I’m often asked why I work on contemporary writing rather than something that has already stood the test of time. I think many people, particularly academics, have this fear of contemporary writing as something fleeting, or are of the opinion that somehow modernity means mediocrity. I’ve always disagreed strongly with either of these views – and I have plenty of reasons for working on poetry post-1990.
Contemporary work speaks directly to my own experience (and probably yours too) because it comes out of how we live. It also offers me challenging new ways of viewing my surroundings. I’m also not much of a historian, and put simply I’d have a fresh new slim volume over a cracking manuscript any day.
And so, the arrival of Leontia Flynn’s latest collection Profit and Loss (Cape, 2011) caused much excitement. Fresh material like the poems in this collection have already sent my research off in new directions, and studying these poems for all they are worth is very invigorating. I had already seen a proof copy, and from that I’d put together a tentative abstract for the Contemporary Women’s Gothic conference in November (another positive – my paper will probably be the first ever consideration of this work in academic circles).
I’ve returned from a long weekend in Northern Ireland, and I can almost see the new term on the horizon since Oxford Brookes are already welcoming their freshers. Now is the time to reflect on the new bounty my poet seems to have thrown my way. I’m beginning my paper with this quote in mind:
‘The poems themselves aren’t hugely influenced by gothic literature, as such, it is more the notion of being aware that gothic literature is a specifically female genre, often about madness and ghosts’