THE NEW SAPPHOS

Dilys Wood

Dilys Wood is poet, editor and convenor of Second Light Network of Women Poets. She has edited four anthologies of women’s poetry, mainly with Myra Schneider and has published two collections of poetry, Women Come to a Death and Antarctica. 

Women Come to a Death
Poetry. 1997. 57 pages. ISBN 0 904872 28 9. £6.95.

Death is both personal and political in this remarkable collection, which begins with the magnificent long poem, ‘The Death of a Safety Officer’, a dialogue between the dying man and a chorus of women, which relates the closure of the South Yorkshire pits and death of a way of life to the old age and death of an individual miner. The book closes with a sequence of poems where the author nurses her mother through death from cancer. They describe the painful detail of the illness and the strange suspension of normal life as mother and daughter spend these last revealing months together. Courtesy of Katabasis Books: English and Latin American Poetry and Prose

♦ ♦ ♦

Now that you know a bit about our guest blogger today, I hope you will take the time to enjoy this post. It’s the first of two. The next  I will publish tomorrow. J.D.

NEW SAPPHOS, CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN POETS

by

Dilys Wood 

I run a network for women poets and naturally I want our members to be treated equitably, with recognition of any woman’s potential to be in the top flight of creative artists.

Some poets feel that ‘male and female he made them’ should not be an issue. I disagree because I want to celebrate and gain personal inspiration from the last fifty years. There has been a vastly increased involvement of women as students of poetry, published poets, book purchasers and consumers of ‘products’ such as poetry festivals. I also want it debated why this has not meant equality of treatment.

Why do some leading journals publish fewer poems by women and use fewer women reviewers? What part is played by prejudice and what by our diffidence? Do we submit enough work and persist when submissions are rejected? Are there subtle shades of prejudice? Are we taken seriously on ‘women’s topics’ but not when writing about spiritual experience or politics?

A first step is to convince ourselves that there is no ceiling. Emily Dickinson surely lives up to the epithet ‘unique genius’? Her work is incredibly economical, dense, universal and deeply moving. She is totally original in style and thought. Her work alone ought to kill the slur that biology-based inferiority explains historical under-achievement.

So many more women have found now their voice. Let’s celebrate poets who excite us, from Emily Bronte (say) to Jorie Graham (say). We can also start thinking seriously about differences and about inflated reputations. Let’s be wary about ‘celebrity status’. This tends to narrows true appreciation. Read voraciously. Include lesser known poets and dead poets. You will be impressed by how much exciting writing is on offer.

Related articles