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Editor: Susan Wiseman

In examining early modern women and the poem, this book explores how women use poetry, and how poems use women, in England and Scotland in the period 1550–1680. Several decades of critical writing on 'women's poetry', 'gender and poetry', and the representation of women, or gender, in poetry have produced a rich and complex critical and scholarly field. The book looks at the primary and secondary evidence concerning two key elements in the analysis of early modern women's writing, namely, women and the poem. It first explores the way women understood the poem in terms of the reception, influence and adaptation of past models and examples, working from the reception of classical texts. It focuses on the resources women writing poetry knew and encountered in chapters on classical inheritance, the religious sonnet sequence and the secular sonnet sequence. The book then examines the world of reading and readers, and looks at poems in terms of friendships, quarrels, competitions, coteries, networks and critical reception, both then and later. It also emphasises the tales that poems tell, and how those stories both register and shape the understanding of women and the poem in the world of potential readers. In examining women and the poem, the use of women as signifiers and bearers of meaning in poetry is as significant as women's literary production.

Author: J. J. Anderson

This book is an open-ended critical account of the Gawain-poems. The four poems of MS Cotton Nero A.x, Art. 3 are untitled in the manuscript, but titled by modern editors, in manuscript order: Pearl, Cleanness (or Purity), Patience, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The poems testify that he was cultivated, with an appreciation of the finer points of chivalric life, and also deeply religious - a cleric, no doubt, given his biblical knowledge, his interest in Christian doctrine, and his understanding of sermon style. Pearl is a religious dream-vision in which the dream is largely taken up by dialogue between the narrator or dreamer, as a figure in his dream, and a woman who is a fount of divine wisdom. Cleanness combines discussion of a religious virtue with retelling of stories from the Bible. Its three main stories are from the Old Testament, and they centre on Noah, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Belshazzar's feast. Patience is a poem that combines discussion of a moral quality with biblical narrative, in the case of Patience, one narrative only, the story of Jonah.Sir Gawain is a record of, and tribute to, the beauties and pleasures of chivalric life. Pearl, Cleanness, and Patience suggest that for the poet national events may have merged with events in his own life to challenge his faith. With Gawain too it is possible that the public and the personal intermingle to shake his faith in chivalry and the feudal model of social order.

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Peter Barry

9.  Poems and pictures This chapter concerns poems which are about an art object. It may be a vase, a piece of sculpture, or, more frequently, a painting or photo­graph, hence the chapter title. This kind of work is now usually called ekphrastic poetry. The word ‘ekphrasis’ is derived from Greek roots, ek, meaning ‘out’, and phrasis, meaning ‘speech’, and hence denotes an act of description, a ‘speaking out’ or speaking plain. It is given to this kind of writing because these poems often begin with something like a description of the object, before going on to

in Reading poetry
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The supernatural and the textual
Janet Hadley Williams

Literature in Older Scots includes a group of poems, mostly anonymous, that employs supernatural phenomena for burlesque or satiric purposes. Aptly called ‘elrich fantasyis’, 1 they include Roule’s ‘Devyne poware of michtis maist’, The Gyre Carling , ‘My gudame wes a gay wyf’, ‘God and Sanct Petir’, ‘The Crying of ane Playe’, Lichtoun’s ‘Quha doutis dremis is bot phantasye?’ and Lord Fergus Gaist . 2 In their ‘comic supernaturalism’ 3 and inventive mixed reference to popular traditions, romances, classical literature, magic, witchcraft and church ritual

in The supernatural in early modern Scotland
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Lee Spinks

The Dainty Monsters Although Ondaatje has won international renown as a novelist, his first four published books were volumes of poetry. The Dainty Monsters , his first book, appeared in 1967, quickly followed by the long poems the man with seven toes (1969) and The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (1970). A fourth volume, Rat Jelly , was published in 1973; six years later Ondaatje made a selection of his poems which appeared under the title There’s a Trick With a Knife I’m Learning to Do . Unlike many

in Michael Ondaatje
Rachel Blau DuPlessis

10 Olson and his Maximus Poems Rachel Blau DuPlessis ‘The advantages of a long poem, is like pot au feu, it creates its own juice [...] Or put it formally:    the long poem creates its own situation.’ (Olson, ‘From Notebook “I ... Sept. 15, 1957’’’)1 Here they are. The Maximus Poems. An ‘Alps’ – that other, American Alps.2 A masterpiece of poesis, particularly for people curious about the workings of a very long poem. For many readers, it exists not in the mode of monument but in the related, equally pertinent mode of midden or ruin. At the end of the book, all

in Contemporary Olson
Paul Salzman

with much curiositie haue been sought for, and as rarely found, as Pearles in ordinary Oysters. (I.ii.3) 1 Denny’s response to this confirmed the accuracy of Wroth’s analysis of his character. The image of his honour being as rare as pearls in ordinary oysters especially piqued his imagination; he wrote a poem attacking Wroth in the style of misogynistic libel which had become quite a popular genre, sliding from the almost respectable slurs of some of Donne’s love poetry through to the scurrilous attacks on Frances Howard’s sex life provoked by her divorce from the

in Early modern women and the poem
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J. J. Anderson

The four poems of MS Cotton Nero A.x, Art. 3, are untitled in the manuscript, but titled by modern editors, in manuscript order Pearl, Cleanness (or Purity ), Patience , and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight . This is the only manuscript containing any of them, and it gives no clear information as to by whom and for whom it, or they, were produced, and whether or not they are all by the same author. There is no external evidence either which settles any of these matters. They must to a degree be regarded as poems without contexts. All that can be gleaned

in Language and imagination in the Gawain-poems
Patricia Pender

Chapter 9 Rethinking authorial reluctance in the ­paratexts to Anne Bradstreet’s poetry Patricia Pender A nne Bradstreet’s professions of inadequacy in much-anthologised poems such as ‘The author to her book’ and ‘The prologue’ make her exemplary of the modesty we have come to expect of early modern women writers. Her renditions of abject humility before literary tradition, her apparent objection to putting herself forward in print and her professed inability to complete the poetic projects she undertook have all helped to enshrine her as the quintessential

in Early modern women and the poem
Ralph Maud

23 Charles Olson’s first poem Ralph Maud ‘Purgatory Blind’ is probably what Charles Olson is referring to in a letter to Robert Creeley as ‘the very 1st po-em’, adding that it was written in Gloucester on the Annisquam River 1 – that is, the early draft (before it got its title), the first six lines of which we have known from George Butterick’s transcription of them, published in his Guide To the Maximus Poems of Charles Olson: Between the river and the sea I sit writing, The Annisquam and the Atlantic My boundaries, and all between The moors of doubt and

in Contemporary Olson