Poetry by Women in Ireland: A Critical Anthology, 1870-1970

Poetry by Women in Ireland: A Critical Anthology, 1870-1970

Poetry by Women in Ireland: A Critical Anthology, 1870-1970

Poetry by Women in Ireland: A Critical Anthology, 1870-1970

Excerpt

The period between 1870 and 1970 was a time of extraordinary political and cultural change in Ireland. During these years, national and gendered identity were transformed in ways that were both particular to Ireland and part of the larger tendencies of social and creative modernisation. In keeping with this change, women’s attitudes towards their place in society and their artistic representation altered in significant ways. The politics of representation for the woman reader and the woman writer became of central importance. Cultural change could be traced in literary developments; during this time poetic modes broadened from the traditional to include new and experimental forms. Yet in spite of these changes, this period of Irish women’s literary history remains neglected. The aim of this anthology is to make available the work of writers who are either forgotten or, if remembered, are framed within a limited critical discourse. Rather than seeking the broadest possible representation of women poets from this period, this book emphasises the range and complexity of the work of individual women and sets these poems in the context of the broader literary and political developments of the time. The primary focus of this introductory essay is the poetry itself, and the challenges it offers to canonical readings of modern Irish literature. The political and cultural background to the writing included here helps to elucidate the achievement of these women and to explore the

1 The Field Day Anthology (Derry: Field Day Publications, 1991; Cork: Cork University Press, 2002) offers us unique access to a range of women’s texts across historical periods. It does not provide a sustained view of the development of individual women poets over the course of their careers, however, nor can it demonstrate clearly how their styles and preoccupations overlapped. The women poets detailed in Appendix I here indicate the variety of women publishing poetry during the period. This is not an exhaustive list but includes those who published both in newspapers or journals and in book form.

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