This week we welcome Lucy Dixcart to talk about one of the poems from her pamphlet, Faint (Wild Pressed Books, 2020)
Hi Nigel – thanks so much for the opportunity to talk about one of my poems from Faint .
‘An Angel Beguiled’ is a little unusual, in that I wrote it for a specific call for submissions – an anthology of poems to celebrate the George Eliot on the bicentenary of her birth. The anthology, An Insubstantial Universe, is a collaboration between Yaffle Press and Leeds Trinity University, and I was delighted that my poem was included. Incidentally the launch of the anthology in May last year was my very first poetry reading over Zoom – a most nerve-wracking experience!
George Eliot was the focus of an extended essay I wrote at university (some time ago!) so it was a joy to revisit some of her novels while looking for inspiration for a poem. While The Mill on the Floss is a particular favourite of mine, I kept coming back to Middlemarch, and in particular the relationship between Dorothea and Casaubon.
I find Eliot’s heroines appealing because they are both flawed and well-rounded: they strive for so much, but often fall short. What is striking me about Dorothea’s relationship with Casaubon is that while it is ultimately a nightmare, she pursues him at the beginning of the novel with considerable determination and has such a clear vision of what their marriage will look like.
In the poem I wanted to capture some of this complexity without being too wordy. Looking back through some earlier drafts, there were some more dramatic turns of phrase that I edited out along the way – I guess I was aiming for a mood of quiet restraint. What I really wanted to convey was the sense that in her pursuit of what she sees as a subordinate role, Dorothea is anything but passive – something that I tried to draw out in the last line of the poem, with the double meaning of ‘serve’.
When I was writing Faint, the tension between passivity and proactivity is something that came up again and again: traditional gender roles are explored in ‘Ballroom Dancing for Introverts’ and ‘Rules of Romance’, while ‘Faint’ and ‘Princess Alexandra and the Glass Piano’ present faintness almost as an act of aggression.
Thanks again for the opportunity to write this; it’s been fun to sit and think about the poem and what I was trying to convey.
Next week read my review of Lucy Dixcart’s fabulous ‘Faint‘.