Wednesday, 12 November 2008

V : Reading Women

Geraldine Monk was giving a reading, though it is not apparent from the pictures: she is there for her appearance. I regard the women who read in the same light as those who listen, which is disrespectful, but I must add that my attitude to their actual readings is different.

Geraldine Monk with Ged Lawson, Castle Chare, Durham, 01/02/1980

Susan Musgrave introduced her poems as describing “what it feels like to be a sexy young woman of 23.” I have no experience of what it feels like from the inside, but plenty of what it looks like, and she’s a fine specimen of the type. Such poems are however unusual, as unusual in this matter as the early poems of Dylan Thomas.

Susan Musgrave, one of three Canadian poets, Morden Tower. 03/11/80

When it comes to the poetry, I find nothing to distinguish the work of women from that of men, unless they deal with subjects such as Motherhood or Feminism. The idea of ‘Wimmin’, to use Private Eye’s economical word, bores me. Writing women are just writers, to be judged by their writing alone. I doubt if anyone who mistook Joyce Cary’s sex on the basis of the name would be corrected by a reading of “Herself Surprised”; and I should be quite prepared to believe that Hemingway was written by some Ernestine.

Against that is a simple and awkward fact. The English novel has since its early days counted women among its outstanding practitioners, and this continues today. Over the same period, when women have been accepted as writers, I cannot think of single outstanding woman poet. This century has produced the novelists Woolf, Compton-Burnett and Spark, but no woman to set alongside Belloc, Eliot and Betjeman.

Anne Cluysenaar (R) with Diana Surman, Colpitts, 14/11/1975

Elaine Feinstein, Colpitts, 04/11/1977

Wendy Mulford, Colpitts, 27/04/1979

Vicky Feaver with Colin Falck, Morden Tower, 13/03/1981

Frances Horowitz, Castle Chare, Durham 04/12/1981

Gillian Clarke with Roland Mathias, ‘Coelfrith’, Sunderland 11/02/1982

Nicki Jackowska, Morden tower, 04/06/1982

Helen Dunmore, with publisher Neil Astley, Morden Tower 20/05/1983

Lorna Tracy (R) with Nicole Jouve, Morden Tower, 29/01/1982


John Goodby said...

This is fantastic, Jeremy, thanks. It really gives a great idea of the context of poetry readings, particularly their particular mixture of protocols and informality. I've heard Pickard, MacSweeney and some of the others directly associated with Mordern and Colpitts read, but as older poets with a lot more baggage than they seem to be carrying in these photos by your father. On a personal level, I know Wendy and Geraldine, but only in the last few years - to see images of them reading 30 + years ago is fascinating, and helps me make a connection with their earlier poetry, some of which I'm re-reading. Many thanks for sharing this.

Anonymous said...

Very beautiful indeed and a worthwhile record of an era now gone forever.