In the Women's Room: Marsha De La O, Poet



this is kppq LP ventura 105.1 FM and work in the women's room where we appreciate and support each other I'm your host Kathleen good my guest today is Marcia Dayla all poet and friend of in the women's room Marcia has written three books of poetry black hope antidote for night and every ravening thing she has published poems in many national journals including The New Yorker as well as editing a poetry journal spillway with her husband Phil Taggart Marcia we're so happy to have you here again today thank you I'm very glad to be here I asked Marcia here today to tell us the story of the first poet do you know who it is Marcia wrote a poem in honor of this mystery person for her latest collection every ravening thing but first Marcia let's talk a little bit about the overriding theme of your most recent book and what is that I would say the overriding theme is trauma uh-huh and do you mean trauma in general or do you have a specific type of trauma in mind I had in mind trauma caused by violence and there are a range of different characters affected by violence including men in the book uh-huh is your book a collection of feminist poems I would say yes yes they are feminist poems they don't all deal with women but they are feminist poems in the sense that they look at the patriarchy and violence as a part of the patriarchy and for today you've chosen the poem any doula for the poet and hey Juwanna of Urich 2350 BC and I hope I pronounced a very difficult name correctly marginal goodwill pronounced so Marsha tell us about this poet the poet and into one of the rook was probably the chief priest because they did not have gendered term priests priestess in the city of a rook about 5000 years ago and her her goddess was a Nanna who was the most important goddess in the pantheon of deities and about 20 about 5000 years ago the city of Uruk was overrun by a conquering army and this woman this priest in Adana was raped and exiled okay well maybe now would be a good time to read the poem for your listener and then we can talk about her fascinating story okay for the poet and a DeWanna of the rook 2350 BC she considers the shape of an idea that lightning resembles a feather the poet presses her wedge-shaped Reed into soft red clay a shaft and slender Barb's this Reed plucked from the banks of the Tigris and cut into a stylus Tigris sunrise is one of her names her name is color and motion her liquid name cloud escapes released their charge with a strike a shaft and feathering lightning and feather same symbol for both line and cross hatching small flag in strong wind her name is light a corona forms around the central shaft a tree reaches upward to call lightning down a knight and feathered with storm darkness split with branching light when o rook fill her temple destroyed lugal on the Conqueror defiled her always she remembers the little pouches fish lips made as they parted and came together before he smiled she considers the words wait a narrow Gorge a ruined heart lightning is not ethereal even a feathery Corona smashes against a roof like a load of Sun baked clay he keeps her alive oh I that people might witness her debasement his trophy he keeps her alive she considers lightning and feathers the charge enters at the nape of her neck and flows downward like water her limbs start up in a Concord of fire and water and her hand picks up the stylus this chance to sing back the world this is how an exile returns to the city the poet presses her wedge shape read into soft red clay she inscribes her name nin Messara Wow well I hope our women's room listeners will be as fascinated as I was to learn that the poem is dedicated to and is about the first known poet of the ancient world and she was a woman so Marsha she actually has a seven in the last words she actually signed her clay tablet poem in 2350 BC what is the significance of this act well it's hugely significant in that there were many clay tablets that contained various myths stories and verses on them in ancient Sumer but none of them had a name one so when she decided to put her name on her poems which were all hymns to annona I'm praising her and asking for her help she was doing something completely radical mmm Wow sort of like the wheel being invented yes and she becomes thus the ancestor of all other poets who signed their name Wow so how did you come across her poetry in that and yo and also what is the backstory to this time leap that's so relevant in our days of hatch take me to well I came across this the some of the myths of Inanna through Diane walks teens book and storytelling feminist storytelling in the 90s and it took some time more than that for me to realize that there was this separate set of poems in praise of Inanna that was written by ennahdha Juana mmm-hmm so yeah when you heard any DeWanna story spur what did it spark in you as you heard her peeing down the centuries I mean this is like 5000 years ago she wrote this well I was so struck by the fact that this is exactly what women are still dealing with and in 2017 when the meet hashtag me to movement started the decision really was made to bring your story forth with your name attached and that made all the difference that huh that the names allowed more names to come forth so that the structural problem of violence against women could be examined mm-hmm and that's what she did 5,000 years ago and we're still doing that exactly so do you think writing this poem for her became in part her healing from that violation of being overthrown from her position raped and then exiled to the hills absolutely I I I try to in the poem make the lightning strike become a form of power for her that she's channeling the electrical the fire that it took to write what she was going to write and then the act of signing her name was the act of reclaiming herself Wow now you talked about how the poem deals with the consequences of patriarchy in terms of imagining God as a male and how that figures into the treatment of women what if people imagine God as a window a woman I think I think if it were possible to imagine God as female that it would definitely change the status of women major world religions see an image the highest sacred Authority as masculine and oftentimes the restrictions around who can access that God via the priesthood are are relegated to the male and thus women are seen as outside the sacred and from there it's a short hop too polluted and unclean so I you know I heard her as you did her pain down the centuries and I want when we talked about this poem just prior to reading your article the article about you in the VC reporter I was in London hmm and I saw a wonderful feminist play called Amelia and it was about a woman named Amelia Lanny a a woman poet who was a contemporary and friend of Shakespeare and a published poet unheard of in 1610 when women were not much more than domestic animals useful mainly for giving birth she was a woman who spoke out about the abuse and tears of women so Ann hey Joanna you know sounds very like her in this you know all the way down all those centuries occasionally women stand up and speak out and this is what you did what is the universal lament of those few women who cried out I I want to I want to talk about those few women that I did that there were only a few I think that we have to look at how we know this and in Shakespeare's time it was unusual for women to be educated they would have not necessarily literate I'm not sure about ancient Sumer it is a key education is a key thing when it comes to writing well yeah na DeWanna signed her name because she knew the language she knew the language so access to education is key but as to regards to your second question what is the universal lament of those few women who cried out I think it is selfhood it has to do with selfhood their voices are not taken from them if they can articulate it in a way that stays mm-hmm and the poetry is one way that it stays evidently so and here we are 5,000 years later and you are a woman who is still speaking out about abuse and trauma do you feel connected to n hey Joanna yes I absolutely do feel connected to any of the one and I know some other women do as well partly because we both right mm-hmm she was a poet and I'm a poet and I feel also that she was reaching for spiritual balance in the world and I think women are also reaching for that balance today mm-hmm and what do you mean by spiritual balance do you mean the masculine and feminine attributes absolutely yes that she was reaching within her society for equivalency uh-huh with men Wow so talk a little bit about a woman priest and the power she would have had before she was crushed in ancient Sumer okay so and in summer there was a polytheist Pantheon meaning that they had gods and goddesses and that's the usual thing that there would be gods goddesses through oh yeah throughout the throughout the Middle East and in the ancient world and early in general yes so that idea that there was a female image of the sacred did allow for women to relate to the sacred there were women gods there was no gendering at all of the idea of priests priestess there was no need for the word priestess because whoever it was that stood in that relationship to god or goddess was a priest it wasn't necessarily a matriarch but Anana herself seems to have been the most powerful of all the gods as far as they can tell by images and stories about her from ancient Sumer yeah and it's easy to confuse the two names and Haida Lana and ananna yes just a reminder listener that in hey Joanna is the author of the poem that Marcia they all wrote a poem about Nenana is the goddess that enheduanna worshipped yes okay so a monotheistic belief system much like our own which has only one God a male God presumably like the patriarchal one that the Conqueror lugal on in the poem would not have been able to accept a woman as a high priest or in a woman in any position empowered so he had to do away with her is that yeah did I read that correctly I'm I'm not exactly sure how much is known about the exact history of why he had to do away with her uh-huh but going going back to the idea of not being able to accept a woman as a high priest or in any position of power I think we say we see that today in terms of many of the the churches that come from the desert God the monotheistic God the one God the one God that came out of the desert and that is the basis for Judaism Islam and Christianity ultimately Christianity and that is a God without a consort Oh a God without a female side to him mm-hmm and women as a consequence of that are outside the sacred so you see it today where the Southern Baptists take a position men preach to women but it is always inappropriate for women to preach to men oh okay and we're gonna have to leave it there and we're gonna come back with some more questions about a polytheistic collection of gods this is kppq LP ventura 104.1 FM and we're in the women's room where we appreciate and support each other I'm your host Kathleen good my guest today is Marcia Daley all poet and friend of in the women's room Marcia is reading and discussing her poem for Ann hey Juwanna of Urich 2350 BC which is an homage to the first poet who happens to have been a woman okay and we're back and we've been talking about the patriarchy and polytheistic society where they believe in many gods but I was so thought-provoking so the polytheistic pantheon of gods in it would it be correct to assume they're most likely regards with feminine attributes as well as gods with male attributes and if gods and goddesses were both were worshiped so naturally women had a more elevated status it would could you comment on that I think it's possible that that is true I think it's it's true for instance that polytheistic societies tend to be more tolerant than monotheistic societies because monotheistic societies believe that there's one God they know who or what he is right and all the others are wrong whereas polytheistic societies make this something that there are many gods they take many forms including more feminine uh-huh and therefore there is not as much need to battle over who is right and who is wrong and certainly we do know that polytheistic societies have more place for women as sacred beans and as priests and channels of the sacred right so it would be you know just more natural to believe that women could be part of the sacred because they actually honored women gods or worship them prayed to them probably had little statuettes of them oh yes yeah exactly okay so would you think a society with a polytheistic many pan would be more conducive to a belief in a total equality of the sexes I would think so uh-huh I do believe that every major religion today is based in a patriarchal yeah attitude uh-huh but I would like to hold out for that idea of total equality for this excess right right we gotta give a note right here would be a good place to recount the story of the anonymous but God assume and hade Juana invokes and appeals to in her poem well the thing about in Ana is not only that she was the most popular deity in ancient Sumer but that she was so changeable uh-huh that there was so much growth and differentiation that took place during her sort of during her mythic story she's not a fixed personality so at one point in the myth of Inanna she was the goddess of heaven and earth so she's a fertility goddess she's not so much a mother goddess uh-huh and she's not specifically a sex goddess she more imbues the entire girl world and at one point in her story she sets her her ear to the underworld and decides to descend so that that part of her story is known as the descent of Inanna and what's so interesting about that is almost nowhere else in all the various heroes stories do we have do we ever have a female figure pass into the underworld and ananna does and does manage to return through an amazing story so we have you know Orpheus and Aeneas and Virgil etc etc etc Jesus all of them going down to the underworld and a Nona hmm so Anana fits the attributes of the questing hero uh-huh in a way that we haven't heard right in our stories in our society and we keep saying we need more women heroes we meet need more profiles of women who are in positions of power you know and we need not to make fun of them oh absolutely Oh which is a thing that's been done last few years more than ever well maybe not more than ever but it certainly is happening but more publicly than our public public more publicly than ever from any office from an elevated office by a powerful country with ostensible beliefs in the Equality right of men and women right so um anyone uh lived in a culture and she invoked this goddess whom she worshiped in Anna what does her invocation tell us about the culture that she lived in it tells us that there was a place for female power hmm and this is a story we do not have we a myth we do not have in culture and was just just came in to just came into knowledge into our knowledge in the late eighties about something that happened 5,000 years yeah what sort of power would in handle and I have had as a high priest so she was a high priest and I I want to acknowledge that she was also they believed perhaps the daughter of Sargon who was the king of a rook so she had great power and with power comes privilege and that may explain her access to learning but certainly in the cultural life in the ceremonial life of the city she had great power and as such as such as a symbol of that that would have been one reason why the conqueror would have wanted to humiliate her right to destroy the God the God she served as well oh wow yes so y'all have really good takeaway from your poem in your talk is how important education is for women in order to have voices that even the educated woman must be silenced sent away or you know or put down you know it seems like your husband said something her husband is spell Taggert poet laureate of Ventura County and he told me that women changed everything in poetry that by writing about emotions they open poetry up is this true it seems like women not only changed poetry from a male dominated art form in contemporary times but a woman also seems to have invented poetry in the first place great statement [Laughter] I think women poets are everywhere in contemporary times as well as poets who come from diverse backgrounds poets who have been refugee refugees and poets who are people of color or a differently-abled now are speaking up and I think that's wonderful so um do you think that men are copying women by putting more emotion in their poetry much as Shakespeare who was purported to have lifted ideas from Amelia Lonnie's work back in that Elizabethan age I spoke of her earlier as a play that I saw in London so you think this is true even though men are now copying women well just to address the issue of Shakespeare I think he was he was so curious and such a dabbler in so many different journals forms of knowledge all of which he copied so he had an amazing synthetic and synthetic mind right and which is great because I think about men copying women and women copying men I think poetry throughout the ages you read a poem and in some ways you're writing to another poet you could even look at what and I'd wanna did as writing to a nun whose verses came down to her from an earlier time unsigned and she just brought the individuality of the woman mm-hmm into the picture right Wow well and that's not just that's a big thing so where does this leave women when their ideas their knowledge their expression is taken from them when they no longer have their voice or it's silenced I think it leaves them without their selfhood oh I think you have your self hood you must reclaim your voice right and it's so many women you know in the even of the past couple hundred years have been writers but they could not publish if they did under their own names they had to take on a masculine name yes they had to take on a masculine name because it was felt that not only men have a monopoly on the sacred they also had a monopoly on intelligence and on writing uh-huh and education right that's why education is so important yes your poems address themes that are intense controversial and imagined where do you find the courage to speak the truth about the themes of abuse death violence and women's issues how did you find your voice Marcia you know I found my voice gradually and over a long period of time and as I came more fully into self lit because selfhood really is a journey that it takes your entire life to fully fully inhabit I felt stronger about writing about more controversial themes uh-huh so it took you quite a while to it yeah so in the last few minutes is there anything you'd like to say about your love of poetry or about your poems I think what I would like to say about poetry is something that recently I recently ran across from in a quote in the interview of one of my teachers and his name was William Olsen and he was asked what's the difference between poetry and prose and his answer was poetry is closer to the wound oh that's compelling yeah poetry is closer to the wound it's willing to go there and I think we we have that example from our very first known poet Ryan I do wanna of the book well we need to stop right there okay well thank you so much Marcia for the gift of reading your original poem and for being a guest on the show as a woman in the arts thank you I appreciate the opportunity we've been talking to Marcia de la all our very own Ventura poet who read and discussed one of our timely original poems selected especially for the woman's room for the poet and a Juwanna of Urich 2350 BC her latest book of poetry every ravening thing is available at the local library this kppq LP ventura 104.1 FM and weren't in the women's room where we appreciate and support each other I'm your host Kathleen good

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