All entries for September 2006

September 25, 2006

Kicking Daffodils: Panel On Voice

Writing about web page http://www.uwe.ac.uk/hlss/faculty/news/womenandpoetry/index.shtml

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: http://www.shereemack.com/

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.


September 07, 2006

Kicking Daffodils Reading

The line-up for the Kicking Daffodils Conference ‘Emerging Poets’ reading was: me, Zoë Skoulding, Helen Farish and Claire Crowther. The format of the event was unusual as each poet gave a ten minute statement of poetics and then a ten minute reading of their poems.

I was up first and for my ten minute talk, I chose to speak on the topic of ‘not confessing’ and I explained how in order to avoid the criticism that comes of writing confessionally as a woman, I have moved towards the mystery of poetry and the power of witholding secrets. Later, I recited poems using the Welsh and English languages, including ‘The Secret’.

Next was Zoë Skoulding, an excellent poet, who brought out The Mirror Trade , her first collection with Seren. Zoë and I tend to appear at poetry events together quite often and there is often confusion about who is who which causes much amusement. In her talk, Zoë wondered what it meant to be an ‘emergent woman poet’ carefully considering the different aspects of the conundrum. Her reading of new work preoccupied with the city-space was intriguing and demonstrated why her poetry has brought her considerable attention.

Helen Farish was bold and enthused in her speech about the difficulty of being a woman poet. Helen lamented criticism of so-called ‘personal’ women’s writing and she rightly pointed out that while critics may believe that the speaker of the poem and the poet are one and the same, often this is a misinterpretation and a simplification of the complex treatment of identity. Helen Farish’s poems are pioneering in their representation of the female body and her commentary on her own poems was illuminating. Helen published Intimates with Jonathan Cape and her collection was nominated for the TS Eliot prize.

Claire Crowther was next and in her talk she gave an illuminating insight into the difficulties for older woman trying to publish a poetry collection. By the end, we all agreed that the poetry scene is extremely ageist. Claire is a very accomplished poet who has been published widely in the TLS, Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, New Welsh Review, PN Review and Ambit. She has a first collection coming out nmext spring with Shearsman called Against the Evidence . I look forward to it.


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