'These poems disturb the peace with a loudness hard won from centuries of humility'
Amongst other things, Sarah, who lived in Bristol, came up with a samovar that made tea, cooked eggs and kept toast warm; a method for preventing barnacles from clinging to a ship’s hull; and an exercise bed for women to use at home (since exercising in public was deemed inappropriate for them). Her patented design for making safe piling for bridges was used by Thomas Telford (free of charge), and as a friend of the Brunel family, she was involved in the Great Western Railway project. However, there are no statues erected to Sarah Guppy, and her achievements have been all but dismissed. She herself once said 'It is unpleasant to speak of oneself – it may seem boastful particularly in a woman.'
It was this quote that prompted the good doctors mentioned above to 'seek out contemporary women poets who are speaking out and who are making a fresh mark, registering the straitacket they have had to wear and celebrating the emerging possibility of real change'. And this, in turn, led to the book, the proceeds of which will go to the Malala Fund.
Last night women of all ages travelled from all over the West Country to read at the celebratory launch ...
... with Penelope Shuttle headlining a packed venue.
One of my poems included in the anthology was written especially for it. It's a period piece (of sorts), which takes as its starting point assertions by Pliny the Elder in Naturalis Historia on the subject of menstruation: namely, if a menstruating woman walks barefoot through fields at sunrise, with her hair dishevelled and her girdle loose, the crop will wither and dry up. Her glance at this time will dim the brightness of mirrors and dull the edge of steel.
Then let’s blind this tyranny of mirrors
blunt the blades of our bright pink plastic razors
Let’s not be neat, compact, discreet
hide who we are in the palms of our hands or up our sleeves
We’ll smear our foreheads, noses, cheeks
not with the blood of hunted creatures, stain of killing sprees
but with our blood, this ferrous musk
fecund, nurturing, the russet of red fox
vixen-masked, in long soot gloves
we’ll blaze our clamorous ways through scrub
burn ash paths through suburbs, towns
singe the edge of meadows, commons, forests, downs
scratching sparks from burnt-out stars
chasing flames that leap from heart to heart
©Deborah Harvey 2018
Project Boast is available to buy from the Triarchy website and usual outlets. A Kindle version will be available from April. It is hoped to raise enough money via crowdfunding to equip every school in Bristol - or the West Country - or the entire country - with a copy.