4 Canadian Poets who have Inspired Me

Part 3: Dorothy Livesay, 1909-1996

“In addition to her literary contributions, Dorothy Livesay has been a passionate advocate of women’s rights, social justice and peace. She is a highly original thinker and educator.” (from The Order of British Columbia)

In his introduction, Gary Geddes wrote, “Livesay has always been concerned about the role of women in society. There is no shortage of women in her poetry, from ruined maids and overburdened housewives to political activists.” 15 Canadian Poets x 3 

Perhaps it was Livesay’s feminist writings that first attracted me to her work, but it was her confessional poetry that inspired my own.  Her poem “The Unquiet Bed” is an unusual pick for me because of its rhyme scheme and cadence. But, when put into context, it’s quite brilliant, especially when you consider the struggle of women poets on the literary scene.

The Unquiet Bed 
The woman I am
is not what you see
I’m not just bones
and crockery

the woman I am
knew love and hate
hating the chains
that parents make

longing that love
might set men free
yet hold them fast
in loyalty

the woman I am
is not what you see
move over love
make room for me

– Dorothy Livesay

Notice that she doesn’t use any punctuation, and when you read it out loud, it sounds a like a nursery rhyme. But, it’s not that simple. When you read the words, you hear the voice of a woman trying to be heard.

And what about the bed? The title suggests an unquiet bed. If we look at the bed as a sort symbol of the domestic sphere, we can see that Livesay is trying to challenge the status quo of gender roles.

(Slightly off topic…I recently came across a book review from the Globe and Mail on The Unmade Bed: The Messy Truth About Men and Women in the 21st Century By Stephen Marche….I wonder if the book was inspired by Livesay’s work???)

In the spirit of The Unquiet Bed, I wrote two poems. The first poem loosely follows Livesay’s rhyme scheme and ironic undertone:

screenshot-6.png

For this second poem, I’ve decided to try something different by reciting it in a video. Unquiet Bed II is unlike Livesay’s poem in its tone and structure, but similar in its concern for feminist issues. It also reflects my own preoccupation with the passing of time, and what that means, specifically for women.

 

 

 

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