Blood and Ink

People either love the fact I am a poet or they rip into me like poetry went out of fashion in 1889. I’m sorry that poetry isn’t your thing but neither is watching reality TV or eating animals; we all have our own lives. I do however feel, as a woman, I sometimes get a hard time as a poet. I have heard people write off Sylvia Plath in favour of Ted Hughes as “the real poet”. A comment once made by someone who will remain anonymous was that “poetry suits women, they are great at whining”. Yet male figures who open their hearts to the reader is seen as the hero. Women poets are seen as weaklings.

Sylvia Plath

Before this ridiculousness came upon me as an adult, I was a child poet, unpublished and happy as hell. I started writing poetry in school and I loved it so much I decided to keep writing on the weekends. I was enveloped by the idea that the use of colours, textures, landscapes and feelings could be put into one little poem. Of course, I copied the major poets in style and although that was enjoyable, I felt I didn’t quite have my own style yet, that would come with practise, I knew that much. Over the years I read poetry religiously and what has occurred to me is that my style is not of the formulaic way. I appreciate good rounded poetry with its certain number of stanzas etc but that is all I see it as, a great poem, in a technical sense. I however, believe that art should make you feel something. I hear amazing guitar solos in songs but sometimes they just have no groove, I hear people singing songs written by others but they have no soul, I see amazing landscape paintings but they give me no warmth…I want to feel, I want to be upset, surprised, disturbed, happy, sad, I want to laugh because it has simple made me feel something.

My poetry comes from a very deep and dark place. A culmination of thoughts, realities, experiences and feelings all collide in lines upon lines of poetry. I can’t write about pretty flowers or cats; I write about feelings, observations; it is cathartic and my very own way of expressing myself. It is a therapy that stops me from feeling utterly insane.

Anne Sexton

“Meanwhile in my head, I’m undergoing open-heart surgery.”
― Anne Sexton

It has occurred to me over the years that poets have so much in them but they feel they have to write in a certain way. Please don’t let stuffy old poetry magazine editors put you off, create your art for you and always remember this very simple thing:

Art is subjective.

Patti Smith

We cannot please everyone. If we did, then how boring would that be? Keep at it, be true to yourself and in the words of Patti Smith:

Never let go of that fiery sadness called desire.

To Die For Your Art: A Tribute to Elise Cowen

“The Lady …
The lady is a humble thing
Made of death and water
The fashion is to dress it plain
And use the mind for border” 
― Elise Cowen

elise-cowen

I’m not sure why but the first time I ever set eyes on a picture of Elise Cowan I wanted to know more about her. I can’t explain why, I just felt something. What I did find was a marvelous poet with a brilliant mind. She was a woman dressed in black with these thick-rimmed glasses; little did I know just how much I would love her work. Why am I writing about her? Well I know you can find anything you like on the Internet but I want you to know her and read her work. It is a rather sad tale and I believe that no one should ever be left in their literary grave and go unnoticed.

I often wondered, what ever happened to the women of the Beat Generation? They may have written, they may have sat next to Ginsberg in a café or along the bar next to Kerouac but what lurked inside them. Some of these women were thought of as the muse or the girlfriend; the hanger-on. Deep down these women had fire in their bellies and poetry in their souls and it was dying to come out, dying to be heard. Disturbingly, I have read pieces online saying that the Beat women were just not good enough writers but of course every piece of art is subjective; it is for the reader to decide. Elise did not want to be unsuccessful or contained in any way. She hated the fact that becoming a successful writer like the men around her could be an impossible task. She was admitted into hospital because of the deterioration in her mental health but soon checked herself out; she went back to her parent’s house where she committed suicide. Elise was just 28 years old.

Her lifelong depression was certainly reflected in her poetry. Her work was very real, very haunting with a free form structure. It felt distant yet so personal and relevant. During her short life, Elise didn’t have any poems published and it is very sad to learn that only a small portion of her poetry survived of which some have appeared in various collections thanks to a friend of hers. In 2014 a volume was put together from her only surviving notebook, titled Elise Cowen: Poems and Fragments, edited by Tony Trigilio.

elise-cowen-poetry-book

Recognized only for her associations in the Beat movement, her writing went unseen. We never hear that Elise was a writer, they often say “wasn’t she Ginsberg’s girlfriend?” After her death her parents burnt her work, its content disturbed them with its references to sex and drugs and they didn’t want it going public. To burn the very words that seep from a writer’s soul is to destroy it altogether but her poetry still lives on. Her parent’s decision to burn her work is quite disgraceful but like a phoenix, she certainly did rise from the ashes even if she isn’t around to see just how many people enjoy her work.

elise-cowen