Women Poets in the Archives

Making space for impulse, imagination and implication

This article discusses the space that is created when poetry meets the archives, a unique space wherein a poet can use the historical materials found in archives together with her imagination to reconstruct women’s lives and narratives that hitherto have been marginalised or ignored by more traditional historical texts and outlets. The article considers the impulse that occurs when creativity, language, and history meet, and uses the lens of some of Susan Stanford Friedman’s ideas on feminism and history found in her book Mappings. Often, this kind of imaginative rendering takes space, and the use of the women’s long poem in providing a form for this work is also considered. The ideas and work of other poets, such as Jordie Albiston, Susan Howe and Helen Rickerby, further inform the discussion, and two manuscripts by Kimberly K. Williams are analysed and discussed.

Reimagining the Archive

Where did women's poetry go in Ireland?

When exploring the relationship between her Irish ancestry and her creativity, Roxanne learned that women’s poetry in Ireland was largely obliterated from the literary canon and missing from the archives. Early Irish poetry was often anonymous, and scholars presumed this indicated male authorship even when written with a female persona. However, while women’s poetry may have, as Mary N Harris says, gone ‘unnoticed and unpublished’, the lack of archival evidence does not indicate that women were not composing poetry and an increasing body of academic research supports this argument. The mythological collection makes significant references to female poets, and oral poetry such as the lullaby and the lament commonly went unrecorded. Irish poets, including Eavan Boland and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, demonstrate that contemporary poetry can bridge the gap where female poets were actively written out of history to a new understanding of the importance of their contribution.