Always erase and Renegade poets: Écriture féminine and the poetry of Medbh McGuckian and Louise Glück
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date31/07/2022
The poems in Always Erase are concerned with arrival, in every sense of the word, and with the transition from one life stage into the next. The poems celebrate a strong maternal inheritance as I aim to define aspects of myself in relation to and against traditional representations of women in culture/ society. I engage with this otherness through investigations of identity, travel and relocation; the processes of learning as explored through memory; and the ways in which communication falls short. Originally from Los Angeles, and occupying the liminal space of resident alien, my allegiance is split between my homeland and my adopted country of Scotland. This discomfort informs my poetry in that I am always of two minds, creating a landscape that embraces/ rejects both locations, as I reflect on my transformation to adult/ motherhood in a country that is not my own by birth. In the accompanying critical thesis, Renegade Poets: Écriture Féminine and the Poetry of Medbh McGuckian and Louise Glück, I explore differing approaches to women’s writing in bodies of work which, in their own markedly distinctive ways, deviate from and disrupt traditional masculine styles of writing – considered ““good writing” as it is defined academically” – that “cuts away all thought and impulse that would lead one astray from the pure linearity of argumentative form. No emotion. No reference to the personal, lived experience of embodied women” (Heywood 8). McGuckian achieves this disruption through investigations of symbolism in language, and of how the meanings of words are established and evolve based on social, gender and cultural associations – always with the aim of disturbing the placid surface of symbolic meaning. Using anorexia as a framework, Glück uncovers and draws attention to women’s perceived powerlessness, wrestling with language as a means by which to reassert control in the creation of a plausible poetic self. The first chapter, “This Oblique Trance:” Semiotics in the Early Poetry of Medbh McGuckian, concentrates on The Flower Master (1982; The Flower Master and Other Poems, revised edition 1993), Venus and the Rain (1984; revised edition 1994), and On Ballycastle Beach (1988; revised edition 1995) in the context of semiotics as conveyed by Julia Kristeva. Through representations of linguistic and symbolic opposites, McGuckian demonstrates how the potential for communication is constantly being built and rebuilt through language; additionally, by repurposing other writers’ words she depicts the plural nature of linguistic meaning. “A voice/ without a body:” Louise Glück and the Anorexic Aesthetic examines the ways in which, by actively deploying the model of anorexia as the foundation of a directed aesthetic, Descending Figure (1980) and Meadowlands (1996) exemplify both the difference between male and female imperatives as embodied within a heterosexual marriage or relationship, and the struggle between male and female paradigms as fraught presences doing battle within a single (female) individual (whether poet or anorexic).