Opsimaths, Polymaths and Poets

chap-book

As you already know, I am enamoured of Second Light Network of Women Poets for its committment to poetry education and for encouraging and promoting poetry by women, especially women who come to poetry late in life.  It’s “never too late” the saying goes … and Second Light seems to prove that indeed it is not too late to learn, to create and to appreciate beautiful poetry.

Second Light has the fair-sized, faithful and active participation of women to whom it offers support by way of connection, classes (including remote classes), competitions and publication opportunities, anthologies of women’s poetry and the biannual ARTEMISpoetry magazine.  The May 2015 issue is out now and you can order it HERE. Membership information and sign-up for email alerts are HERE.

While membership in Second Light is restricted to women, the poetry shared is for everyone.  This poetry includes works by accomplished – if lesser known poets – and works of well-established poets you may have long admired including R. V. Bailey, Jackie Kay, Mimi Khalvati, Anne StewartMyra Schneider and Dilys Wood, the founder of Second Light.

These and other women serve as role-models and also are often involved as judges of competitions, as editors of publications and as teachers through Second Light in workshop settings, through remote education or through The Poetry School, “the U.K.’s largest provider of poetry education.”

Polymath ~ a person with a wide range of knowledge or learning.

Each May and November when my copy of ARTEMISpoetry arrives I’m always delighted with the depth of learning that continues and with the wide range of knowledge, interests and observation that informs the poetry. What follows is an overview of the November 2014 issue and three poems from that issue.

* * * * * 

“Nights, I squat in the cornucopia
Of your left ear, out of the wind,

Counting the red stars and those of plum-color.
The sun rises under the pillar of your tongue.
My hours are married to shadow.
No longer do I listen for the scrape of a keel
On the blank stones of the landing.”

“”
from The Colossus”, The Colossus and Other Poems, 1960, Sylvia Plath

The November 2014 issue of ARTEMISpoetry is dedicated to Sylvia Plath (1932-1963), the renown American poet, novelist and short story writer who produced in her foreshortened life a remarkable body of work that influenced her contemporaries and continues to inspire poets to this day.

If you are a fan of Plath, this issue will delight you for the fresh imaginative breath of its insight. If you are new to Plath, this issue will serve as an excellent introduction to her. It includes an imagined interview of Plath by Kay Syrad.  Anne Stevenson briefly tells of her struggle to maintain the appropriate detachment when writing Bitter Fame: A Life of Sylvia Plath and how depleted she felt when she finished the biography in May 1988.  The narrative is followed by a quite lengthy and somewhat charged poem, A Letter to Sylvia Plath, which is an excerpt from Stevenson’s book, Poems 1955-2005 (Bloodaxe Books).

The last stanza of Anne Stevenson’s poem ~

“We learn to be human when we kneel
To imagination, which is real
Long after reality is dead
And history has put its bones to bed.
Sylvia, you have won at last,
Embodying the living past,
Catching the anguish of your age
In accents of a private rage”

Also included is Three Young Poets on Plath’s Influence that you can read HERE in the April 2015 issue of The BeZine, which was dedicated to poetry. Second Light partnered with us (The Bardo Group) in April for interNational Poetry Month.

I was happy to see Alison Blackenbury‘s piece on Jenny Joseph. Featured poets were R.V. Bailey and Adele Ward, who is also a publisher. 2014 Poetry Competition winners were announced and their poems published. As with every issue, this one was rich with poetry, reviews, and announcements of events, collections published, calls for submissions and other material of interest to members.

The poems that follow were published in the November 2014 issue and are included here with the permission of both publisher and poets. Enjoy …

Three of the poems published in ARTEMISpoetry, Issue 13, November 2014:

Featured Poet, back cover:

Flowers in the cemetery

Ahead of me as always, you were first
To die. But what possessed you, love,
Trusting a feckless gardener like me
To plant the flowers on your grave?

It’s garden-centre-best-suburban,
Sentimental, pink and blue,
Till in the natural course of things
I come to lie down here too.

Forget-me-nots and lavender –
What rustic cliches. Yes, I know:
I also know you will not care,
Since it was I who put them there.

– R V Bailey

Short Poem First Prize Winner
Second Light Open Poetry Competition for Long and Short poems by women, 2014:

By Heart

Once she had to memorize the chemical elements
of soil, learn how to measure the height of trees
using sine and cosine and how to address a letter
to a bishop – information lost now in dusty
box files in a corner of her brain, with lists
of Latin verbs and conjugations, the Attributes
of the Virgin Mary and which feast days a priest
wore rose or purple. But she remembers maples
graded from cinnabar to porphyry stretching
across the Laurentian hills like reels of Sylko
in a haberdasher’s drawer; the rustle of raven wings
through cedars as an Indian canoe skims the surface
of a turquoise lake; castles carved from blocks
of ice, snow on the windshield as she left.

– Margaret Beston

Commended
Second Light Open Poetry Competition, for Long and Short poems by women, 2014

Pray

Pray for Aurelia. She has a court case pending
and she misses her children. (Prayer Request, Church of Our Lady)

Pray for her.
For God has made her in his own image.
For this image startles her as she passes a shop window.
For she sees a cardigan (sleeves unravelling),
skirt (waist tied with string). Odd socks.
For the name-tag on her coat says Melanie.
For she knows God will clothe her. She’s a lily of the field.
For she has no thoughts of tomorrow.

Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof

She’s fat with drugs. They’ve stuffed and stuffed her.
She has no teeth.
Her children have been taken from her.

Pray for her.
For she has a first class degree but her mind has betrayed her.
For betrayal is the only thing she knows.
For her father lifts his grand-daughter onto the swing in the local park,
touching her ever so, ever so gently.

For her mother didn’t listen.
Nor her brother, her sister, her teacher, her lover.

She’s a loony.
She’s a swing door.
She’s a bin-liner.

Pray for her.
For God has made her in his own image.
For he is with her even through the valley of the shadow of death

Which is her life, you know. Her one and only. Life.


– Vivienne Tregenza

© 2015, magazine overview, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; photo ~ Newstand illustration by J.C. Leyendecker circa 1899; copyrights to all poems are held by their authors and rights are reserved

5 thoughts on “Opsimaths, Polymaths and Poets

    1. Thank you for this lovely assembly of poetry. I enjoyed being reminded of Sylvia Plath; I read several of her works in college and “A Room of One’s Own” really struck me. When a poet uses a word like
      “porphyry” (Margaret Beston), I wonder whether she came across it in the dictionary one day and then wrote a poem that could utilize it. She induced me to look it up in the OED, however, and it is “rock quarried in ancient Egypt, composed of red or white feldspar in a red matrix”…a new one on me.
      Linda

      Like

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