Friday, 3 September 2010

What Matters in Poetry, the Poems, the Poet or the Times in Which we Live?

Have had an invite to a friends' launch which I hope to attend, I know she reads this blog so it is belt and braces so she knows I am coming if I can. The book Second Exile by Jane Kirwan and Ales Machacek is out with Rockingham Press, I'll review it here as I know this is going to be a fascinating read, can't wait to get my hands on a copy.This promises to be a really important book, reminding us that what we are and what we may become is woven into the narrative of where we have been and what we have experienced. This may seem blindingly obvious but sometimes we forget that individual personal histories are what creates History with a capital H. Poetry pundits are always harping on about going from the particular to the universal and never is that so important as when particular lives become woven into the fabric of important moments in history.

Jacqueline Saphra came up with a thoughtful blog post about Middle Aged Women Poets to which I responded on Facebook but thought it would be useful to post it on the blog here as well
I agree that MAWPs (Middle Aged Women Poets) are coming in for a lot of stick at the moment. I, like you, work on the presumption that a poem about anything should be judged on its own merits not its choice of subject matter or the age and gender of the poet just as I would expect it not to be judged on the basis of ethnic origin of the writer. I am absolutely in favour of encouraging anyone to write poetry but it feels offensive when my very existence as a MAWP is seen as one of the reasons that poetry is seen as a 'twee' exclusive 'coffee-morning club’ that makes poetry less accessible and meaningful to others.

There are indeed a great many of us in workshops, audiences, buying in bookshops, reading poetry, writing it etc. If all women between the ages of 40 and say 65 withdrew from all participation in anything poetical would this then kick start a great renaissance of writing and reading poetry amongst other members of society and allow younger talented poets to gain more recognition and rejuvenate and refresh the art. I tend to think not but then I would wouldn't I? And what happens when the current brilliant generation of younger poets hit middle-age, does their talent fade into the ether as they become reduced to writing about all those events and situations that becoming older presents? Are these no longer opportunities to explore what it means to explore the full story of what it means to be human but obstacles to be steered around at all costs?

In the end all I can do each time I stare at a blank page is try and write what I hope will be the best poem I can and let that speak for me. If the voice happens to be that of a woman's and middle-aged it doesn't automatically negate or belittle what is being said or drown out the voice of others. However I refuse to be paranoid I think most have no problem with MAWPs and those that do have a problem are probably right to stir up the waters to ensure we never become self satisfied or smug or just plain entrenched in the 'Well it has always been like this' school of thought. It wasn't that long ago when the male domination of all poetry was being railed against and questioning any sense of the status quo disempowering others can only be good.

Interestingly when I did a Google image search just keying in ‘middle aged woman poet’ the first image offered was the one above of Michael Palin. I have to say I don’t know any poet, male or female, that looks like that.

I am busy trying to sort out the synopsis of my novel, which has changed enormously since its first draft and now even has a change of name to match. I will be sending it out soon onto the mean streets of publishing, in her new dress and high heels. I hope I have given it enough to survive out there; I will tuck a can of mace into her stocking top just in case. Strangely, like cars and boats this novel feels like a she.

By the way the answer to my own question that heads this post? Everything matters, every single atom, every single moment.

1 comment:

pupski said...

Those kind of comments about MAWPs really bug me - for a start there are also a lot of middle aged male poets out there who aren't getting any stick, but also a lot of women come back to writing later on as we are busy doing the gritty stuff of life in our youth - bringing up the kids etc. etc...

I tend to feel that if someone finds their writing voice later on that still makes them a new voice - surely it shouldn't be about but about freshness of vision? And why is it that ageism seems to be applied more to women than men?