September 26, 2006

Oxford Conference: Claire Crowther on The Resurrected Line

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Claire Crowther gave a very interesting talk on ‘The Resurrected Line’ in poems about grandmothers. In poems where the figure of the grandmother is central to the poem’s intent, the grandmother stands in for the persona of writer. The grandmother can represent a desire for metrical inheritance and the rediscovery of work by women. Often grandmother pomes play with repetition. Peter Reading’s untitled poem below is repeated within different poems and different collections of poetry:

Grans are bewildered by post-Coronation disintegration -
offspring of offspring of their offspring infest and despoil.

Crowther looks at Geoffrey Hill’s ‘Mercian Hymns’ (XXV) in which the line is cut off regularly in the same place. She describes enjambment as the desire not to die at the end of the line and she notes how Watkin compares the horizontal nature of the line to a corpse or coffin. The flow of the line could then represent resurrection.

Hill also uses repetition in his grandmother poem and Crowther describes a certain kind of temporality in grandmother poems that is concerned with periodicity. Discontinuity in such poems represents the dying, dematerializing body of the grandmother. These poems represent disembodied being where the grandmother can be a matriarch or goddess. Here Crowther refers to Irigaray’s demand for a female divine that can present our perfection to us.

Crowther then analyses a number of illuminating example: Kathleen Jamie’s ‘Arraheids’. Ruth Fainlight’s ‘Divination by Hair’ and Lee Harwood’s ‘African Violets’.

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