Friday, April 15, 2016

Suffrage 100

"With this issue, Prairie Fire marks the 100th anniversary of some women’s right to vote in Manitoba (a right that would be inexcusably denied to First Nations women for another 36 years). This milestone is commemorated with a number of short pieces by Manitoba women.

The issue also includes fiction by Alanna Marie Scott, Margaret Sweatman and Meg Todd; non-fiction by Tanya Bellehumeur-Allatt; and poetry by Sylvia Legris, Jan Zwicky, Yvonne Blomer, Kate Cayley, Tanis MacDonald, Maryann Martin, Julietta Singh, Vivian Vavassis, Christine Wiesenthal & others."

* * *

I'm pleased to say that I have a suite of poems called "No Votes for Women!" in Suffrage 100.

Here's how I described it for the issue: "Poems to & from Nellie McClung (1873–1951) on the Occasion of the 100th Anniversary of (White) Women Getting the Vote in Manitoba."

It was strange 'writing-about,' because I usually discover what the 'about' is after I've finished writing a poem. Beyond that, it took me quite a while to find a way into working with Nellie McClung's writing, both technically (found poems? cut-up poems? dictionary poems? glosas?) and in terms of tone. 

Nellie was most often earnest. When that didn't work, she used gentle humour, cajoling her audience into coming around to her point of view. 

I was most often angry while working on these poems, which culminated in the final poem of the suite, "Give us our Due."

The thing that saved me? A buncha great women poets, specifically Basma Kavanagh, Kerry Ryan, Yvonne Blomer, Tanis MacDonald & Leena Niemela. They read and re-read these poems. They pushed me to take them further, to not hide behind technique. 

Which is why it's so lovely that Yvonne & Tanis have poems in the same issue. 

My thanks to editors at Prairie Fire for asking if I'd submit something and to the staff at St. John's College Library at the University of Manitoba, who kept me in books-by-Nellie.

No comments: