New and Selected Poems of Anna Wickham
UWA Publishing $29.99 pb, 171 pp, 9781742589206
Rhymed verse is a wide net
Through which many subtleties escape.
Nor would I take it to capture a strong thing
Such as a whale.
This manifesto for free verse comes from a poet whose associates at the time included Harold Monro, Richard Aldington, and D.H. Lawrence in London, Harriet Monroe and Louis Untermeyer in New York, Natalie Clifford Barney in Paris. Anna Wickham (1883–1947) mixed with the modernist writers and artists of her time on both sides of the Atlantic and was widely admired for her early books, The Contemplative Quarry (1915), The Man with a Hammer (1916), and The Little Old House (1921).
Yet subtleties were not her strong point, and she often fell back on rhymed verse to make the challenging feminist statements for which she is best known, ‘strong things’ such as: ‘I married a man of the Croydon class / When I was twenty-two / And I vex him, and he bores me / Till we don’t know what to do!’ and, indeed, for her signature poem, ‘Note on Method’: ‘Here is no sacrificial I, / Here are more I’s than yet were in one human, / Here I reveal our common mystery: / I give you woman. / Let it be so for our old world’s relief / I give you woman, and my method’s brief.’