POET, TEACHER, INSPIRATION: Dilys Wood and the Latter-day Saphos

Sappho (/ˈsæfoʊ/; Attic Greek Σαπφώ [sapːʰɔ̌ː], Aeolic Greek Ψάπφω, Psappho [psápːʰɔː]) was a Greek lyric poet, born on the island of Lesbos. The Alexandrians included her in the list of nine lyric poets. She was born sometime between 630 and 612 BCE, and it is said that she died around 570 BCE, but little is known for certain about her life. The bulk of her poetry, which was well-known and greatly admired through much of antiquity, has been lost; however, her immense reputation has endured through surviving fragments.

“Sappho (/ˈsæfoʊ/; Attic Greek Σαπφώ [sapːʰɔ̌ː], Aeolic Greek Ψάπφω, Psappho [psápːʰɔː]) was a Greek lyric poet, born on the island of Lesbos. The Alexandrians included her in the list of nine lyric poets. She was born sometime between 630 and 612 BCE, and it is said that she died around 570 BCE, but little is known for certain about her life. The bulk of her poetry, which was well-known and greatly admired through much of antiquity, has been lost; however, her immense reputation has endured through surviving fragments.” [Wikipedia]


When this post originally went up a few years ago, The Poet by Day didn’t have quite the following that is does now. Hence the repost. Both poet and organization are deserving of wide audience and big applause. / J.D., June 18, 2018.

Sunday: I began my dive into Dilys Wood’s Antarctica* (Greendale Press, 2008), spending my discretionary time engaged by this collection, which includes The South Pole Inn, a novella in verse.

“I dreamt I gave you the white continent
I wrapped it in white wedding wrap, embossed
with silver penguins and skiis …”
from Her Birthday Present in the section Love in a Freezing Climate: Four Poems

*****

“Wherever I look, the bacillus of melt
weakens the floes.”
from Future

DILYS WOOD is a poet, an editor and the founder (“convenor” as she might say) of the London-based Second Light Network of Women Poets (SLN), which produces the biannual ARTEMISpoetry and includes a publishing arm, Second Light Publishing.  I first encountered Dilys thanks to Myra Schneider. That award-winning poet with eleven published collections is a consultant to SLN.

While Internet and email have a way of helping to cross borders and make affinity-based connections, closing the gaps in culture and miles – in this case some 5,500 miles as the crow flies – the tools are imperfect. It’s not the same as meeting, talking and observing in person. However, when you read what people write, when they risk themselves by putting their very souls on paper, you do get to know something about their values and passions. My strongest sense of Dilys was as the quiet persistent energy behind a women’s poetry collective and an apparently indefatigable advocate for women’s right – including women over 40 – to poetic voice. 

At the point in which I first encountered Myra, Dilys and SLN, Dilys had collaborated on (mainly with Myra) four anthologies of women’s poetry. She had two collections of her own poetry published, Women Come to a Death (Databases, 1999) and Antarctica. That was, I think around 2010. Since that time, we are gifted through Dilys and Myra, Anne Stewart (poetry p fand others on the SLN team with so many fine anthologies and magazines of women’s poetry, that I can hardly keep track. 

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Dilys is modest in presenting herself. Her Poet’s Page on SLN’s website says simply –

Dilys started writing poetry again after retiring from the Civil Service, where her jobs included being secretary of the Women’s National Commission. She shortly after founded Second Light, focussed on the needs of women reconnecting with writing after forty. Second Light Network developed into a support group and, on a small scale (though reviews suggest significant), publisher of women’s poetry. Together with her own writing (Antarctica, 2008; Women Come to a Death, Katabasis, 1997), Dilys has been the joint editor (mainly with Myra Schneider) of 4 womens poetry anthologies.

If The Poet by Day was a poem, its title would have to have the tagline after Dilys Wood. This site is not the product of collaboration and membership. Nonetheless, its commitment to sharing information on poets and poetry, including gifted if lesser-known poets, and promoting and encouraging poets who are marginalized by their gender, ethnicity, disability or age – is very definitely inspired by Dilys’ work and commitment to mature women and the work and commitment of Myra Schneider and the other SLN women as well as by my own love of poets and poetry and the whole of poesy history and culture.

This is Dilys in her own words as she “spoke” in a guest blog post here several years ago:

NEW SAPPHOS, CHALLENGES FOR WOMEN POETS

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 by journals.

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.

– Dilys Wood

* “Antarctica,” Greendale Press, 2008 (all proceeds to Second Light Network funds). �5.95 through poetry p f (scroll down on the page to which this is linked)

© The New Sapphos, Dilys portrait, book cover art, Dilys Wood; © introduction, Jamie Dedes; Sapho embrassant sa lyre Jules Elie Delaunay (1828-1891), public domain

RELATED:


ABOUT

Poet and writer, I was once columnist and associate editor of a regional employment publication, currently run this site, The Poet by Day, an information hub for poets and writers. I am the managing editor of The BeZine published by The Bardo Group Beguines (originally The Bardo Group), a virtual arts collective I founded.  I am a weekly contributor to Beguine Again, a site showcasing spiritual writers. My work is featured in a variety of publications and on sites, including: Levure littéraure, Ramingo’s PorchVita Brevis Literature,Compass Rose, Connotation PressThe Bar None GroupSalamander CoveSecond LightI Am Not a Silent PoetMeta / Phor(e) /Play, and California Woman. My poetry was recently read by Northern California actor Richard Lingua for Poetry Woodshed, Belfast Community Radio. I was featured in a lengthy interview on the Creative Nexus Radio Show where I was dubbed “Poetry Champion.”

* The BeZine: Waging the Peace, An Interfaith Exploration featuring Fr. Daniel Sormani, Rev. Benjamin Meyers, and the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi among others

“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.” Lucille Clifton

SECOND LIGHT NETWORK OF WOMEN POETS: News and Information

In the Medieval Period, Sappho had a reputation as an educated woman and talented poet. In this woodcut, illustrating an early incunable of Giovanni Boccaccio’s De mulieribus claris (Concerning Famous Women), Sappho is portrayed surrounded by books and musical instruments. Boccaccio (1313-1375) was an Italian writer, poet and Renaissance humanist.

Dilys Wood, SLN founder and poet, editor and publisher


SECOND LIGHT NETWORK OF WOMEN POETS (SLN), founded by poet, editor and publisher, Dilys Wood, was created to encourage and promote women poets – forty-plus.  SLN lives in London but membership is open to women poets over forty-years old living anywhere in the world.


NEWS & INFORMATION

SLN’s ARTEMISpoetry, Issue 18, themed “Risks in Poetry” is just out and can be purchased from Second Light via Anne Stewart’s poetry pf. 

Anne Stewart, poet, poetry tutor, founder of poetry pf and administrator to SLN

Each issue of ARTEMISpoetry is chock full of information, inspiration, poetry and introductions to good poets who might be new to you. There’s always a sprinkling of black-and-white art and often a clever cartoon by Kate Foley. A “note board” provides news and updates on publications by member poets and on events, conferences, classes and poetry readings. These latter are in and around London and so mostly benefit local poets.  

ARTEMISpoetry, Call for Submissions – Opportunity Knocks

Issue 19, November 2017  

Editors for Issue 19 are: General & Artwork – Dilys Wood and Katherine Gallagher; Poetry – Anne Stewart.

New: Readers’ Letters are invited. Comments on the journal’s content or anything you would like to see discussed in relation to women’s writing. (max 100 words).

All submissions: submit paper copy initially to Dilys Wood, 3 Springfield Close, East Preston, West Sussex, BN16 2SZ. Please write “ARTEMISpoetry” on your envelope. (Enquiries only: e-mail Administrator editor@poetrypf.co.ukPoems: Issue 19 deadline – August 31, 2017

Poems by women of any age. Poems should be typed, or if written, then very neatly. Each poem should commence on a new page, headed “Submission for ARTEMISpoetry”. Please SEND TWO COPIES.  Include your name with each poem and include your name and full contact details in your submission. Long poems are considered. Submit up to four poems to a maximum of 200 lines in all.

Artwork: Black and white photographs or line art. Submit up to four pieces to Dilys as above.


EVENTS

Bookings open for AUTUMN FESTIVAL in mid-to-late August. This Festival is scheduled for November 17 & 18 this year.

Bookings open for SPRING FESTIVAL in mid-to-late February 2018. This Festival is scheduled for May. Exact dates to be announced.

Details HERE.


COMPETITION

Poet, poetry tutor and consultant to SNL

Second Light Poetry Competition for Long and Short Poems by Women 2017 – Deadline Tuesday, August 15th

JUDGE MYRA SCHNEIDER will read all entries. Myra Schneider’s latest and recent books are Persephone in Finsbury Park (SLP), The Door to Colour (Enitharmon); What Women Want (SLP); and the writing resource, Writing Your Self (with John Killick). Myra is a Poetry School and Second Light regular tutor. More at Myra Schneider website where you can also order Myra’s books

Awards:

  • £300 First Prize for each of Long (no upper limit) and Short (max 50 lines) poems
  • £150 Second Prize (1 poem from either category)
  • £75 Third Prize (1 poem from either category)

Winning & Commended Poets published (in full or extract) in ARTEMISpoetry. Winners offered a London reading.

Entry fees are:

  • £6 each per long poem.
  • Short poems: £4 each or £9 for 3, £14 for 8. Enter by post (2 copies) or online.

Members are entitled to one free entry into the competition. Join now to be eligible.** (see About Second Light/Joining)

Rules & Entry direct link to payment at poetry p f online shop.

The competition results will be posted on the website by September 30th. Once winning poems (or extracts) are published in ARTEMISpoetry, they will be available to read there.


REMOTE (DISTANCE LEARNING) WORKSHOPS

REMOTE WORKSHOPS, a service you can access from anywhere in the world, are offered. There are two courses from which to choose with eight sections each. The workbooks are two of the many poetry anthologies published by SLN, Her Wings of Glass and Fanfare, both can be purchased from poetry pfWorkshop details HERE

PERCEPTIONS OF TIME, a full-day remote/distance workshop (5 hours plus) designed by Myra Sneider. Price: £8.

“Time plays a central role in every aspect of our lives. The workshop explores ways in which we perceive time and how we represent these perceptions in writing.

“Past experience crucially influences how we view the present and future. Earth’s distant past, cosmological time are difficult to imagine … Clock time is fixed but our impressions of time are subjective – an hour’s enjoyable exercise session will seem to be over quickly, but the minutes drag during a boring lecture…”

Further details on Myra Schneider (workshop designer and tutor) are HERE.

To order, contact Administrator, Anne Stewart, +44 (0)1689 811394 / +44 (0)7850 537489 or e-mail

Poems written in these workshops are invited for consideration for ARTEMISpoetry.


REMEMBERING MARY MacRAE

Poet Mary MacRae

THE MARY MacRAE ACCESS TO POETRY MEMORIAL FUND: “many will remember the outstanding poet and Second Light member, Mary MacRae (her books As Birds Do and Inside the Brightness of Red are available from Second Light).

“The Fund has been created in her memory, begun with a substantial donation from Mary’s family, with the intention of providing modest grants to enable local members on low income, along with a travel companion if they are unable to travel alone, to come to Second Light events.

“If anyone would like to make a contribution to the fund in Mary’s memory, all donations, however small, will be most welcome. Donate to the Fund

Making an Application

“Members on low income, who may not otherwise be able to attend Second Light events, may apply for assistance with local travel, for themselves only or for themselves and a travelling companion, if they are unable to travel alone. Recipients will be asked to make receipts for expenditure available whenever possible. Applicants should be aware that Donors of substantial amounts to the Fund may be given access to Fund records on a confidential basis.”

Download Application Form


CONNECT

Photo credits: header is courtesy of cladcat under CC-BY 2.0 license; © photo portraits of poets Dilys, Myra and Anne belong to them and Mary’s to her estate; Sappho Eresia (below) is in the public domain


Hermaic pillar with a female portrait, so-called “Sappho”; inscription “Sappho Eresia” ie. Sappho from Eresos. Roman copy of a Greek Classical original.

RELATED:

My SLN member page is HERE.


Jamie’s THE WORDPLAY SHOP: books, tools and supplies for poets, writers and readers

LATE-BREAKING NEWS: The May 2016 issue of ARTEMISpoetry is out …

FullSizeRender-1It’s absolute joy to see that this issue honors Myra Schneider at 80 years and includes an interview of Myra by Dilys Wood, founder of Second Light Network of Women Poets (SLN) and managing editor of ARTEMISpoetry. Bravo, SLN! 🙂

[Myra’s] poetry glows with an unembarrassed love of the quotidian – food, the kitchen, creatures, company, every leaf in the garden – especially the edible ones! – and almost above all, color.” Kate Foley, A Crimson Creed, Appreciating Myra Schneider

It’s equally wonderful after a long day to find this issue in my mailbox … with a bit of a new look, if I’m not mistaken …  a little less content and a bit more white space to enhance the readability and quite a bit more artwork, most enjoyable.

Gil Learner co-edited this issue with Dilys Wood. Kate Foley is featured poet and Maggie Hawkins chose the wealth of poetry included. There’s a nice collection of book and pamphlet reviews to excite our appetites for more.

Reminders included: SLN’s poetry competition for long and short poems by women to be judged by Alison Brackenbury. The deadline is 31 August 2016 with winners to be announced on 30 October 2016.  Details HERE.  …. Opportunity knocks!

Thanks to Dilys and team for the mentions of this site and of The BeZine. Always appreciated … and I am happy and honored to be “the American connection.”

You can sign-up for membership in SLN (recommended ladies!) or subscribe to the magazine at Second Light Live or at poetry p f, which was founded by and is run by poet, Anne Stewart.

apologies to all for the poor quality photo … the blame is mine not SLN

RELATED FEATURES:

Myra Schneider, A Life Immersed in Poetry

Dilys Wood’s “Antarctica,” the work of a highly original poet

Poet, Teacher, Inspiration: Dilys Wood and the Latter-day Sapphos

Opsimaths, Polymaths and Poets

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.

January

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

sheer

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)

Untouchable

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.