Monday 2 March 2020

For 2020, the StAnza Blog is hosting DURA – the Dundee University Review of the Arts – who as reviewers in virtual residence on the StAnza Blog will post excerpts from their selection of reviews of titles by poets on the StAnza 2020 programme, including this one in today’s blog. The full review can be read on their website at  https://dura-dundee.org.uk/category/poets-stanza-2019-reviews/. Written by staff and students, DURA is keen to promote the diversity of artists and art forms in the UK context, supporting especially (albeit non-exclusively) independent cinema outlets, exhibitions, theatre, film and publishing. 

Sophie Collins, Who is Mary Sue?, reviewed by Hannah Whaley

"Building on a poetic career which includes translations, editing collections, and commissioned work, Sophie Collins offers an inventive exploration of the social dismissiveness of female creativity and women's right to claim the narrative 'I' in fiction writing. The result is a purposeful assemblage of prose fragments, quotes, interview excerpts, and original verse, which defy easy categorisation as a poetry collection, but have been variously described by the author as ‘hybrid poems’ or ‘lyric essays’."

Following an extended preface comprised of words, poems and an image of the Greek muse Euterpe, the title section ‘Who is Mary Sue?’ charts the emergence of the term in 1973 to discredit fanfiction, and how it has since become shorthand for undermining all women’s fiction – ‘an unwitting embodiment of the double standard of content’. The symbolic inclusion of blank pages directly after the observation that ‘fear of creating a Mary Sue may be restricting and even silencing some writers’ is more unsettling than many of the poems that follow. The lessons we absorb by seeing other women’s work dismissed become embodied in the words we never write....

Collins blurs the boundaries between real and imagined reporting of misogyny, doubling down on her assertion that female creativity is viewed as limited to domestic and personal experience:

I thought again and again about the curdled smell and texture of disposable nappies, though
I’d never touched one.