3 minutes reading time (643 words)

Poetry Nottingham rules OK

Po Nott Rules.


Poetry Nottingham 62/3
Poetry Nottingham 62/3

Po Nott Rules.


At least it does in my book. I've always liked this little magazine and the current issue has contributions from no fewer than five of 'my' poets: Trish Ace, Martin Cook, Gill McEvoy, Matt Merritt and Martin Reed. (I think I have begun to collect Martins since I also published Martin Parker last year...)

Then there's a review of D A Prince's Nearly the Happy Hour by Ian Collinson. I liked the way he described 'The Pig-Killing Knife' as possessing "a delicate brutality"' though I think the collection may be rather more uneasy than he finds it. He opens with the issue of gender, an interesting one. Davina has always written under the gender-neutral D A Prince, which is, after all, her name, like C K Williams is his, like K D Laing hers.

Ian Collinson decides, though, that gender neutrality is not the reason for the D A in Prince because the poetry is "unashamedly feminine". I daren't go into a discussion of this because I will get myself into unashamedly feminine hot water, I'm afraid, but the name issue is interesting.

I had a submission recently from a poet who wrote gender-neutrally and signed himself using his initials so I couldn't tell whether he was a he or a she. Actually the poems didn't give much away either, though I thought the tone of the letter was probably male. I don't mind not knowing whether the poems are by a man or a woman, but I do like a letter to be signed with a person's first name, and I got a lot more comfortable all round, once I knew he was a he. All of this is probably very unreasonable.

I have a soft spot for (good) poems which could only have been written by a woman, which come from the heart of what being female is. The same is true for some poems by men. (I don't mean they come from the heart of being female: I mean -- shh, silly -- from the heart of being male.) Of course, only a small number of poems in anybody's repertoire could be described in that way, but it's interesting when you find them, I think.

In my case, my writing name (Helena Nelson) is unashamedly feminine. My workaday name, after all, is Helen. That added 'a' puts me into the bracket of 18th century novel heroines, or at least I certainly hope it does. And it has a rhythm I prefer. However, it is a pen-name and over the years it has aroused some animosity from time to time from male writers and editors. They ask, from time to time, why I don't use my 'real' name.

Such an interesting question! What is my real name? Yes, well. Beaton is my married name, and technically not only was it never mine, but now that I'm divorced it is onloan through an expired marriage certificate and many people would think I should have returned it long ago. Curry was my maiden name, but when I was growing up I was certain sure that Curry belonged to my father. Morton was my mother's name (and also belonged to my cousins and uncles). I was never quite sure what I was. Some kind of Curry-Morton half-breed. But I was brought up expecting to get married, expecting to change my name into what would become my 'real' name and the name of my children.

Which I did for a bit. Then I mucked that up. And what on earth am I now? By email and in correspondence, friends call me Nell. So I figured I'd choose my own second name, one that could be the 'real' one. 'Nelson' is Nell's own name. See? It all makes sense in an unashamedly confusing sort of way...

How not to do it...
Sphinx Po-rating


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Saturday, 18 September 2021

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