Deserted Village, Achill Island
Notes for an exhibit
Madam Butterfly at Beaumaris
When I look back I seem to remember singing.
Impenetrable, those walls , we thought,
Fable is © Doris Lessing (1919-2013)
|Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing (1919-2013) was a novelist, poet, and sci-fi writer. This appreciation of Doris Lessing was first published on the Women Writers, Women’s Books Site in 2013 with thanks to Anora McGaha, and to Barbara Bos who live edited the piece at the time of writing. Thanks to Olivia Guest at Jonathan Clowes Ltd who has allowed me carry Poems by Doris Lessing here at Poethead.
When a person of great age dies, there are many responses about the richness of their life and how we have been blessed by their presence for so long in our world. Yet for me there was and is profound sorrow at the loss to us of Doris Lessing Nobel Laureate, author, philosopher and poet. I do not delude myself that my sorrow is one of intimate connection to her, a whole generation of women writers have that connection to her voice.
My connection to Doris Lessing’s writing began in my twenties when I first read The Golden Notebook, I read almost all her work after that. I am unsure of where the gut tear occurred with my reaction to her work, but here was a writer who did things that I admired. It was difficult to locate her effect on me, but I knew it and recognised it as important to my writing.
Living in Dublin city, I often retreat to a small house in Mayo, where my now deceased friend, Michael McMullin, a philosopher and jungian, had retained a library. His Doris Lessings were collected on the top shelf of his library, alongside some images of Chartres Cathedral, and his Yeats collection. Like Lessing he had attained a great age and had a voracious thirst for knowledge, he was born in Ceylon in 1916.
Michael’s assidious collecting of Doris Lessing was winsome, and he often referred to her. His nomadism had taken him from Ceylon, to Cambridge, to escape from Hitler’s invasion of Paris, to Finland, to Canada, and at the end his life, a hillside In the North-West of Ireland. I did not meet Doris Lessing, but I had met in Michael that intellectual and questing spirit that seems to inflame the diasporist writer. It can only be described as a great and humble presence, their being present to everyone who he/she encounters all the time.
Doris Lessing’s death brought back my own recent loss with a punch. I saw the rumours of her death emerging from early Sunday morning and waited to hear if it were true. My decision to go ahead and link the Lessing poems was an urgent need to show people that there was more to her output, although it is sadly unavailable.
Two years ago while re-reading Lessing in the Mayo library awaiting a death, the Lessing poetry began to make me a bit more than curious. On returning to the city, I thought to do some searches of her writing, as I was aware that she like Ted Hughes, had elements of Sufism in her writing. I was aware that she had written poetry but couldn’t find much. The place to look for the mythological, esoteric, and philosophical mind of the writer is in their poetic output. Poetry is the revelatory act of participation in the world.
Doris Lessing had written a small collection Fourteen Poems in 1959, published by The Scorpion Press, and she had contributed to the Inpopa Anthology (2002). Her poetry isn’t available online. The Scorpion Press Archive is housed at the McFarlin Library (Special Collections) at the University of Tulsa.
Alison Greenlee, Librarian at the McFarlin Special Collections Library located for me a copy of the book in my Alma Mater, University College Dublin. I made an appointment to go in as soon as I could and transcribed a selection of the poems for myself. The next step was to contact Jonathan Clowes Ltd, who are Doris Lessing’s agents.
Olivia Guest at Jonathan Clowes Ltd, Doris Lessing’s Literary Agents, worked on my behalf to bring Doris Lessing’s poetry back online. We corresponded initially by letter and I procured a temporary 12 month licence to add Lessing to my index of women poets. I wanted her to be recognised for her entire body of work and not alone the novels. After the initial permissions to carry the Lessing poetry were given, the first letter went awol and had to be re-issued, I put them up and shared them regularly across multiple social media platforms including FB, Twitter, Salon.
I wrote about the poems on Open Salon. There were 3,000 hits on the poetry over the two blogs. People contacted me to say that they wanted to read the books, that they had no idea that she was a poet, and that they were heartened to see a woman poet of great age appearing on their computer screens, as there is often a problem with having older women visible in the media.
The following year, I sent Olivia Guest a synopsis of the reaction to Doris Lessing’s poetry and we agreed to extend the licence for another 12 months. She was surprised that the reaction to lessing’s poetry had been so widespread and curious. I sent her screenshots of the data and emails regarding the works.
This year of 2013, I again contacted Olivia and reminded her that my licence to carry the poetry was about due to end and that it gave me great sorrow to take the poems off my index, people were always looking for them, they accounted for a lot of searches for women writers, alongside Dorothy L. Sayers and Nelly Sachs.
last week I received an email that made me sadder. Doris Lessing had little confidence in her poetry and her agents were happy to allow me keep them indefinitely because they did not see the possibility of a re-issue.
|This is the email that Olivia Guest sent me recently,
We’d be delighted for you to host the poems for longer especially if you’re getting such good reactions. Doris Lessing was never very keen on her poetry and didn’t think it was any good so I doubt we will see a re-issue but at least this way, they are available in an alternative form.
Many thanks and best wishes
I wondered then if Doris Lessing knew over these years that I had the poems and that they had caused such a reaction on the Poethead ? I still do not know if she did. Last week I announced on Poethead that I would be retaining the poems for sometime, and that I had received the above letter, blogged it in absolute delight, because it is a small but profound part of her writing jigsaw and it allows us to call her a poet.
To a mind like Lessing’s, death is a transformation and not an ending. Yesterday, after I decided to honour her writing and look again at the story of the poems, I closed up my blog for the day and took a walk with my daughter. When I got home, I saw that there were upward of a thousand hits on the Lessing letters, articles, posts and poems.
Today there is a similar amount building up. People want to know that questing intellect and they are searching. If I could say one thing to Doris Lessing, it would be that her poetry is the source and cause of joy and many, many people feel her loss in this world.
RIP Doris May Lessing (1919-2013)
Note: November 2014: Since the time of writing this piece in 2013, the stats for the Lessings posts have changed.
(I don’t know how to spell) Meningioma
The Corner House
|Victoria Kennefick’s chapbook, White Whale, won the Munster Literature Fool for Poetry Competition 2014. It was launched as part of the Cork Spring Poetry Festival 2015. A collection of her poems was shortlisted for the prestigious Melita Hume Poetry Prize 2014 judged by Forward Prize winner, Emily Berry. She has also been shortlisted for 2014 Over The Edge New Writer of the Year Award. In 2013 she won the Red Line Book Festival Poetry Prize and was shortlisted for the Bridport and Gregory O’Donoghue Prizes. She was selected to read as part of the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series 2013 and at the Cork Spring Poetry Festival Emerging Writers Reading in February 2014. Her work has been published in The Stinging Fly, Southword, Abridged,The Weary Blues, Malpais Review, The Irish Examiner and Wordlegs. She was a recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship in 2007 and completed her PhD in Literature at University College Cork in 2009. Originally from Shanagarry, Co. Cork, she now lives and works in Kerry. A member of the Listowel Writers’ Week committee and co-coordinator of its New Writers’ Salon, she also chairs the recently established Kerry Women Writers’ Network . She is the recipient of both a Cill Rialaig /Listowel Writers’ Week Residency Award and a Bursary from Kerry County Council this year.|
The Irish in Britain
|Sarah Clancy has been shortlisted for several poetry prizes including the Listowel Collection of Poetry Competition and the Patrick Kavanagh Award. Her first book of poetry,Stacey and the Mechanical Bull, was published by Lapwing Press Belfast in December 2010 and a further selection of her work was published in June 2011 by Doire Press. Her poems have been published in Revival Poetry Journal, The Stony Thursday Book, The Poetry Bus, Irish Left Review and in translation in Cuadrivio Magazine (Mexico). She was the runner up in the North Beach Nights Grand Slam Series 2010 and was the winner of the Cúirt International Festival of Literature Grand Slam 2011. She has read her work widely at events such as Cúirt and as a featured reader at the Over the Edge reading series in Galway, the Temple House Festival, Testify, Electric Picnic, Ó Bheal and at the Irish Writers’ Centre, she was an invited guest at the 2011 Vilenica Festival of Literature in Slovenia and in Spring 2012 her poem “I Crept Out” received second prize in the Ballymaloe International Poetry Competition.Sarah Clancy’s Collection Thanks For Nothing, Hippies was published April 2012 by Salmon Poetry.|
|Eleanor Hooker’s debut collection of poems The Shadow Owner’s Companion, published by the Dedalus Press in February 2012, has been shortlisted for the Mountains to Sea dlr Strong/Shine award for best first collection in 2012. Her poem A Rite won the Trocaire/Poetry Ireland competition in June 2013.
Her poetry has been published in The Irish Times, Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly, The SHOp, Agenda, POEM: International English Language Quarterly, Southword (forthcoming), CanCan, Wordlegs, And Other Poems, ink sweat and tears (forthcoming).
She is a founder member and Programme Curator for the Dromineer Literary Festival. She is a helm and Press Officer for Lough Derg RNLI Lifeboat.
cure poem for the lovelorn
|Fiona Bolger’s work has appeared in Headspace, Southword, The Brown Critique, Can Can, Boyne Berries, Poetry Bus, The Chattahoochee Review, Bare Hands Poetry Anthology and others. Her poems first appeared in print on placards tied to lamp posts (UpStart 2011 General Election Campaign). They’ve also been on coffee cups (The Ash Sessions). Her grimoire, The Geometry of Love between the Elements, was published by Poetry Bus Press. She is of Dublin and Chennai and is a member of Dublin Writers’ Forum and Airfield Writers.|
|Mary Noonan lives in Cork. Her poems have been published in The Dark Horse, The North, Poetry Review, Poetry London, The Threepenny Review, Cyphers, The Stinging Fly, Wasafiri and Best of Irish Poetry 2010. She won the Listowel Poetry Collection Prize in 2010. Her first collection – The Fado House (Dedalus Press, 2012) – was shortlisted for the Seamus Heaney Centre Prize for a First Collection (2013) and the Strong/Shine Award (2013).|
Máire Mhac an tSaoi
Ceathrúintí Mháire Ní Ógáin
|Máire Mhac an tSaoi (born 4 April 1922) is one of the most acclaimed and respected Irish language scholars, poets, writers and academics of modern literature in Irish. Along with Seán Ó Ríordáin and Máirtín Ó Direáin she is, in the words of Louis de Paor, ‘one of a trinity of poets who revolutionised Irish language poetry in the 1940s and 50s. (Wiki)|
|Deborah Watkins is a painter and a writer who also worked for many years making decorative ceramics. She grew up in Dublin and studied craft design at the National College of Art and Design. Deborah moved to Connemara in 1991 where she now lives with her three young daughters and her husband Gavin Lavelle, who is also an artist. They run the family business together in Clifden – The Lavelle Art Gallery which showcases painting and sculpture by local and nationally renowned artists.
Deborah began to paint more or less full time in 2008. She writes a blog about her painting processes and the natural landscape in Connemara, which reached the final of the 2012 Irish Blog Awards. Deborah began writing poetry in 2013 and she attends a poetry workshop run by Galway poet and essayist Kevin Higgins. Two of her poems have been published in Skylight 47, the Galway poetry newspaper, one in the forthcoming Summer issue. Deborah is also a feature writer in her local newspaper the Connemara Journal
Doireann Ní Ghríofa
Recovery Room, Maternity Ward
Doireann Ní Ghríofa’s poems have appeared in literary journals in Ireland and internationally. Her Irish language collections Résheoid and Dúlasair are both published by Coiscéim. The Arts Council of Ireland has twice awarded her literature bursaries (2011 and 2013). In 2012, she was a winner of Wigtown Gaelic poetry contest— the Scottish National Poetry Prize. Her short collection of poems in English Ouroboros was recently longlisted for The Venture Award (UK).