SECOND LIGHT NETWORK … showcasing the ambitious poetry of ambitious women

Roman marble Bust of Artemis after Kephisodotos (Musei Capitolini), Rome.
Roman marble Bust of Artemis after Kephisodotos (Musei Capitolini), Rome.

“Women, of course, write good and bad poetry – ‘ambitious’ implies more enterprising subject-matters and approaches, as well as a unique voice for each poet.” Kate Foley and Dilys Wood, Editorial Page, ARTEMISpoetry, November 2015

Here it is April – Poetry Month! – and the month in which I know that Dilys Wood, Anne Stewart and other poets in London at Second Light Network of Women Poets (SLN) are hard at work putting a wrap on the May 2016 issue of ARTEMISpoetry. This biannual literary magazine specializes in the work of women bent on honest self-expression, subjects of substance, and well-crafted poetry.

The last issue was published in November 2015 and the focus was on ecology with an interesting feature article by Jemma Borg, scientist and poet. I touched on it in a short piece, Poets and Poetry, In the Shadow Land of Technology and Social Networking.

The issue included poems by Anne Stewart, the featured poet and the author of Janus Hour and Only Here till Friday.

Myra Schneider was the judge for the 2015 poetry contest. The winning poems are featured as well as the commended and we get a bit of the behind-the-scenes look at the hard work of judging.

“I went through over a thousand poems looking for poems that traveled, paid attention to form and made words work. Eventually I reduced a long list of 101 poems to 26 … I was very excited because the winning poems were telling me loud and clear which they were!”

No doubt it is an honor to be selected to judge – and clearly there are  rewards – but what a job as well. Certainly a labor of love. The winners for 2015 were: Carolyn King, Margaret Wilmot, Judith Taylor and Kathy Miles.

I was also pleased to read Myra’s feature on one of my own favorites, American poet Louise Glück.

In line with the issue’s theme, politics and eco-politics were explored by Kay Syrad, a regular contributor.  She discussed Priscila Uppal’s Sabotage (explores private and public acts of destruction, disruption, and vandalism in the 21st century) and Helen Moore’s Ecozoa (response to the destruction caused by industrial civilization).

Fiona Owen gifted us a thoughtful piece – both homage and exploration – on Anne Cluysenaar‘s eco-poetry.

“… Anne ponders ‘the tenuous job of the poet’ and sees the arts as having an intrinsic evolutionary role …”

In addition to poetry, ARTEMISpoetry always offers book reviews and announcements of publications, events and classes of interest … and lately continues some discussion and promotions of SLN’s last two anthologies Her Wings of Glass and Fanfare.

🙂 I recommend both. 🙂

Below is a sampling (three poems) from Fanfare with thanks to the poets and their publishers, to SLN and especially to Anne Stewart for doing the work of acquiring the permissions for me to share these poems with you here today.


Going into the sun
over mud flats skimmed with water

people are walking on ice or glass
their reflections perfect

and you know it’s a new year

walking into the sun
beach and sky cast in light


gone when you turn

and wave rippled mud
takes your footsteps, softly.

– Caroline Natzler

Caroline Natzler: January and Life’s Work, from Fold (Hearing Eye, 2014)


She shines like Lakshmi through the fields –
a gentle stride, arms at her sides.
By the houses, stooping her beauty
to the earth, she raises the brimming bucket,
its stench sealing her nostrils. Slurry clings
to hair and skin, but nothing changes
on her face, only a puckering of lips
in silent thanks to Kali
for twenty years of women’s work,
this dawn till dusk that’s nurtured seven sons;
thanks that she’s never known the blessing of –
nor visited this curse upon –
a daughter.

– Jill Sharp

Jill Sharp: Untouchable, from Ye gods (Indigo Dreams, 2015)

A Miracle at Iskitim

In Siberia, a symbol –
this is what the locals believe,
a magical birth of water:

a fresh water spring, a spurt
close to the ground, a low white
eternal flame.
We dip our cups
(plastic, from the hotel) and say,
“It tastes pure. The water is pure.”

Some people here heard the last trucks
grind out of sight, after they shut
the ‘lagpunkt’,
the slow-killing place,
left the scar for people like us
in a half circle, dark barrels

in our padded coats, gloves, hats, scarves …
With our white breaths, we breathe out lives
as we raise up transparent cups,

“The future came too late.”

– Dilys Wood

In her Gulag, A History (Penguin, 2004)Anne Applebawm refers to a new fresh-water spring near a former camp at Iskatim.

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SLN, through community, classes, magazines and books, regularly serves up thought-provoking, often heart stirring and always engaging poetry by women as well as informative explorations and analyses of poems, collections, news and views. Whether you are an experienced professional or an amateur poet, there’s plenty to enjoy here, plenty to learn and think about. I venture to say though that if you are an older woman poet working to find your voice, you’ll discover special inspiration and encouragement through Second Light.

Membership (demographic restrictions), ARTEMISpoetry and the anthologies and other books can be purchased through Second Light Network of Women Poets or p f poetry

©the poets own the copyrights to their poems and they are featured here with permission; the photograph of the Artemis statue is courtesy of Marie-Lan Nguyen and generously released by her into the Public Domain.

ARTEMISpoetry, Second Light Network of Women Poets, Poetry Communities

Please read my Disclosure HERE, particularly paragraphs four and five.

The Greek Goddess Artemis, call Diana by the Romans
The Greek Goddess Artemis, called Diana by the Romans

The mailbox is the most fun when it delivers literary delights: Poetry magazine, The Paris Review, The Hudson Review and a few others including ARTEMISpoetry, one that you may not have read much about except possibly in reading this blog over the years.

ARTEMIS, the well-chosen namesake of the magazine, is she of the hunt, of nature and birth. She is the moon goddess.

Artemis is an archetype for independence, courage, strength and confidence. Depicted with bow and arrow, she is a free spirit, both huntress and protector of wild animals. Not unlike Artemis are the free-spirited women poets who have the strength and courage, the independence and confidence, to shoot poetic arrows of intuition and insight. Speaking their hearts, they stir the wildness in our souls.

Among the many things that I like about ARTEMISpoetry is the idea behind the organization that birthed and publishes it, Second Light Network. Second Light was founded by English poet Dilys Wood as a movement to encourage and acknowledge a “second” start for older women who, without the responsibilities of their younger days, now have the time to devote to the craft of poetry. It gives women who were once almost invisible in the world of poetry …

        • a welcoming community of poets,
        • events at which to gather, learn and celebrate,
        • and a chance for professional publication of their work in their distinctly feminine voice in its magazine ARTEMISpoetry , on Second Light’s website and in its anthologies.

“The inspiration for Second Light was that vibrant, exciting work is absolutely not sex or age-related. Probably all serious editors and organisers know this, but some number-crunchers are obsessed with youth, trendiness, or any kind of gimic. There may be reverence for famous older poets, but the pattern of women’s lives may mean that a woman may be a ‘new poet’, just starting to publish, at any time up to old age.” Dilys Wood HERE in an article on this blog

English poet and Second Light Network Founder, Dilys Wood
English poet and Second Light Network Founder, Dilys Wood

Dilys Wood founded Second Light Network in 1994, which predates the birth in the late 90s of blogging and subsequently of social networking with their easy means to form communities of like interest. Blogs and other social networking technologies had to wait until the development of web publishing tools that facilitated online content publication by non-technical users. Through the gift of blogging we observe that there are many people of both genders that come home to their art – poetry or other arts – late in life, a second chance.

Blogging, however rewarding, doesn’t preclude off-line activities. Second Light Network is open to women all over the world, but is mainly active in England where it was founded and where the bulk of its members appear to reside. I’m guessing women in other countries would be welcome to start chapters, though you’d have to check with Second Light on that. I would start one here if I weren’t often home-bound and undependable due disability. Though my own poetry community is now largely an online adventure, I encourage other poets, women and men, to complement their online creative communities with off-line communities.

A reader of The Bardo Group blog who wishes to remain anonymous had this to say about such creative collectives:

“Prior creative and intellectual movements benefited greatly from geographic proximity. It wasn’t enough to be part of community, but that the community shared and debated some essential values and were in constant contact. The idea is that fervency, serendipity and discovery arise out of actual physical proximity.

“This is why artists still flock to cities. Despite the Internet, we still go to Mecca.

“Connecting technologies have always strengthened the bonds between people with like-minded interests (letter-writing, magazine letter columns, BBS, chatrooms, message boards, social networking, etc), fostering community. But, in the last 40 years, I haven’t seen technology yet truly replicate the creative synergy that occurs with physical proximity.”

1815_coversI find Second Light Network’s magazine, ARTEMISpoety, a welcome and refreshing read. While many of the poets included are fairly well know, the bulk of the work is by talented lesser-knows. I never have the feeling – as I do for example with American Poetry Review (APR) – that the work is largely (if not exclusively) about big names posturing for critics and marketing their classes and expensive university creative writing programs. Books are marketed through ARTEMISpoetry, but that’s fair, I think.

In addition to a wealth of poems and a dollop of original artwork, there is always an excellent interview or two. In the most recent issue (November 2013) Gillian Allnutt  was interviewed by Ruth O’Callaghan in a feature, Among the Already Occluded Worlds. There are thought provoking essays, like the one by Myra Schneider, published HERE as a post. There’s instruction on writing and the writing process. In the November 2013 issue Jill Eulalie Dawson showed the evolution of her poem Owl, a good lesson for those who don’t know what to do with their first draft or wonder how other people move through the development of a poem.

I find much to admire in the enterprise of the ladies of Second Light and much to value in their magazine and in their support of other women poets.  The ideals are real.

© 2014, essay, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Photo credits ~ Artemis, in the public domain; Dilys, © Dilys Wood, All rights reserved; magazine covers © Second Light Network/ARTEMISpoetry, All rights reserved