Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Honno Poem of the Month: Rapunzel

I'm pleased to announce that my poem Rapunzel is Poem of the Month on the Honno website.

Honno was established twenty-five years ago to increase opportunities for Welsh women writers and to bring Welsh women writers to a wider public. It is currently the only independent women's press in the UK. Rosanne Reeves, one of the founders, interviewed in The Cambrian News, gave an account of the situation in Wales which led to the setting up of the press:

"None of the publishing houses in Wales were particularly interested in promoting women's literature or writers, especially not in English... the thought of going out to look for new female talent and female voices was not a priority. It was in the 1980s that Greenham Common started, when women from Cardiff marched to the base; Welsh Women's Aid extended to rural Wales; the Miners' Strike brought women of the valleys out of their kitchens, to return to their kitchens empowered;... and a political branch of the Women's Section of Plaid Cymru was developed.

The opportunity to sell women's literature became a possibility - the influence of Virago, The Women's Press, Spare Rib, Onlywomen and the Attic Press in Ireland led the way. But of course Wales was different from England and there was a gap in the market in Wales for books which were relevant to the women of Wales, in both languages."

Honno's authors have included Sian James, Malorie Blackman, Tessa Hadley, Lindsay Ashford, Patricia Duncker, Kitty Sewell and many others. There have been several high-profile awards, including most recently Bethan Darwin's novel Back Home which won the Aur Pur Award 2010 and Cold Enough to Freeze Cows by Lorraine Jenkin which was shortlisted for the People's Book prize.
Jane MacNamee's anthology of women writing about nature, In Her Element, includes essays by Christine Evans; Sian Melangell Dafydd; Jane Matthews; Dee Rivaz; Jay Griffiths; Patricia Barrie and Sue Anderson. The book was serialised on Radio 4.

Sadly Honno no longer publish poetry books but they have established the Poem of the Month feature on their website to promote the work of women poets in Wales. And one of my favourite books of poetry, Vixen, by Glenda Beagan, is still available. In this, her first collection of poems, "she dips into the world of nature and myth to draw on themes, which though ancient, still have a powerful effect on the modern world. Through the central figure of the vixen she looks at the twin pulls of motherhood and independence, and explores how it feels to be a woman in Wales today".

There is also a collection of Welsh Women's Poetry 1460 - 2001 which includes brief biographies of each poet, and some daring new translations. The editors have produced "a superbly researched anthology that illustrates the breadth, power and skill of Welsh women's poetry". "This groundbreaking volume is the first bilingual anthology of Welsh women's poetry, demonstrating the rich, varied canon of poetry by Welsh women, in both the Welsh and English languages. It ranges from Gwerful Mechain, the Welsh women's Chaucer, to acclaimed contemporary poets such as Menna Elfyn and Gillian Clarke, and many works which previously existed only in handwritten manuscripts in the National Library of Wales.

The Welsh word honno is the feminine form of  'that one' (who is elsewhere).