Monday, November 15, 2010


A quote from The King's Swift Rider (A Novel on Robert the Bruce) by Mollie Hunter:
My mother has other good qualities, however, apart from being a woman of sense. She is a good cook who can make much of little...but above all, my mother is a poet -- the best of her time; and after we had eaten, she let us hear some of her love songs, softly playing as she did so on her clarsach, her little harp.

I should have slept as soundly then as I always did after hearing her sing these. Yet still I had nightmare after nightmare -- beginning, I suppose, with thoughts of how it is said among us that the love songs of women poets have so much of power and beauty that the sound of them survives even beyond death. Because of this, too, it is also said a woman poet must always be buried facedown, or else her songs arising from the grave will too much disturb the hearts of those still living.
I wondered about this tradition. The Edinburgh History of Scottish literature by Ian Brown, Thomas Owen Clancy, Susan Manning, and Murray Pittock says that Gaelic society viewed women poets with suspicion and two of the most famous women poets were buried face down to "keep the lying mouth down." They say it was by the women's own orders. Why do you suppose that would have been?

Meadowsweet by poet Kathleen Jamie is about a woman poet being buried face down. Meadowsweet has rich, spooky imagery, and I know I'll want to read it again. Like a SPARK, Brigid Collins created a mixed media work prompted by the poem.

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