Tackling the catastrophic canonical neglect of Irish women poets and writers (Irish Times)

Maureen Kennelly, Director of Poetry Ireland, which has tackled gender imbalance under its Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2018-2020. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Maureen Kennelly, Director of Poetry Ireland, which has tackled gender imbalance under its Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2018-2020. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

A response to articles by Sinead Gleeson " A profound deafness to the female voice (The Irish Times, April 18th, 2018)  and Deirdre Falvey "“Two-thirds of published poets are male, so does poetry have a gender issue?” (The Irish Times, August 17th, 2019)

URLhttps://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/a-profound-deafness-to-the-female-voice-1.3467144 

Faced with the catastrophic canonical neglect of Irish women poets and writers in very real terms, there are many responses. Those of interrogation, of anger, of reclamation and of healing. These responses have all occurred, are continuing to occur among women writers across literary genres.

In her article, A profound deafness to the female voice (The Irish Times, April 18th, 2018), Sinéad Gleeson examines our responses as the women who have been left to reclaim our narrative heritages. Once again, it is up to women to use their time to respond, to do the corrective work of calling out male editors, and how this eats up their creative time, steering the focus away from their own work.

Re-reading Gleeson’s article, I was struck by the above because of the truth of her statement. In the almost two years since the publication of The Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets (2017) a melt of activity has occurred. Fired! Irish Women Poets was part of a response to that othering of women poets but it fed into other meetings, voices and attempts to work out, to formulate responses to neglect and omission that appears endemic in Irish literature.

On the weekend of September 6th and 7th, MEAS (Measuring Equality in the Arts Sector) organised an interdisciplinary conference, which examined gender inequality, including contributions and performances from Kathy D’Arcy, Dr Lucy Collins, Chiamaka Enyi-Amadi, Dr Ailbhe McDaid, Dr Ken Keating, Jess McKinney and more. The weekend was lively and interesting, although one of the delegates felt it was “ultimately depressing”.

Deirdre Falvey’s article “Two-thirds of published poets are male, so does poetry have a gender issue?” (The Irish Times, August 17th, 2019) looked at MEAS research and figures in advance of the seminar. MEAS examined funding and found the biggest disparity in gender was closely aligned to the three most highly funded publishers. The numbers and their disparity was not a surprise to many of us who have tried to highlight these issues. We first heard the figures at the Missing Voices seminar in September last year, an initiative organised by Poetry Ireland under their Diversity and Inclusion Strategy 2018-2020. The seminar was supported by Gerald Dawe in response to criticism of the gender balance of The Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets, which he had edited. In many ways, we have come full circle. I will explain this in brief.

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Added by Fired | Last updated on: 28 November 2019