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radio & podcasts

Sublimer Wishes

Sublimer Wishes explores the lives and poetry of Irish women from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries whose work, after years of neglect, is being re-discovered.

Episode 1: Olivia Elder, Cathleen O’Neill, Madge Herron – first broadcast Sunday 28th November 2021 on RTÉ lyric fm

Episode 2: Angela Greene, Dorothea Herbert, Florence Mary Wilson – first broadcast Sunday 6 March 2022 on RTÉ lyric fm

Episode 3: Ellen Taylor, Emily Lawless, Freda Laughton – broadcast forthcoming 17th April 2022 on RTÉ lyric fm at 6 pm

EPISODE 1

“For spite of all sublimer wishes

I needs must sometimes wash the dishes.”

(Olivia Elder, 1735-1780)

Ah, yes, we can all empathise with Olivia Elder’s lament about daily life getting in the way of her desire to spend time writing poetry and reading. 

Claire Cunningham presents Sublimer Wishes, which tells the stories of three poets whose work has been recently rediscovered. Andrew Carpenter introduces us to Olivia Elder, who was born in Aghadowey in Northern Ireland in 1735. Andrew edited The Poems of Olivia Elder, published by the Irish Manuscripts Commission in 2017, and her lively poems are read on the programme by Eleanor Methven.

Emma Penney tells us about the work of Cathleen O’Neill, who played a key role in setting up writing groups and encouraging adult education in the 1980s, and reads poems by Cathleen which describe the lives of working class women in 20th century Dublin.

In Donegal, we meet Patricia Herron, who recalls meeting her aunt, the poet Madge Herron. Patricia’s biography of her aunt, Madge: portrait of Donegal actress and poet Madge Herron (copies available by contacting glenamohill@yahoo.com), was published in 2016. Poet Jane Robinson admires Madge Herron’s nature poetry and describes a performance she gave in Dublin in the 1970s. We also hear rare recordings of the poet’s own voice from a 1977 RTÉ radio documentary by Kevin O’Connor.

The book Irish Women Poets Rediscovered, edited by Maria Johnston and Connor Linnie and published by Cork University Press, includes chapters on these three poets: Olivia Elder (by Andrew Carpenter), Cathleen O’Neill (Emma Penney) and Madge Herron (Jane Robinson) and the work of a further 14 poets.

This episode of Sublimer Wishes is the first in an occasional series of programmes produced by Rockfinch Ltd for RTÉ lyric fm and funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland from the Television Licence Fee. The producer for RTÉ lyric fm is Eoin O’Kelly. Later episodes, due for broadcast in 2022, will feature the work of more poets from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

The programme is available as a Lyric Feature podcast and on the RTÉ Radio Player: https://www.rte.ie/radio/lyricfm/clips/22036119/

PHOTO

Madge Herron (courtesy of Patricia Herron)

EPISODE 2

Angela Greene, Dorothea Herbert, Florence Mary Wilson

The Lyric Feature, RTÉ lyric fm, TX060322, 18:00

Logline

Claire Cunningham presents Sublimer Wishes, telling the stories of three poets whose work has been rediscovered: Angela Greene, Dorothea Herbert, and Florence Mary Wilson.

Billing

On Sunday 6th March, at 6 pm on RTÉ lyric fm, Claire Cunningham presents Sublimer Wishes, telling the stories of three poets whose work has been rediscovered and whose lives bring us from the 18th to the 20th century.

Angela Greene was born in England in 1936 and as a child brought by her parents to Ireland when World War 2 broke out. Later, Angela and her husband settled in Drogheda, where Susan Connolly met her at a local writing group. They became friends and fellow poets, encouraging each other’s work. 

In this programme, Susan recalls their friendship and Angela’s poetry, which ranged widely from poems about her family to politics. Angela’s daughter, Miriam, remembers her mother’s writing room, the special relationship that developed when her mother asked her opinion on poems, and her mother’s delight as her work gained recognition. She won the Kavanagh Award, which led to the publication of her debut collection by Salmon Poetry: Silence and the Blue Night.

We hear some of Angela’s poems in the programme, read by her daughter, Miriam, and actor Paula McGlinchey.

Angela’s poem Ancient Garden looks forward to a time when she would be gone, but the garden would remember her:

To this ancient garden I am

a future ghost. A pale shape

in its tiredness that waters and weeds.

Now, after having been somewhat forgotten by the world of poetry, and neglected by various anthologies, Angela Greene is being remembered by inclusion in the book Irish Women Poets Rediscovered, published by Cork University Press, in an essay written by Susan Connolly.

Bernardette Gallagher has contributed a chapter to the same book on Dorothea Herbert, who was born in the late 1760s, or possibly 1770, in Carrick-on-Suir. Her father was a Protestant clergyman and her mother from a family connected with royalty, although the family was of lower gentry status.

Her poems include the humorous The Parson’s Fireside, which describes a family evening at home, including a squabble between her parents about whose job it was to poke the fire. Other poems – both light and serious – give an insight into the position of women of her status in society. The Rights of Woman references Thomas Paine’s The Rights of Man, only recently published:

While Man is so busy asserting his rights

Shall Woman lie still without gaining new lights

Another poem, Lines addressed to a Friend, laments the difficulty of finding a husband. While it is a humorous poem, the issue of getting married or ending up an old maid was a serious one. 

Dorothea Herbert wrote a journal, novels, plays and poetry, none of which were published in her lifetime. Her poetry was finally discovered by Frances Finnegan and published in 2011 in her book Introspections: The poetry and private world of Dorothea Herbert. A selection of Dorothea Herbert’s work is read for the programme by actor Ingrid Craigie.

Finally, Carol Baraniuk tells us about Florence Mary Wilson, born in County Antrim in 1874. Her work was widely published in Irish and English newspapers and journals, and she published one collection, The Coming of the Earls, with poems on themes from celtic myth to history, and we hear her use of lively Ulster Scots language and expressions in readings by actor Eleanor Methven.

One of her poems, a dramatic monologue, became particularly popular. The man from God knows where tells the tale of a mysterious stranger, Thomas Russell, a supporter of the United Irishmen.

Into our townlan’ on a night of snow
rode a man from God knows where; 
None of us bade him stay or go, 
nor deemed him friend, nor damned him foe, 
but we stabled his big roan mare; 
for in our townlan’ we’re decent folk, 
and if he didn’t speak, why none of us spoke, 
and we sat till the fire burned low.

Over a century after it was written, it was included by the singer and songwriter Phil Coulter on his album The Songs I Loved So Well, and the programme ends with his dramatic rendition of the poem.

The book Irish Women Poets Rediscovered, edited by Maria Johnston and Connor Linnie, published in 2021 by Cork University Press, includes chapters on these three poets: Angela Greene (by Susan Connolly), Dorothea Herbert (Bernadette Gallagher) and Florence Mary Wilson (Carol Baraniuk) and the work of a further 14 poets.

This episode of Sublimer Wishes is the second in an occasional series of programmes produced by Rockfinch Ltd for RTÉ lyric fm and funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland from the Television Licence Fee. The producer for RTÉ lyric fm is Eoin O’Kelly.

The programme is available as a Lyric Feature podcast and on the RTÉ Radio Player: https://www.rte.ie/radio/lyricfm/clips/22070882/

PHOTO

Angela Greene (Courtesy of Miriam Greene)

EPISODE 3:

Ellen Taylor, Emily Lawless, Freda Laughton

The Lyric Feature, RTÉ lyric fm, TX170422, 18:00

Claire Cunningham presents Sublimer Wishes, telling the stories of three poets whose work has been rediscovered: Ellen Taylor, Emily Lawless and Freda Laughton.

Billing

On Sunday 17th April, at 6 pm on RTÉ lyric fm, Claire Cunningham presents Sublimer Wishes, telling the stories of three poets whose work has been rediscovered and whose lives bring us from the 18th to the 20th century.

Professor Sarah Prescott introduces us to the life and work of Ellen Taylor. She was born into poverty, worked for a time as a servant, and what little we know about her is gleaned from a slim book of poems published in 1792. Her work fits into the category of poetry written by the ‘labouring classes’, with titles like ‘Written by the BARROW side, where she was sent to wash LINEN’.

By contrast, Emily Lawless, who lived from 1845 to 1913, was born into wealth and privilege. She was an accomplished scientist who made observations on nature in the Burren that attracted the attention of Charles Darwin. As Dr Seán Hewitt explains, both science and history are strong themes in her poetry.

Freda Laughton was born in Bristol and lived most of her life in Ireland, spending some time in Dublin and many years in Belfast. Jaclyn Allen writes about her work in Irish Women Poets Rediscovered and we also hear from her grand-daughter, Jennie McClearn, who can give us first-hand memories of her. Dr Emma Penney, who is conducting further research on her work, talks about the thrill of discovering that a large archive of hundreds of unpublished poems and dozens of stories and diaries exists, presenting new opportunities to make Freda Laughton’s work better known.

The book Irish Women Poets Rediscovered, edited by Maria Johnston and Conor Linnie and published in 2021 by Cork University Press, includes chapters on these three poets: Ellen Taylor (by Sarah Prescott), Emily Lawless (Seán Hewitt) and Freda Laughton (Jaclyn Allen) and the work of a further 14 poets.

This episode of Sublimer Wishes is the third of three programmes produced by Rockfinch Ltd for RTÉ lyric fm and funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland from the Television Licence Fee. The producer for RTÉ lyric fm is Eoin O’Kelly.

After broadcast, the programme will be available to podcast on the usual podcast platforms and on the RTÉ Radio Player.

PHOTO

Freda Laughton (Courtesy of Jennie McClearn)