‘One learns to float’ – from ‘Surface‘ – after Lorine Niedecker
Privileged to join Chris Murray (Poetheaad), Maria McManus, Katie O’Donovan, Amy Wyatt Rafferty and Gaynor Gayne to share and celebrate the voices of Irish women poets, and remember the extraordinary lives of poets/literary women, past and present. With great appreciation for the work of the FIRED movement.
With an emphasis on Irish poets, I am grateful to have leave to share work by a current waylighter of mine ‘Lorine Niedecker’ (1903-1971) from the watery, flood prone, world of Black Hawk Island, Wisconsin.
New York was overwhelming, and she was alone, a tiny, timid, small-town girl. She escaped the city and returned to Wisconsin….and her poetry emerged from a tiny life…Someone in Scotland printed a tiny little book of her poems, which are little barely audible poems, not without loveliness. . . and so on in the same vein. (George Oppen, 1963, quoted in ‘A Little Too Little: Re-reading Lorine Niedecker’ by Jenny Pemberthy- which I have condensed for emphasis – I will be readed from JP’s ‘Collected’).
Rumours of her tininess, condensery and only-woman-hanger-on-of-the-Objectivist Movement-ness were greatly, it emerges, greatly magnified. When I came across her work over a decade ago, she was still close to this reductery – the ‘business end’ of being forgotten – and it is relief to see her contribution being credited as time progresses, as it deserves.
We stand on the shoulders of Giants
Lorine Niedecker is one of my giants. Poets whose work I love (choosing what to read of hers on Friday has been a challenge) and go back to as a reader, but who also, by their poetic stances and decisions, have given direction and a increased awareness about how to go about having a writing life. From this time period, my other two waylighters, to date, are men (one writing in Irish, the other trying to work out how to make English make the sound that Irish makes in poetry). For me, LN’s interest in imagism, modernism generally, haiku spirit, but not form, has given me a wonderful sense of being an inhabitant of another kind of country. And, as in The Journey with Two Maps (Eavan Boland), a woman has a different set of challenges when creating a writing life and taking account of a woman who chooses to be out of the main centres (for LN these were New York, London, Paris), here Dublin or Belfast, perhaps, has given me strategies and insights on the pros and cons of that kind of choice. It reminds me also, that the ‘forgetting’ of a voice – whether from Black Hawk Island, Wisconsin or Ballycotton – has implications far beyond the local and the current.
FIRED @Aspects Festival, Yurt, 7pm, Friday, 14 September
I am very excited to hear all the voices on Friday. The readings are followed by a panel discussion with Chris Murray (Poethead), academic Alex Pyne, and chaired by Dr Lucy Collins (UCD) and author of Poetry by Women in Ireland 1870-1970: A Critical Anthology (2012).
The event is free, but advance book is recommended HERE