Wednesday 23 September 2020

Ruth Stacey, "I, Ursula"

Ruth Stacey
is a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Worcester. Her second full poetry collection, I Ursula, was published Jan 2020, by V.Press Poetry. Her first poetry collection, Queen, Jewel, Mistress, was published by Eyewear Publishing, 2015. Her pamphlets include Inheritance (Mothers Milk Books, 2017); a duet with another poet, Katy Wareham Morris, this explores 19th-century experience of motherhood, contrasted with a 21st-century mother's voice. Inheritance won Best Collaborative Work at the 2018 Saboteur Awards. A poetic memoir, How to Wear Grunge, was published by The Knives, Forks and Spoons Press in 2018 and was shortlisted for best pamphlet at the Saboteur Awards 2019. An experimental pamphlet, Viola the Virgin Queen, is published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press. Stacey is currently writing an imagined memoir in poetry of the tarot artist Pamela Colman Smith, as part of her PhD study. Her website is here.

About I, Ursula

By Ruth Stacey

My second poetry collection focuses on muses and discusses various aspects of the artist / muse relationship. Muses are often used as a projection for the artist's personal feelings, making a muse something that becomes idealised and objectified. How does the muse feel about this, and how do they strive for their own artistic expression? There are varying perspectives in the book; some poems embody and voice famous muses like Lizzie Siddal, Jane Morris or Iseult Gonne. Other poems direct the gaze at the poet’s muses becomes poetic memoir. The relationship between artist and muse is often romanticised and sensual; it can project a strength on to the muse to buttress against the existential dread and anxiety felt in the artist. This becomes an uneven relationship of unreliable narratives. I explored many poetic forms as a way of expressing these anxieties and desires. The various expressions of haunting and themes in the work, that appeared in the many redrafts and creative process, include inhabiting rural landscapes, animal shapeshifting, mental illness, inheritances, folklore, witchcraft and fears centred around mothering children.

Here are two poems from the collection:

Jeanne H├ębuterne

I paint quickly, staring into a mirror propped
against new canvases. 

Modi sketches me; my neck slicks into a snake. 
Brown eyes tender in his version of my face.

Peach and pink oil paint on my skin: 
painted becomes my skin. 

My brush echoes the blue of my robes
in my cheekbones.

Auburn hair held back by a circlet of fabric 
transforms into a headdress. 

Queen-fierce expression stares out, 
reflected from my mirror into portrait. 

He lowers his sketch of me to note 
I capture my soul more accurately than he.

Averse Muse 

If you don't want 
poems written about 
you, then

do not make me fall in love with you
by seducing me softly until the honey

You should flee female poets; their call 
will transform you into a buck 
leaping to escape the word dogs. 

This is solid advice; it is true. 
Beware, your brown eyes will turn bitter – 
I am not just this season, not your bit of fun 

because I will write poems that will petrify 
your royal jelly into wax; I will 
describe the growl that you make as you come

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