Saturday, May 13, 2006

Poetic Ducks and Drakes under Fire

I'm afraid a predator - probably a fox - came in the night a few days ago and did for those poor duck eggs in our back garden. We think the duck got away. The nest itself was decimated but no sign of duck feathers, so hopefully she lives to lay another clutch even though her unfortunate offspring perished before they could be hatched. So that's the end of that. But here are the first few eggs which I managed to capture on camera before their sad demise ...

Talking off the tribulations of sitting ducks, we've been having a humdinger of a fight in recent weeks on the Poem forum on the contentious issue of sexism in British and Irish poetry.

Needless to say, I am on the team which believes sexism still exists, and sometimes in spadefuls ... it's just a little more subtle now than when it was not punishable by public beheading. But the opposing team - all men, except for one woman - mostly believe it's outdated and unfashionable to see sexism at work in contemporary poetry, some even claiming it doesn't exist at all and that we must be hysterical feminists with chips on our shoulders about men - and the rest - to claim something so ludicrous as women being discriminated against in the dear old liberal utopia of British poetry.

Clearly nettled by our arguments, one well-known male poet cited a recent anthology by a major editor to demonstrate that person's lack of sexism. Another gentleman - on our team or perhaps just acting as a referee - quietly pointed out that 135 of the post-1945 poems in that anthology were by men. Only 16 were by women.

Hmmm ...

So here are some sitting ducks to accompany that topic, all of them poets and female, being treated with dinner by the Heaventree Press - the out-of-focus guys at the far end of the table - before performing at the Herbert Gallery in Coventry last month, to celebrate International Women's Day. That's a major poet Pascale Petit there with her eyes rather unfortunately closed, Kimberley Trusty opposite laughing, I think that might possibly be Helen Ivory beyond Kim with all the flowing golden hair, and we also had Esther Morgan, Zoe Brigley and of course myself, Jane Holland, hidden behind the camera as usual. The event went down very well, the large gallery was packed with standing room only within minutes of the start, and Jenny Ousbey was the compere. Excellent stuff.

However, although I believe expenses were paid for some who had travelled a long way, dinner seemed to be the main fee. Certainly that was all I got for performing that night. It was a very nice dinner in a lovely Coventry restuarant called Brown's, but cash would have been even nicer. Would that have been the case with a reading of six reasonably well-known male poets?

Somehow I doubt it ...

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