Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Granta - the F Word, An Ambassador, A Few Poems, A Quote, A Lovely Landscape

Thanks to Catherine for this link to the latest issue of Granta, which explores the ways in which feminism continues to inform, address and complicate. Check out her blog MotherHugger in my blogroll, especially if you have an interest in maternal feminism.

Selected prose, poems and essays from the issue online here.

I see that the poet Gillian Allnut has a poem in this issue; Sadly, it isn't online. Gillian was my very first writing tutor at a young writer's retreat near Hebden Bridge in the UK, not far from where Sylvia Plath is buried. She was quiet and patient, the perfect person to critique the work of 15 rather intense and inexperienced writers. I seem to remember she turned down our invitation to join us on a slightly inebriated walk to pay homage at SP's graveside but I don't hold that against her at all. Her poetry is delicate and tough.

Our other tutor, the writer David Dabydeen, came with us. I have mixed feelings about David. On the one hand, he thought I should be writing, not about the Wicker Man, which I was at that time, but about things I knew. He suggested Aboriginal legends as an example of things I might know and I suggested to him that not only was I much more interested in, and knowledgable about, the Wicker Man, our First Peoples might not take kindly to me appropriating their stories. He wrote about post-colonialism, so I never really understood his suggestion. I'm an Anglo-Celt all the way through so the Wicker Man is pretty much mine to do with as I wish. On the other hand, he was charming...if your poem wasn't working, he would say things like "the whorls of your ears are like a sea shell", which, at 19,  was consoling.

Get a glimpse of the writers retreat, Lumb Bank,  here.

To return to the topic of feminism, however, I find this is as good a post as any to post my favourite Rebecca West quote, known to you all, I'm sure.

I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.

More Rebecca West Quotes here.

ETA - a quick google tells me that David Dabydeen has moved on from charming writing students and is now charming all of China as the Guyanan ambassador! I'm feeling all star struck...

Also - it sounds as if I'm being flippant about His Excellency, which I'm not. He was lovely; he gave me some excellent advice and support with my writing during that retreat and after. And he's a well regarded writer. And no, I'm not sure how I ended up here either! I only sat down to post a link.

Anyway...a little poetry now this post has become a hodge-podge. This is from David Dabydeen's long narrative poem, Turner.

Stillborn from all the signs. First a woman sobs
Above the creak of timbers and the cleaving
Of the sea, sobs from the depths of true
Hurt and grief, as you will never hear
But from woman giving birth, belly
Blown and flapping loose and torn like sails,
Rough sailors’ hands jerking and tugging
At ropes of veins, to no avail. Blood vessels
Burst asunder, all below – deck are drowned.
Afterwards, stillness, but for the murmuring
Of women. 

Read the rest of the poem here.

And this is by Gillian Allnutt.

Epiphany ( Yorkshire Dales )

for John

Solitude  your death  a drover's
road  two dry stone walls  the borders
of the earth  each stone a hand's width and the berth of God

Where blackthorn lays the wind bare to the bone
you herded stars.

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