This month, I’m taking part in Blogging from A 2 Z April Challenge where each day, writers use the letters of the alphabet as a prompt. The main theme of my blogs for the challenge are to write about female poets as this is National Poetry Month. This is also a great way to learn more about poetry.
I wasn’t familiar with any female poets whose name began with the letter “L” so I searched through a list. I also wanted to stay within the not too distant past so research would be easier. The list of female poets begins in antiquity! Gwyneth Lewis caught my eye. When I read one of her poems, Gleision, I knew I had to write about her! The poem gave me chills with its imagery of frightened families waiting and hoping near the entrance of the mine for word of their loved one’s safety, or worse, death. “The cave’s an open mouth whose words are men who work their mountain.” The open mouth of the cave has black breath. Those waiting there must not ring the bell anymore or the mouth will swallow the miners trapped deep within the mountain. Lewis uses the literary device of personification to write about the accident. By writing about the mountain with its open black mouth with evil, monster-like characteristics, the poet creates emotion for the reader to maybe experience the deaths in sympathy with the families. Instead of reading a dry news account with facts, poetry is art through which a reader can be part of the story. I live in a mining town where many of my family members work, and this poem especially resonated with me. The mine employs thousands of workers, so it wouldn’t be far-fetched to say the whole town works there. We all have such images of disasters in our minds but push those images far back. http://www.gwynethlewis.com/news.shtml
The website Literary Devices https://literarydevices.net/personification/ explains the term as “Personification is a figure of speech in which an idea or thing is given human attributes and/or feelings or is spoken of as if it were human. Personification is a common form of metaphor in that human characteristics are attributed to nonhuman things. This allows writers to create life and motion within inanimate objects, animals, and even abstract ideas by assigning them recognizable human behaviors and emotions.”
Tops of trees, their roots in seams
Of dark. King under mountain.
The cave’s an open mouth whose words
Are men who work their mountain.
Pine, larch and oak. Don’t touch the bell
That tolls from out the mountain
Or he will stir, and miners die
Like light inside a mountain.
His breath is black and marks each face
That seeks beneath the mountain.
Leaves drift down, but they won’t heal
The sentence of the mountain.
It’s time to lose all hope and seal
The grave. King lies in his mountain.
“The cave’s an open mouth whose words are men who work their mountain.”
Poet Gwyneth Lewis was born in 1959 in Cardiff, Wales. She studied English at Cambridge University. Lewis also studied at Harvard and Columbia, was a Harkness Fellow, and worked as a freelance journalist in New York. Gwyneth Lewis was Wales’s National Poet from 2005-06, the first writer to be given the Welsh laureateship. She published eight books of poetry in Welsh and English, with a ninth forthcoming in October. Gwyneth’s first non-fiction book, Sunbathing in the Rain: A Cheerful Book about Depression (2002), was short-listed for the Mind Book of the Year. Her second, Two in a Boat: A Marital Voyage (2005), recounts a voyage made with her husband on a small boat from Cardiff to North Africa. In 2014 she was Bain-Swiggett Visiting Lecturer of Poetry and English at Princeton University. For the last three years, she has been Faculty at Bread Loaf School of English, Vermont, USA, and was the 2016 Robert Frost Chair of Literature.
“Please don’t let all that suffering go to waste […] People who ignore depression are the ones who go mad, not those who go through it and treat it with the respect it deserves.”
Jane Kenyon, Poet
I chose Jane Kenyon for today’s post for A2Z April Challenge. Her poetry can be both simple and profound with its images of domestic life in rural New Hampshire. She suffered from depression her entire life which she in turn employed as inspiration for poems. Use of literary devices such as metaphor and description are evident in her work. Details of the land and family relationships are beautifully woven into her writing. Kenyon’s work is worth studying. We are fortunate to have access to her poetry collections. I intend to read more of her beautiful poems.
Briefly It Enters, and Briefly Speaks
By Jane KenyonI am the blossom pressed in a book,found again after two hundred years. . . .I am the maker, the lover, and the keeper….When the young girl who starvessits down to a tableshe will sit beside me. . . .
I am food on the prisoner’s plate. . . .I am water rushing to the wellhead,filling the pitcher until it spills. . . .I am the patient gardenerof the dry and weedy garden. . . .I am the stone step,the latch, and the working hinge. . . .I am the heart contracted by joy. . . .the longest hair, whitebefore the rest. . . .I am there in the basket of fruit
presented to the widow. . . .I am the musk rose openingunattended, the fern on the boggy summit. . . .I am the one whose loveovercomes you, already with youwhen you think to call my name. . . .
Jane Kenyon was born on May 23, 1947, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and grew up in the Midwest. She earned a BA from the University of Michigan in 1970 and an MA in 1972. That same year, Kenyon married the poet Donald Hall, whom she had met while studying at the University of Michigan.
Kenyon published four books of poetry during her lifetime: Constance (Graywolf Press, 1993), Let Evening Come (Graywolf Press, 1990), The Boat of Quiet Hours (Graywolf Press, 1986), and From Room to Room (Alice James Books, 1978), as well as a book of translation, Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova (Ally Press, 1985). She received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1981.
In December 1993 she and Hall were the subject of an Emmy Award-winning Bill Moyers documentary, “A Life Together.” She was named poet laureate of New Hampshire in 1995 and died of leukemia on on April 22 of that year.
Poetry Foundation’s biography page for Jane Kenyon has an analysis of her work.
“Despite her relatively small output, her poetry was highly lauded by critics throughout her lifetime. As fellow poet Carol Muske remarked in the New York Times when describing Kenyon’s The Boat of Quiet Hours, “These poems surprise beauty at every turn and capture truth at its familiar New England slant. Here, in Keats’s terms, is a capable poet.” Indeed, Kenyon’s work has often been compared with that of English Romantic poet John Keats; in an essay on Kenyon for Contemporary Women Poets, Gary Roberts dubbed her a “Keatsian poet” and noted that, “like Keats, she attempts to redeem morbidity with a peculiar kind of gusto, one which seeks a quiet annihilation of self-identity through identification with benign things. Kenyon explored nature’s cycles in other ways: the fall of light from day descriptive skills… as notable as her dramatic ones. Her rendering of natural settings, in lines of well-judged rhythm and simple syntax, contribute to the [volume’s] memorableness. to dusk to night, and the cycles of relationships with family and friends throughout a long span of years brought to a close by death, and her work in this regard has been compared with that of the late poet Sylvia Plath. Comparing the two, Breslin wrote that “Kenyon’s language is much quieter, less self-dramatizing” than that of Plath, and where the earlier poet “would give herself up, writing her lyrical surrender to oblivion,… Kenyon fought to the end. In Otherwise: New and Selected Poems (1996), a posthumous collection containing twenty poems written just prior to her death as well as several taken from her earlier books, Kenyon “chronicles the uncertainty of living as culpable, temporary creatures,” according to Nation contributor Emily Gordon. “
Blogging From A2Z April Challenge
What better way to begin the Blogging From A2Z April Challenge than to tie it in with National Poetry Month. Okay, I started late so today my first blog post begins with the letter J. I plan to go back and write the complete April challenge with more posts for the entire month. I love poetry and look forward to April every year when there’s so many activities revolving around poetry. I’ve written poetry since I was twelve and have several poems published. I’ve written a poetry manuscript which I’ve submitted to a publisher. I’ll let you know how that turns out. Rejection is so terrible but as a writer, you just have to keep going. Never stop writing!
My favorite poets are women. I studied poetry in college and became fascinated with learning just how much women have contributed to the world of literature. We have copies of poetry from antiquity to current times. I discovered a list of Female Poets that I am using for research. Since I’m retired, my main project is studying more about poetry. I have several favorites that I intend to keep learning about. Reading about how women speak through the written word is something that never gets old to me and helps with my own writing.
Today’s female poet is Jennifer Wong. I am featuring one of her poems “GLOW“ that evokes such vivid images in my mind.
By Jennifer Wong
In the old days everyone there knew
how to make ice lanterns: filling
the barrels with water from Songhua
and leaving the blocks to freeze.
They lit and hung the lanterns outside houses.
But as time passed they grew
more ambitious with their craft:
to carve a dragon’s whiskers and scales;
a lotus pavilion, goddess kwan yin,
and the Great Wall of China
for the brave-hearted.
Look at the children laughing
and skating away.
The crystal palace beckons to you.
You remember how far
this water has traveled.
The amusement won’t last.
Jennifer Wong was born and raised in Hong Kong. She studied English at Oxford University and earned an MA in creative writing at the University of East Anglia. She has a creative writing PhD on Chinese diaspora poetry at Oxford Brookes University.
Wong is the author of the poetry collections 回家 Letters Home (Nine Arches Press 2020), which was the PBS Spring 2020 Wild Card Choice; Goldfish (Chameleon Press, 2013); and Summer Cicadas (Chameleon Press 2006). She has also published poetry in journals, including Stand, Magma Poetry, World Literature Today, The Rialto, Oxford Poetry, Asian Cha, Voice & Verse and anthologies, including Eight Hong Kong Poets (Chameleon Press, 2015) and Becoming Poets: The Asian English Experience (Peter Lang, 2014). She is a book reviewer and translator, and her work has appeared in Poetry London, Poetry Review, Pathlight, Modern Poetry in Translation and Asian Review of Books, among other publications. She has taught creative writing at Oxford Brookes University and courses at the Poetry School and City Lit.
Wong lives in the United Kingdom.