On 2 June 2021, we gathered round our laptops to see Julia Copus and Thea Ayres bring the spirits of Charlotte Mew and H.D., momentarily, back to this world. As part of the séance, they wrote new poems, mingling their souls with the souls of the dead. We're very pleased to share those poems with you now.
Julia Copus is a poet, biographer and children's writer. Her published collections include The Shuttered Eye (Bloodaxe, 1995), which won her an Eric Gregory Award and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, In Defence of Adultery (Bloodaxe, 2003), The World's Two Smallest Humans (Faber, 2012), shortlisted for both the Costa Book Awards and the T.S. Eliot Prize, and Girlhood (Faber 2019), winner of the inaugural Derek Walcott Prize for Poetry. She created the specular poetic form where the second half of the poem mirrors the first. She resurrected Charlotte Mew (1869 - 1928), whose most famous poem nowadays is 'The Farmer's Bride', and who influenced Virigina Woolf, Thomas Hardy and Siegfried Sassoon amongst others. Read Julia's cento in response to Mew here.
Thea Ayres is a poet from Huddersfield, who is interested in nature, animals, history and queer themes. She was a commended Foyle Young Poet in 2012 and 2014, is a graduate of The Writing Squad, and studied History at Oxford. She is the current social media editor for the poetry organisation Write Out Loud. She brought down the spirit of poet H.D. (1886–1961) aka Hilda Doolittle, an American who spent most of her life in London and Paris, and helped to shape the Modernist movement. Her poems are often short and imagistic - see 'Oread' - and she was also interested in dead women poets, having translated lots of Sappho. Read three new poems from Thea after H.D. here.
These creative responses were commissioned as part of Julia Copus and Thea Ayres's resurrections for a séance on the Dead [Women] Poets Society national tour in 2019-21.
Watch an edited recording of the séance below.
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This project is supported by Arts Council England. Illustrations by Lily Arnold.