I am the song unsung,
the life un-lived,
the word as yet unwritten:
I ground the grain to make your bread
while you conquer’d empires
and while you drank the sweet, red wine of youth
I aged at home.
I’m Shakespeare’s sister, the
Madwoman in the Attic and
the Angel in the House, as yet un-killed;
so write, you bards and balladeers,
write your immortal lines;
and praise me with your elegiac verse
(I’ll be your muse
and bind my words in dreams)
but yet be warned:
I want the words you stole from me,
the life I gave,
the song as yet unsung.
As once upon a time the High Priestess
processioning, skirts rustling to grace
the altar with a knife held high
I’ve found my voice
cuts out your tongue:
Now hear my song.
© Experimentsinfiction 2021, All Rights Reserved
The first of three poems dedicated to Virginia Woolf for International Women’s Day 2021
In her essay A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf imagined Shakespeare had a sister, every bit as talented as her brother, but bound in by a life of domestic duty and unable to fulfil her dreams:
…his extraordinarily gifted sister, let us suppose, remained at home. She was as adventurous, as imaginative, as agog to see the world as he was. But she was not sent to school. She had no chance of learning grammar and logic, let alone of reading Horace and Virgil. She picked up a book now and then, one of her brother’s perhaps, and read a few pages. But then her parents came in and told her to mend the stockings or mind the stew and not moon about with books and papers…From Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own, Chapter 2, first published in 1929.
Such was the lot of so many women over the centuries. Such is still the lot of many women around the world. But we are finding our voice, and that voice is getting louder. I believe this is both cause for dismay, that we are so far from achieving equality, and celebration, that despite all odds we have already come so far.
I am also linking this poem to Earthweal’s Weekly Challenge, in which Brendan has asked us to ‘write about the nature of poetry. There are lots of avenues you can take…’ I think this poem responds to the following aspect of his prompt:
Who taught you about this nature? Rilke was my inspiration for the writing of this challenge, though there were many other poets who also played a part, from Sylvia Plath to Wallace Stevens and Jack Gilbert and all of you. There were also professors who taught passionately and encouraged me to write. There are writers about poetry and the poet’s nature, and there were archaeologists and myths and dreams. Who inspired you to come close to your poetic nature?
As you can tell from the above poem, I was inspired by Woolf, as well as many others.
Take part in my celebration of International Women’s Day in poetry: link up a poem below or tag me on Twitter @Experimentsinfc or Instagram @experimentsinfiction. Add the hashtags #ChooseToChallenge and #IWD2021 and let your voice be heard!