Add a name like Sappho
to your line and
you add more than you think.
As she steps, re-imagined,
out of legend, a cluster of compulsions
sounds to the strains of the lyre.
Here is classical aporia, grafted
onto creeds with newer-sounding names –
the springboard for all time
remains her legendary allure.
Antigone disdains degree.
When she campaigns for right
she shuns solutions brewed
in the convention centres where
her uncle feels at home. Her sister’s
human hesitation she eschews.
She stands, we’re told, for truth.
Like any truth, her truth is garmented
in the half-truth of particulars.
Yet her name flames in the corridors of old account.
I admire the empathy and the imaginative energy which characterise Paula’s critical writings, qualities that feed her ongoing interest in, and support for, other writers. Paula once wrote generously about a poem of mine called ‘Penelope waits’. Perhaps her approval was a factor in my going on to write tiny narratives summing up the actions and legacies of other women from the ancient world. Among many poems that consider, in ways lyrical and surprising, contexts associated with women, Paula famously has tea with some distinguished women writers. I offer her my take on two women from legend and ancient history.