by Dick Edelstein
This is the second of three articles on the theme of historical memory. The first, which can be found here, deals with issues related to archival data on casualties and victims in the Spanish Civil War. In the present article, I discuss the activities of a movement to redress the exclusion of Irish women writers from the historical record.
Fired! Irish Women Poets and the Canon is a collective that became publicly known in 2017. It emerged from discussions among a group of women of varied backgrounds in both Northern Ireland and the Republic who shared a common interest in the status of women in the arts, and it was launched in response to the publication of the current edition of the Cambridge Companion to Irish Poetry, an authoritative compendium that is re-published periodically in updated editions.
The exclusion of women in that volume and others like it was neither remarkable nor novel; what was noteworthy on this occasion was the existence of a body of recently published research on the careers of a number of successful Irish women poets in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. (A notable example is Poetry by Women in Ireland: A Critical Anthology 1870-1970 by Dr. Lucy Collins.) This research brought to light the poetry of several Irish women who had enjoyed important reputations in the past. The Cambridge volume ignored this research, and just four of its thirty chapters were devoted to female writers, while only four female critics had been commissioned to provide chapters.
The response was the launch of Fired! Irish Women Poets and the Canon through two lines of action: a pledge aimed at redressing the gender imbalance in Irish poetry and a series of readings throughout Ireland and abroad to focus attention on historical Irish women poets. Read more »