All posts filed under: Women Writers

Transverse threads; two women poets and Homer

The weft of  Margaret Atwood‘s The Penelopiad is contained in and revealed through the chorus voiced by the twelve maids  hung by Telemachus (on Odysseus’ orders) just after the men returned from their manly adventures. Margaret Atwood runs the chorus line throughout her Penelopiad, the executed maids sing their songs at ten intervals in the book. I was struck by a comment that Atwood makes in her notes about the maids. She stated that: ‘The Chorus of Maids is a tribute to such uses of choruses in Greek Drama. The convention of burlesquing the main action was present in the satyr plays before the main drama.’ (Margaret Atwood, Author Notes for The Penelopiad pp. 197-198) I am always interested in how women writers burlesque the heroic perception of the classics through use of device and structural underpinning. In this instance I have been reading Atwood’s The Penelopiad and Alice Oswald‘s Memorial. Both Atwood and Oswald approach Homeric themes in a sidelong fashion to get to the meat of the oral tradition, their poetic focus is decidedly on the lament. Atwood …

On ‘Two Songs of War and a Lyric’

This year I wrote a cycle of poems relating to war and to women. I titled part of it Two Songs of War and a Lyric for the SouthWord Journal, although it is intimately related to an earlier sequence of art poems, and to the 75th anniversary of Guernica which was marked in 2012.  The second poem in the art series , Gernika, was written for Euskal PEN and was read during the 75th anniversary commemoration of Guernica this summer of 2012. The first and last poem of the sequence, A Lament, was written some time ago and had been put in a folder. A Lament is too awkward a piece to submit to most journals as it is written for three voices and does not slip easily into the submission guidelines of many reviews. A Lament was written firstly as a poem and then as a chorus. It was conceived to weave in and out of the sequence which was published initially in SouthWord Magazine. Lament is an inherent part of the sequence because …

‘Effluence’ by Ruth Vanita

‘After the ups and downs of the day Manufactured alone in this small room, Aching in more than one way, I press Seven buttons, and am at last in heaven. Who is to be praised like Graham Bell For the greatest, kindest imagining, For knowing that no song can please so well, So heal , as one voice saying two syllables in a tone not reproducible ? Thanks to an era that may blow us both Up any minute, my heart is lifted, I see the stars again , bless a world That has you in it, and that makes you mine Along a line so tenuous, vibrant, fine.’ Effluence, by Ruth Vanita, from The Bloodaxe Book of Contemporary Indian Poets , ed Jeet Thayil, 2008. Reviewed at , Post III  Congratulations to Jeet who made the 2012 Man Booker list with Narcopolis

The International Marguerite Porete Society

I visited De Groot Begijnhof (the Great Beguinage) in Leuven quite recently, and whilst the site is integral, its atmosphere is contemporary. The Great Beguinage is used by the Catholic University as a type of student village, with accommodation for visiting professors and students of the university. There is little evidence that Marguerite of Porete (d. 1310) lived in a Beguinage, although the houses were common in Europe. Marguerite’s text, Le miroir des simples ames anienties et qui seulement demeurent en vouloir et desir d’amour was positively ascribed to her authorship in 1946, although it had been well established that she wrote it from the evidence of her trial for heresy. Marguerite of Porete was of course burnt at the stake by the French Inquisition in 1310. The International Marguerite Porete Society I first became aware of Porete’s writing in 2008-2009 whilst reading What the Curlew Said , by John Moriarty. I transcribed a section of Porete for Poethead and added it here. After my intriguing visit to Leuven’s Beguinage, I revisited Porete’s writing and life, finding to my delight  that a new International Society dedicated to her works was instigated in 2011. Both The International Marguerite Porete Society and International Bibliography on Marguerite Porete are located …

Dorothy L. Sayers’ translation of ‘The Divine Comedy’

Herein follows an incomplete list of book-links related to Dorothy L. Sayers’ translation of  The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. Readers of the poethead blog will note that I dedicate Saturday mornings to the work of women writers, editors and translators. The translation of The Divine Comedy undertaken by  Dorothy L. Sayers  was completed in part by Barbara Reynolds. Dorothy L. Sayers considered her translation of The Commedia to be her most important work,  and yet only one copy of the book was available through the Dublin Library Service last week. The Guardian Newspaper devoted just a single line to the fact that this work of translation was undertaken by Sayers. In the same instance both The Guardian and the Dublin library service suffer a surfeit of Sayers’ genre or detective stories. The Divine Comedy translated by Dorothy L. Sayers ( some useful links) The published works of Dorothy L. Sayers Biography of Dorothy L. Sayers Wikipedia Bibliography of the works of Dorothy L. Sayers Guardian biography page , gives one line to Sayers‘ translation of The Divine Comedy, www.guardian.co.uk/books/2008/jun/11/dorothylsayers The Divine …