Voices from Fairyland, edited by Theodora Goss, features the fantastical poems of Mary Coleridge (1861-1907), Charlotte Mew (1869-1928), and Sylvia Townsend Warner (1893-1978). The book is published as part of the "Conversation Pieces" series from Aqueduct Press. (Learn more about it on Aqueduct's blog.)
I admit I'm not wild about the book's design (there are so many great drawings and paintings by Victorian women artists that could have been chosen for the cover), but I have nothing but praise for what's inside. This is a wonderful little volume, spotlighting classic poems that are too little known today, even by mythic arts aficionados, supported by excellent essays that put these writers' work into context. Aqueduct Press asked Goss to include some of her own magical poetry in the book -- an unusual but successful choice, for it shows how Goss's work (like the work of a number of other women writers in the mythic arts field) is part of an on-going conversation with women writers who came before us.
"In this book," she says, "I have chosen to focus on poems by Mary Coleridge, Charlotte Mew, and Sylvia Townsend Warner because of all the poets I could have included, they are the ones who I think have been the most unjustly neglected -- the most talented among those whose talents have gone largely unrecognized....While I was working on this anthology, a friend asked me why I was working on it rather than on a story or even a novel. I said, 'If I don't do it, who will?' It felt like an obligation toward three women writers who have influenced me deeply.
"But Coleridge, Mew, and Warner are only three examples of what I consider a broader phenomenon, the rest of the ice that must be present, under water, when we see icebergs floating on a northern sea. That underwater ice is the tradition of women writing fantastical poetry."
I look forward to reading that larger anthology one day. In the meantime, Voices of Fairyland is a treasure, and I highly recommend it.
Art credits: The first two images above are by Emma Florence Harrison (1877-1925). The last two pieces are by Eleanor Vere Boyle (1825-1916) and Jennie Harbour (early 20th century, exact dates unknown).