Women’s Experimental Poetry in Britain 1970–2010: Body, Time and Locale presents the history and current state of a critically neglected, significant body of contemporary writing and places it within the wider social and political contexts of the period. Ranging from Geraldine Monk’s ventriloquizing of the Pendle witches to Denise Riley’s fiercely self-critical lyric poems, from the multi-media experiments of Maggie O’Sullivan to the globally aware, politicised sequences of Andrea Brady and Jennifer Cooke, David Kennedy and Christine Kennedy theorise women’s alternative poetries in terms of Julia Kristeva’s idea of ‘women’s time’ and in terms of the female poetic voice constantly negotiating with dominant systems of representation. They also offer a much-needed re-theorising of the value of avant garde practices.
ReviewsA much-needed intervention in the area of modern poetry written by women in Britain.
Times Literary Supplement
'... this wonderful study is itself a fine manifestation of experimental and challenging discourse. I can't think of a better recommendation.'
'... badger your library to get hold of a copy; I promise that you will not regret reading this remarkably clear account of what has needed to be pulled together for far too long.'
Tears in the Fence
'In its forceful and intelligent guidance to – and advocacy of - some of the strongest poetry written in this country over the last half a century the book does nothing but good.'
Tears on the Fence, Issue 60
In a review of Archive of the Now (www.archiveofthenow.org) (RR 2013/052), I contrasted this resource to its more well-known cousin The Poetry Archive (www.poetryarchive.org) (RR 2012/072), referring to the material in Archive of the Now as poetry which is usually excluded from more visible resources. A consequence of excluding a large swath of British poetry from dominant resources is that the view of poetry presented to the non-specialist is partial; articulations of particular perspectives are privileged and alternatives are rarely made apparent. Important poetry remains largely inaccessible and unknown to most. Libraries can address this imbalance through informed collection building. Women’s Experimental Poetry 1970-2010 is an important book making a major contribution to this gap in the available information about marginalised poetry. As Kennedy and Kennedy explain in their opening chapters, “experimental” is the terminology often used to describe these marginalised poetries, a term which is much contested but serves to denote its difference from other varieties of poetry which are more widely circulated and consequentially reach a larger readership. The Kennedys’ focus on poetry written by women goes some way towards addressing another imbalance, this time within the critical reception of experimental poetry where there has been a paucity of incisive critical work on poetries written by women. The book’s subtitle, Body, Time & Locale, offers a thesis around which a reading of this poetry is developed, and provides a framework for the thoughtful discussion of possible receptions of this work. The first three chapters, Increasing Presence: With Some Notes on Categories and Methods, Terms of Engagement: Experimental Poetry and its Others and Critical Histories, are presented under the heading Contexts and open up ideological, historical and methodological debates which inform approaches to these poetries. These chapters provide both an excellent introduction to the area and a good summary for readers to whom it is familiar. One notes in passing that the closing lines of Chapter 2 offer some perspective of the significance of the work under discussion: “The poetries that we discuss in this book are, then, performative processes. These processes are evolutionary in terms of consciousness and identity and, as such, represent some of the highest endeavours of the species” (p. 30). The processes referred to here are the political and aesthetic practices which differentiate this poetry from the more familiar representational mode of poetry which dominates our library bookshelves. These preliminary chapters also provide the contextualising which informs the readings presented in the main body of the book. Under the heading Poetries, eight chapters identify and explore the work of 18 poets. Veronica Forrest-Thomson and Wendy Mulford: Lyric Transformations considers the very different dialogues these two poets have with traditional forms of the lyric. Geraldine Monk: Supernatural Soundscapes and Interregnum develops a detailed reading of Monk’s important long poem Interregnum. Denise Riley: Corporeal and Desiring Spaces provides numerous takes on Riley’s work. Maggie O’Sullivan: Declensions of the Non provides a fascinating way into a body of work introduced with an upfront admission that this poetry “eludes the usual categories of criticism, listening and reading” (p. 100). The concept of “outside” is deployed to examine nature and “the natural world” in Harriet Tarlo, Elizabeth Bletsoe and Helen Macdonald: Being Outside, while Caroline Bergvall, Elizabeth James/Frances Presley and Rendell Olsen: Virtual Spaces uses a different type of space to read these poets. Poetry published comparatively recently is covered in two chapters, Younger Women Poets 1: Anna Mendelssohn, Emily Critchley and Sophie Robinson, and Younger Women Poets 2: Marianne Morris, Andrea Brady and Jennifer Cooke. The names in these chapters represent a wide range of work, and the 192 pages which comprise this book offer a glimpse into the possibilities offered in these poetries. The individual chapters on Monk, Riley and O’Sullivan reflect the significance and stature of their respective oeuvres to date. The overall coverage provides a robust and stimulating consideration of the poetry and a meaningful starting point for anyone seeking to discover the hidden delights of this work. A Bibliography of ten pages provides a solid guide to the work of poets discussed and other references in the text. A good eight-page Index which includes entries on poets, concepts and other people and material makes this book easy to dip into for reference purposes. Although covering terrain which may on first blush appear esoteric or at least challenging, the language and style of the book is friendly and a pleasure to read, reflecting the obviously high regard in which these authors hold this poetry. What Kennedy and Kennedy have achieved here is a guide to an important yet neglected area of poetry and poetics. Any library intent on developing and maintaining a serious poetry collection needs to purchase this book and follow up the work of the poets discussed within. This book could revolutionise your library’s poetry collection.
Linda Kemp, Languages and literature Reference Reviews, Volume 28, Number 4
Languages and literature Reference Reviews, Volume 28, Number 4
'What Kennedy and Kennedy have achieved here is a guide to an important yet neglected area of poetry and poetics. Any library intent on developing and maintaining a serious poetry collection needs to purchase this book and follow up the work of the poets discussed within. This book could revolutionise your library’s poetry collection.'
Languages and literature Reference Reviews, Volume 28, Number 4
Reviews'Through this important book length study, Kennedy and Kennedy extend and update a valuable line of critical reading of women’s experimental poetry represented by Perloff, Linda Kinnahan and Clair Wills in the 1990s, and more recently by many of the critics who contributed to the Salt Companion to Maggie O’Sullivan.'
Eltringham D. , Jenkins H. & Sheppard V., Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry