You can read all about editorial disregard for Irish women poets at RASCAL (Research And Special Collections Available Locally at Queens University Belfast).
Unlike Eavan Boland, few contemporary Irish women poets (or editors) appear to be asking certain disrespectful questions of the tradition. There has been a mild and recent improvement in the visibility of Irish women writers, although it is generally insipid. 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. That we have neglected mid-century women poets is discussed by Emma Penney here. We cannot point to early Irish female modernists of the calibre of 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.
It is indeed ironic that poetry editors are concerned with the poem as product and that they eschew the avant-garde in the poem itself. This cowardice extends into the media who rarely review poetry books and who generally like safe bets. Poetry itself has become sponsored and it is over-indulged. That the financially supported poet does not see this as detrimental is shocking to me. It seems that poetry editors must not engage the intellectualism of the average reader for fear of, you know, widespread property destruction and hairy sinners declaiming on the street corners.
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.