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British Women’s Experimental Poetry

British Women’s Experimental Poetry

 

Women’s Experimental Poetry in Britain 1970-2010: body, time & locale

by David Kennedy and Christine Kennedy,

Liverpool University Press.

The opening chapter to this important book makes no compromises and takes no hostages: ‘There is, then, a large body of women’s experimental poetry in Britain that has never received its critical due and continues not to, with the result that it is forever in danger of being forgotten or overlooked.’ Very appropriately this statement is followed by a quotation from that splendid survey of new British poetries which Robert Hampson and Peter Barry edited for Manchester University Press in 1993 with its subtitle ‘The scope of the possible’.

This whole book is a serious survey of what needs to be more widely read and the poets looked at range from Veronica Forrest-Thomson and Wendy Mulford (both with their Cambridge connections from the early 1970s with the publication of Language-Games in 1971 whilst working on modern literature at Girton College and the founding of Street Editions in 1972)

to

Geraldine Monk’s ‘recognition of common humanity, emotional geography, other selves and historical echoes’ which ‘are crucial to the book-length sequence Interregnum.

to

Denise Riley’s related questions concerning how the self is to be given language and the provenance of the words used. In this chapter Clair Wills is quoted as suggesting that the Reality Street publication Mop Mop Georgette is ‘an extended meditation on what is inside and outside the self, and the purpose of lyric.’

to

Maggie O’Sullivan’s reading of ‘To Our Own Day’ which left Charles Bernstein with the experience of each listening bringing ‘something new, something unfamiliar’ and wondering at how ‘such a short verbal utterance could be so acoustically saturated in performance.’

to

Caroline Bergvall, Elizabeth Bletsoe, Andrea Brady, Jennifer Cooke, Emily Critchley, Elizabeth James, Helen Macdonald, Anna Mendelsshon, Marianne Morris, Redell Olsen, Frances Presley, Sophie Robinson, Harriet Tarlo, Carol Watts.

This is an expensive book (£70) but I gather that it is to be reissued as an e-book. In the meantime badger your library to get hold of a copy; I promise that you will not regret reading this remarkably clear account of what has needed to be pulled together for far too long. To refer back to the beginning and to Veronica Forrest-Thomson it seems quite appropriate to quote from J.H. Prynne’s words placed at the end of the Street Editions 1976 publication of On The Periphery: ‘With great brilliance and courage she set fear against irony and intelligible feeling against the formal irony of its literary anticipations.’

Ian Brinton January 2nd 2014

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