They thought death was worth it, but I
Have a self to recover, a queen
Is she dead, is she sleeping?
Where has she been,
With her lion-red body, her wings of glass?
excerpt from “Stings” by Sylvia Plath
*** ANTHOLOGY “HER WINGS OF GLASS” ***
“I’m completely wowed … the most important anthology for decades,” John Killick
“tremendously inspiring,” Moniza Alvi
“an amazing anthology,” Pauline Stainer
“It’s a magnificent anthology (and I’m not just saying this because my mother’s face peers at me from the cover!),” Adam Horovitz
“I’m impressed,” Anne Stevenson
Second Light Network of Women Poets (SLN) does many wonderful things for women poets of a certain age, but among the loveliest is the production of poetry anthologies. SLN’s latest anthology is Her Wings of Glass, the title taken from Sylvia Plath’s poem Stings in which she uses the life in the hive as metaphor for her own life and feelings.
When we consider all the elements of an apiary with its oddly flipped sexual structure, the momentary life of the parthenogenic queen juxtaposed against the leisurely life of drifting drones, we appreciate the brilliance of Plath’s using the apiary as an allegory for her relationship with her husband and her conflicted feelings about domesticity and motherhood. The bee community makes for an apt illustration of Plath’s poetic self (queen), her domestic self (drudge), her distaste for other women willing to be drudges, to sacrifice themselves. The poem is intensely personal, has elements of tenderness but ends fiercely. (FYI: You can view photographs of Plath’s worksheets HERE.)
It’s easy to appreciate just why the women of the ’60s were so enamored of Sylvia Plath, why she is still appreciated for both her observations and her craft. It’s also easy to understand why a reference to Plath’s work would make such a good title for a collection of poetry by contemporary women poets. The anthology, like the poets, poetry and the work in ARTEMISpoetry (biannual magazine) represent a cross-section of A-list poets and a range of themes, subjects and styles.
There’s a good piece by Anne Stewart on Her Wings of Glass in the May 2015 issue of ARTEMISpoetry, which focuses on anthologies. Due to the very nature of SLN, many are the poets and poems that might be overlooked by other press as not in line with mainstream literary standard. I deem this an advantage indeed and wish more publishers would take note.
In addition to celebrating poetry anthologies, the current issue also featured Alison Brackenbury, the award-winning author of eight collections, and Jemma Borg in an interesting piece by Kay Syrad: The Illuminated World, A Dialogue Between Science and Poetry. Jemma studied evolutionary genetics and worked as a tech editor among other jobs. She stands at the intersection of science and poetry.
“I tend now to think of science and poetry in some kind opposition because they are such different systems of thought in terms of the philosophical roots and development, but essentially it is this love of what is unknown that is common to both and which forms my motivation as an individual: how can we, and indeed is it possible to, understand this world we are embedded in.”
Susan Wicks selected the poetry shared in this issue, which included these two:
Gift from my Daughter
A pink bag with lime-green flowers
in silk floated
like a lotus as she carried it
down the ward.
We fizzed with giggles over
cream laced with sandalwood
lip-salve with lemon,
little bottles steeped in mint
a Morpheus spray
to enchant the pillow with sleep.
Outside, the weather slashed its tail
and we unpacked the orient,
distilled these gardens from the east.
Where lies the blame?
Things in their quiet think no harm,
light probes, passes, leaves unmoved
knife, whip, Kalashnikov.
Stone voices grate, shingle shifts,
things in unquiet hands drip blood
the birds no longer sing.
Shadows touch, move on, abandon
farmhouse, barn and empty field
the bees have gone.
The homage to Anne Cluysenaar in this issue was warm and appreciative and the thoughts of several poets who knew her were included. I find this sort of acknowledgement and loyalty touching and asked for permission to include Alison Mace’s poem in this blog post. Alison said that we need to read Anne’s Diary Poems to fully appreciate her poem, but I took it at face value and warmed to it, though I haven’t read Touching Distances: Diary Poems. I like Alison’s poem for the gentle way it shows how one poet and her work and life were valued.
from LIVES OF THE POETS
ANNE CLUYSENAAR 1936-2014
Alison Mace writes: Since Anne Cluysenaar’s appalling and untimely death, I have meant to write about her, a poem if possible. Anne came, when she could, to our monthly NaCOT poetry-writing group at William and Juliet Ayot’s house near Chepstow. We were so lucky to have her. Her contributions were memorable and heart-warming, both of her own work – several of the Diary Poems that became Touching Distances – and in the help she gave the rest of us with our own poems.
‘Wise’ comes first to mind,
and then so many more.
we count the ways she was:
loving her cob, her cat,
at home with hens and hay,
Mozart and Henry Vaughan;
happy to teach, to learn –
learned indeed – at ease
combining earth with wit,
abstruse with everyday –
and ours: muse, mentor, friend,
bringing her poetry
for us, wanting our own:
probing, encouraging –
all with her gentle smile.
And so it shatters sense
that such a life should end
with terror, suddenness
and wanton violence –
a bleak atrocity.
The distance we would touch
that our intensest thoughts
might wing to her
has widened beyond reach,
leaving us at a loss,
empty, and blank, and still
– Alison Mace
So, another altogether enjoyable read. Another issue to return to with pleasure.
All things SLN may be found HERE including gatherings and classes, remote – or as we in the U.S. would say “distance” – classes, coaching, contests, books, magazine, samplings of poetry and introductions to poets. Much appreciation to SLN Founder Dilys Wood and to Myra Schneider and Anne Stewart and all the other women for their work, their poetry, and their commitment to women and poetry. Second Light Network of Women Poets is based in London and most of the members are in the UK, but membership is not geographically restricted. Of note: Anne Stewart has a site – poetry p f – which makes it easy to pay membership fees and to order books, ARTEMISpoetry, poem cards and other goodies.
Congratulations to Myra Schneider: Goulash from her collection Circling the Core (Enitharmon Press, 2008) was recently featured on Anthony Wilson‘s Famous Lifesaving Poems. We’ve featured it in The BeZine and are all fans. Bravo, Myra! Here it is on the Lifesaving Poems site. Contact Myra for Circling the Core and other books.
Poems, cartoon, cover art are published here with permission of the publishers and authors.
© 2015, article, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; cover art, Second Light Live; poems and cartoon as indicated above.