We pooled out into a field at dawn, a scattering of angry men and me, fierce at the heart of them,my back still wet with blood, shining from the whip. I was calm, like water. The pressure of itfrozen. Men, my men. I had thosemarks on my bare legsfrom damp grass, my bodicewas open, they could seemy breasts. But I was their sister, their goddess, their queen;my lightning grief was theirs, my thunder anger rolledacross the milky fields, a star for them to follow - on footor broken, on their knees.
This poem is taken from Jane Holland's second collection, Boudicca & Co.,
a provocative and vibrant exploration of women and their roles in
society. The perennial themes of motherhood, love and sex jostle for
space here with elegies, poetry written for performance, and
Celtic-inspired mythological pieces. Richly allusive, these poems create
networks between each other, tell stories, make music and ask
unexpected questions of the reader.
A collection with a powerful sense of place, Boudicca & Co.
is located mainly within the British Isles, though not always in the
present day. Often retrospective in mood, these poems deal with the
poet's own difficult past and with historical Britain, reinventing
Celtic and Medieval stories and myths in particular. Yet there is also a
Britain here that never existed, a landscape of the imagination, where a
restless questioning spirituality tries to make sense of the gaps
between expectation and reality.
Sensual and politically engaged, Boudicca & Co. drives
narrative poetry in new feminist directions, creating a host of female
characters with strong individual voices and complex agendas. The title
poem is a long ambitious sequence in the voice of Boudicca,
disenfranchised Queen of the Iceni who leads the Ancient Britons in
rebellion against the Roman settlers. It follows Boudicca's transition
from wife and mother to warrior queen, prepared to kill in the pursuit
of freedom, blindly ruthless in her desire for revenge. The sequence
explores the themes of national identity, personal betrayal and civil
war with dark anarchic humour and an uncompromising starkness not for
Jane Holland is an English poet, novelist,
editor and former professional snooker player, born in Essex in 1966.
She won an Eric Gregory Award for her poetry in 1996. Her first
collection, The Brief History of a Disreputable Woman, was published by Bloodaxe in 1997. A first novel, Kissing the Pink,
followed from Sceptre in 1999. One of the top poetry performers in the
Midlands, she lives in Warwickshire with her husband and five children.
She was named Warwick Poet Laureate in 2007.
For further information, go to Salt Publishing.
Please note: we'll be taking a break over Easter - the Weekly Poem service will resume at the beginning of April.