Flish (Felicia) McCarthy is a poet living in the West of Ireland. She has been published in Ireland and internationally, online, in anthologies and magazines. In 2017, she was shortlisted for the Dermot Healy Award, The Red Line Poetry Prize and the Over the Edge Writer of the year.
What is FIRED! and why you should sign the pledge.
The Morrigan, in Irish myth, is the archetype of transformative wrath. She is the woman who watches over her community, the one who knows when to declare Enough is enough! (Bolen, 2001)
FIRED is the Enough! response from Christine Murray, poet and curator of Poethead , to the recent publication of the Cambridge Companion to Irish Poets (2017), edited by Gerald Dawe. Murray calls on editors, publishers and organisers to sign a pledge to make a good faith effort to get the gender balance right. The pledge also asks poets and writers to question editors, publishers, and organisers if there has been a fair effort made toward gender balance in their magazine, books, conference or festival and withdraw support if no such effort has been made.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand,” declared Frederick Douglas, the African American slave become statesman and notable abolitionist. It is time to state our demand for the inclusion of women’s writing in the canonical texts.
Twenty six years ago, Seamus Deane was the editor of The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing (1991). Irish feminists raised a unified response of outrage. Deane admitted to being “dismayed” to discover that he had used the same exclusionary tactics with his countrywomen as the British had applied to Irish men. The exclusion of women was redressed 11 years later, when two volumes of of Irish women’s writing was subsequently published as Field Day, IV and V (2002). Gerald Dawe’s exclusion of women can be eventually redressed by subsequent volumes, but Murray asks us to go further and move into a representative canon of Irish literature that includes the work of women writers. This is the time to stand together.
“Silence”, wrote Adrienne Rich in Cartographies of Silence (1984)
“can be a plan/rigorously executed/the blueprint to a life
It has a presence/It has a history a form
Do no confuse it/with any kind of absence.”
Knowingly or by ignorance of writing outside the ivory tower of gender privilege, the excision of women artists from the canon of arts is to leave out 50% of the rich legacy available to our children and to the world. What a loss! The surprise is that Irish women’s poetry, criticism and literature is so outstanding, despite not being taught women’s texts in school or college. It is worth noting the response by many women poets that women writers were significantly absent in their educations. See the remarks by many of the women who signed The Pledge.
The arbitration of relevance, the decisions of inclusion/exclusion are decisions that must be made with awareness. Murray with FIRED! makes her demand on behalf of all of us. Let’s stand with her.
VIDA, a website of Women in the Literary Arts has become famous for its COUNT of gender imbalance in the literary arts, Vida reported on FIRED in their Reports from the Field: Poets on Strike: Irish Women Poets and the canon.
Morrigan would be pleased.
December 31st, 2017