“And when is there time to remember, to sift, to weigh, to estimate, to total?” Tillie Olsen (1912-2007), American writer and first-generation American feminist
I never pick up my copy of Second Light Network’s 2006 anthology, Images of Women, or open the pages of its magazine, ARTEMISpoetry, without thinking of Tillie Olsen and her book, Silences. Olsen, an intelligent and hugely talented woman, produced a rather modest opus by some estimates.
Ms. Olsen’s nonfiction book, Silences, was published “in 1978, an examination of the impediments that writers face because of sex, race or social class. Reviewing the book in The New York Times Book Review, Margaret Atwood attributed Ms. Olsen’s relatively small output to her full life as a wife and mother, a “grueling obstacle course” experienced by many writers.
[The book] “‘begins with an account, first drafted in 1962, of her own long, circumstantially enforced silence,’ Ms. Atwood wrote. ‘She did not write for a very simple reason: A day has 24 hours. For 20 years she had no time, no energy and none of the money that would have bought both.'” Julie Bosmen, Tillie Olsen, Feminist Writer, Dies at 94
Second Light is about just the opposite of silence. It’s about women getting a second chance to have their say. It offers older women of a certain generation and those women over forty coming up behind them a “room of their own,” if you will; a place to remember, sift, weigh, estimate and – perhaps – to total. (This is not to negate men or to deny that men are often also silenced by their circumstances, but that would be a subject for another day. Among other things, the heart aches for all the voices being silenced by wars and other violence, by starvation and by social and economic inequities.)
Issue 12 of ARTEMISpoetry (May 2014) arrived as I was transitioning into senior digs and immediately took its place at the top of the stack of books and magazines waiting for calmer moments and a close read. Reading through the pages, it’s hard to say what is best or better because it’s all good from the featured poets and even to the ad on the back cover that offers a sample of two poems from Hilary Davies‘ poetry collection Imperium, Enitharmon Press.
It’s a difficult thing to pick just a few poems from the wealth of this issue, but here they are … you may chuckle at the first and dab at your tears when you read the other two. They are shared here with the generous permission of the poets and publisher.
The Substitute Sky
Each day we stare at screens,
a sly fluorescence, a not-quite sky
where swarms of data
aggregate and fly
while unseen cloud-and-sunlight
walks the grass, gold shoes
then grey, and aspen, oak,
the green-leaved spirits, pray.
Pilots of pixel storms
what do we bring? Less talk,
less laughter, less sun on our skins;
our lives on hold, our children wired in.
Core addiction, captive eyes.
Outside the real world breathes and dies.
- © Lynne Wycherley
In the shower you cling to me, your new grab-handle.
Ignoring my shakes, we both pretend you’re in safe hands.
Ninety years of fair usage, Mum, and your scrap of a body
is shrunken against a cage of chrome bars. Buttocks swing,
their skin an overhang of ragged sack; dugs hang
like empty toothpaste tubes; hip bones jut like garden stakes.
As if flicking a switch, before I can distance or disown them,
wartime images flash on my inner eye, a film-reel
of Pathe horrors. I feel the panic in your grip pinch
when I regulate the shower temperature, causing overflow.
I sense a warder’s buzz of control
knowing you are lost in a huddle of hurt and helplessness.
Though eager for the rush of water to relax your greying skin,
you’re fearful of falls, bruises, broken bones. Should you now
be fearful of me too? Frailty lays a hand on both of us,
each clutching at her hopes. Under the metallic power jets,
I scrub myself to clean my shame away and find the love that,
tight as a rosebud un-blossoming in winter, refused to flower today.
- © June Hall
‘Dear God, all the children can run except me’
Most children come out right. They come with all
their arms and legs, ten fingers and ten toes,
their brains wired up the ordinary way.
They go to Brownies and have sleepovers,
they learn piano, ballet and Tae Kwon Do,
they do the Duke of Edinburgh’s award.
No one avoids them, or their mothers
in the playground. When they grow up
they have good jobs, and partners
and get on the property ladder, climbing steadily.
But you were never most children, and
never will be, your whole life long
my damaged, precious boy,
my baton passed to the future, my fear, my joy.
- © Veronica Zundel
To my delight this issue featured Myra Schneider’s The Real Mrs. Beeton HERE, speculating on the life of Isabella Beeton, the 19th century writer known as the first and “best” cookery writer. Mrs. Beeton wrote about more than cooking though and might be considered the Martha Stewart of her day. Her life, however, was nothing like the glamorous, wealthy and independent Ms. Stewart as you will see when you read the poem.
Further on, Anne Stewart asks:
Why do you take the dark path, knowing
its silences and hiding place?”
excerpt, Making for Home, which will post on The Bardo Group blog this Friday …
Anne handles some of the administration for Second Light, as well as being the administrator for the website. She also developed and maintains poetry p f for poets.Myra Schneider and Anne have been a great helpers, getting permissions to share the work of other poets here on The Poet by Day and on The Bardo Group blog and also sharing information, education and updates with me so that I might share with you. I appreciate these two women and Dilys Wood - the founder of Second Light – for their poetry and for their committment to encouraging other poets and the love of poetry. You can sample some of Anne’s work HERE, Dilys work HERE, and Myra’s work HERE.
Anne Stewart is an accomplished poet. Most recently her poem Snow snow more cold lonely snow won the 2014 Poetry on the Lake “Silver Wyverm” award. Her poem Tiger was long-listed for the Plough Prize. Grief’s Trick and This Stone are included in an upcoming anthology, Love and Loss edited by R. V. Bailey and June Hall.
There were two pieces by publisher, Adele Ward (Ward Wood Publishing). One on Pascale Petit, which I discuss HERE and another on Why Small Is Still Beautiful, which discusses the ins-and-outs of chapbooks from the poet and the publisher perspective. Myra Schneider examines The Rewards of Reading Poetry and there’s the second part to A C Clarke’s Lies Like Truth, which is about “fictionalizing” real events. Kay Syrad discusses the radical landscape of poetry and Lavinia Singer the young woman-poet’s view of the poetry world. The issue rounds out as always with a a calendar of events and announcements of members’ new publications and latest awards … an altogether neat, stimulating and rewarding read. Recommended.
© 2014, review, Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved