#NaPoWriMo – Day Eleven – Aspasia

The greatest honour a woman can have is to be least spoken of in men’s company, whether in praise or in criticism.

Pericles’ Funeral Oration (after 490 BCE) from Thucydides, The Peloponnesian War

I.

The Assassin’s Creed games have taken your image,
placed you at the centre of their storyline
as the ultimate villain
and laid Pericles’ death at your feet.
It makes me wonder if Thucydides was wishing you away
when he wrote the Funeral Oration in his play,
tongued words of rebuke into Pericles’ mouth
to made it clear that you would have been best,
sticking to your shadows
with the other none-citizens.
Or better yet, if you could have pretended the role
of a true Athenian wife:
silent, and isolated at her spinning
in another room,
while the men burned hot in their political worlds
instead of staking yourself a place among them,
and into history,
as just too brilliant to possibly be respectable
for where’s there is smoke there is always fire.

II.

The men may have their forums, but I still speak
and build my own places of discussion,
for there is a freedom in love
without the binds of law
when means my tongue has no need to bow down
to politicians or their stages.
After two and a half millennium I am dust
and nothing remains of what I wrote
except in the gossip of others’
which is always a shade of fiction on the truth
and too often without inspiration
for how to bring down another woman
stepping outside the chalk lines men draw.
Do not believe all that is written,
or all that is said,
it becomes too easy to make figures
when the known history is soft enough to mould
into shapes that suit the reader best.

write a two-part poem, in the form of an exchange of letters. The first stanza (or part) should be in the form of a letter that you write either to yourself or to a famous fictional or historical person. The second part should be the letter you receive in response.

NaPoWriMo – Day Eleven Prompt

If you would like a half-an-hour podcast of who Aspasia was exactly, then I thoroughly recommend Natalie Haynes episode on her from Natalie Haynes Stands Up For The Classics on BBC 4. She was the lover of the Athenian politician Pericles, (known as the father of Democracy) and utterly unique for her time. Once I’ve finished my post on the women of the Peasant Revolt I think I’ll have to spend some time pulling together a blog post about her, because she was an amazing historical figure pushing the boundaries of what women were allowed to do, and what was assumed about them.

#NaPoWriMo 2021 Early Bird Prompt – Weaving Time

When Adam delved and Eve span, who was then the gentleman?

John Ball 1381

There are less of us these days,
the ones with the time to weave history
into cloth.
Once upon, they called this women’s work.
We stitched their names
just the same,
cut their threads to the lengths
they needed to be,
did not cry over the fraying ends
they left behind,
but moved on to the next row
of coloured strands waiting,
to be fixed in place.
Our baskets always bursting
with material for the making,
some scraps we took to our graves
though that tradition is gone as well,
with no one to keep the patchwork growing
so much is lost and moth eaten.

Tiraz Textile Fragmentlate 9th–early 10th century

Mrs Macaulay – The Historian In Petticoats – Britain’s First Female Historian

Born Catherine Sawbridge on the 23rd March 1731, she gained an informal education in her father’s library alongside her brother at their family home in Kent. She moved to London in 1760, upon her marriage to Dr George Macaulay and three years later published the first of her extensive eight volume History of England that spanned from the succession of James I to the Revolution. Part way through the third volume of her history, her husband passed away, leaving her widowed with a single daughter (Catherine Sophia) from the marriage. She remained in London for a while, before moving to Bath in 1774 where she met her second husband William Graham. The marriage caused scandal. As the brother of her physician, son of a saddle maker, and only a mere Surgeon’s Mate1, William was considered beneath Mrs Macaulay. They remained together until her death on the 22nd June 1791 at the age of sixty at their home in Binfield on the Thames, near Windsor. In her memory, William dedicated a memorial to her in the local parish church nearby.

Continue reading “Mrs Macaulay – The Historian In Petticoats – Britain’s First Female Historian”

Shropshire Witches – Witchcraft In The Early Modern Era

Researching witchcraft in Shropshire is similar to panning for gold when the river has run dry. These days, there is a wealth of information regarding the ‘European Witch Crazes’ of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, but Shropshire is rarely mentioned. Even when Shropshire does come up, it’s for no more than a sentence or two. This lack of history can perhaps be accredited to the narrowness of the field of study. Between 1563 and 1736, less than 500 executions were carried out for the crime of witchcraft in England.1 Europe on the other hand saw 100,000 individuals tried and less than 50,000 put to death.2 Accusations of witchcraft also rarely saw just one person implicated, resulting in numerous ‘suspects’ popping up once once the accused was questions. This resulted in localised pockets of witches being discovered in certain towns and villages, rather than nationwide witch hunts.

Continue reading “Shropshire Witches – Witchcraft In The Early Modern Era”

The Madness of Inspiration

It’s a sentence dropped in passing,

just a side-note to the conversation,

or a jotting blotted in the margin,

only really half a thought.

 

Yet it opens the earth beneath you,

hooks in under your fingernails,

drags you to dimly lit, dusty corners,

both imaginary and real.

 

It doesn’t care that no one wrote it,

or if someone did then they lost it,

or passed it into a safe place

too good given the hindsight.

 

It’s dug a home in the meat of you.

Demanded your eyes, you tongue, your head.

Drew a line between now and then

as translucent as spider silk.

 

Now you only have to find it.

dverselogo

I’m working on a new poetry collection at the moment which I think I’ll probably name ‘Women, Water, and Witches’. The inspiration for it stems from the folklore surrounding women and water in Shropshire. This has led to me spending evenings researching Sea Witches, Jenny/Ginny Greenteeth, witch trials in Shropshire (there’s almost nothing in any source I’ve checked so far), then ducking stools and scolds, and even a policeman being sentenced to the stocks in 1850 for being drunk and disorderly.

More often than not, what seems like half an idea can lead me down a weird and winding path of research, which spits out even weirder tangents. A bit like a portal. (Ha! See my tentative link to the prompt there!)

The main problem I’ve run into so far is consolidating the history geek side of my brain which wants to fact check every source, to the poet side of my brain who wants to take a few artistic liberties here and there. The compromise so far seems to be that the poet can do what she wants, but the history geek will then get to write a paragraph of two for each poem to explain the background/history/lore. Hopefully this won’t put anyone reading the collection to sleep after the first couple of pages.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this little portal inside my brain. Thank you for reading, and happy writing.