A chance to respond informally to the content of the How2 journal. We are interested in comments and reactions to work that you find here and encourage you to respond to and to extend the questions and debates which interest you in our latest issue and in material contained in our extensive archive. We welcome further discussions of modernist and innovative poetry by women that you feel are relevant to our concerns.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

by Frances Presley

Dear Lauren
Happy New Year!

I wanted to let you know that I’ve started work on a response to the wonderful Jena Osman project, which specifically concerns female figurative statues in public places.

I was especially drawn to the Osman project, because I have been working, with the poet Tilla Brading, on a long sequence relating to Neolithic stone monuments on Exmoor (‘Stone settings’). There is debate about whether some of these, particularly the longstones, are memorials, but it also raised the whole issue of types of memorials, whether ancient or modern, and the more recent examples of these, which have also become part of the sequence. They include WW2 memorials on Exmoor, as well as my own ‘longstone’ texts of the Iraq war.

Has anyone raised the issue of female figurative statues and their significance? It is, of course, simply an aspect of the extent to which women occupy public space in general.

I was thinking about it last year when we had an invasion of the Anthony Gormleys at the South Bank (and beyond) - the English sculptor who is best known for sculptures which are slightly abstracted versions of his own body.

Some of the, comparatively rare, statues of women are of British queens. On the subject of women as public figures, and rulers, the derivation of the words for king and queen are very revealing.

Cyning= king = cunning ruler

Cwen = queen = wife of king

Charles Beem also makes the following observation. “Women were not recognised as legitimate participants in the public spaces of political, military and sacerdotal activities. The construction of female kingship, then, was a gender-bending process…”

(The Lioness roared: the problems of female rule in English history, Charles Beem, Palgrave MacMillan, 2006)

All best wishes