne Strong, Nuala Ni Chonchúir, Nelly Sachs,  and Moya Cannon.

I can add Ann Hays, Dorothy Leigh Sayers , Alice Ostriker, Cate Marvin, Rita Dove, Helen Vendler, Kay Boyle, Carol Ann Duffy, and Alice Oswald as editors and reviewers to the above-mentioned poets list. Eavan Boland and Tess Gallagher have compiled or translated collections, and Simone Weil was not alone a poet but an excellent essayist and political activist. This blog also makes mention of Hildegard of Bingen and Julian of Norwich, who alongside Marguerite of Porete wrote from a mystical perspective, along with Barbro Karlen. In Simone Weil’s case I believe that some of the notebooks have not yet been translated or even readied for publication. One can add the issue of funding to that of invisibility in modern or earlier eras of literary dissemination ! 

Women editors and translators on Poethead

Women translators and editors form the basis of much of what is published on Poethead.  Mostly the poets have a western (english language bias), although not always, in the case of Touminen, Ursu, Weil, Sachs, Hassanzadeh, Bachmann, and Nagy, amongst others. I do think that as readers and writers many women underestimate the small presses, the dedicated presses and the university presses. The areas of poetry that are translated are not necessarily specialisations; but represent modes of communication of  those texts that are sorely neglected, and they are a virtual babel-tower of richness in literary inheritance.

Along with online resources, mentioned in the two short pieces on ethnopoetics and translations, which I will include as links at the end of this piece, are book resources, in which sometimes Amazon can be your friend. Although you can do worse than checking out the college bookshops, the specialist bookshops, and at the higher end, those shops that deal in first editions and artistic editions.

I have also found some beautiful artistic and poetic collaborations published here in Ireland as part of art exhibitions or in reviews such as PIR. In essence, it’s not always in regular bookshops that there are treasures to be had. Indeed some bookshops present a paucity in choice unless one is actively seeking chick-lit , airport novels, and other mass-produced writing destined for e-book fodder at 99 cents a piece. The second hand bookshops are stuffed to the ceiling with mass product, poetry books are rarely seen there because people hold onto them. I suppose that is problematic in an era of disposal.

Women interested in publishing in the saturday woman poet slot can contact me : c(dot)elizabethmurray(AT)gmail(dot)com



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