September 25, 2006

Kicking Daffodils: Panel On Voice

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The first paper on this panel is given by Renuka Rajaratnum of Manchester Metropolitan University and it is entitled ‘Contemporary poetics of inter-relationality and diversity in women’s poetry: A case for intertextual hermeneutics’. Rajaratnum asks how the woman poet ‘exists’ and her answer is that such existence is enabled by relationality and intertextuality. Rajaratnum traces the word ‘intertextuality’ through Bakhtin to Kristeva and drawing on Linda Hutcheon, she describes intertextuality in terms of dialogic or competing interpretations. She uses this model to analyse poems such as Carol Ann Duffy’s ‘Standing Female Nude’.

The second paper by Sheree Mack from University of Newcastle concerns the border crossing poet, Patience Agbabi. Mack describes how by crossing borders in writing Agbabi manages to question the canon. Mack refers to Agbabi’s unusual upbringing in Wales by a Nigerian mother and notes how this enbaled Agbabi to move between cultures. Mack quotes Bernardine Evaristo on the difficulty for black women poets to gain critical approval. Interestingly, Agbabi was the only black or asian writer in the Poetry Book Society’s Next Generation promotion. For Agbabi, labels exclude and she becomes a ‘word kleptomaniac’. Ultimately, Mack demonstrates with flair how Agbabi crosses formal and cultural boundaries. Mack is a writer herself as you will discover if you see her website:

The third paper analyses Alice Oswald’s Dart and is entitled ’ “She do the river in different voices”: Lyric Democracies(?) in Alice Oswald’s Dart ’. Kym Martindale of University College, Falmouth suggests that the river here is both poet and muse and that the relation of the human to nature is revisionary. She notes that there are two River Darts in the poem, that of the east and that of the west and that when they meet they are full of other brooks. The physical boundaries of the two rivers can be seen at first, but not when they speak in the poem. Martindale turns to Romanticism to compare its view of nature with that of Dart . She cites McGann who argues that Wordsworth’s ‘Tintern Abbey begs us, ‘not to fill the eye of the mind with external and soulless images, but with “forms of beauty” through which we can “see into the life of things”, to penetrate the surface of a landscape to reach its indestructible heart and meaning’. Martindale argues that this is not found in Dart , where there is unity rather than understanding. The river provides no morals or lessons but simply exists. However, Martyndale does note that in imagery of the two rivers, the West Dart is dominated by the East Dart as if they were lovers (not gendered ones though). In Dart, the walker is a Wordsworthian character yet he is less resigned than characters in poems like ‘The Leech Gatherer’. He is defiant and closer to Wordsworth’s more personal persona. However the walker’s voice is interrupted by the embryonic Dart and the voices struggle for authorship. The answer to the query of isolation that appears in ‘The Leech Gatherer’ becomes a rebuke in Dart.

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