Lyricism in the World of George Sand

Lyric poetry’s metier is figurative language – metaphor, simile and imagery -- used to represent happenings at human/world intersections, and within the world and the individual, covering, as Jane Hirschfield writes, “both senses and psyche” (2015).(1) These affordances render it particularly suited to the writing of character in poetic biography. The creative artefact from my creative writing PhD is a poetic biography of 19th century French social radical and prolific author, George Sand. As a work of ‘restitution poetics’ it proposes to contribute to repair of a creative, literary women’s lineage damaged by the exclusion or misrepresentation of women. Sand’s multiple milieux lend themselves to lyric representation both in the variety of roles and settings she chose for herself, and in her own rich lyric representation of those worlds in her various writings. She straddled political worlds -- lunch with the first minister, urgent correspondence with Napoléon’s nephew -- as well as more personal settings – conversing with famous artists, writers, and musicians, love trysts, as well as the world of her country property. “The language of the poem”, Mary Oliver avers, “is the language of particulars”(2) and particulars feature in the lyric and narrative modes I employ to hone in on Sand’s world, seeking to capture camembert-and-rough-red, chicken-ammonia, heart-piercing nightingales, rough Berrichon, and lined-foolscap-blue ink worlds. These are conveyed as strategies both to honour her, and to communicate her life in compelling visceral, sensory, and I hope, impactful ways.

Anna Magdalena Bach's Missing Thimble

Reflections on creative poetic process

Three artefacts thought to belong to Anna Magdalena Bach, soprano singer, harpsichordist (and second wife to Johann Sebastian)—ring, thimble and buckle—are mentioned in the Bach archive in Leipzig. Much uncertainty surrounds them; perhaps they have been ‘lost’, or were destroyed by Allied bombing during the Second World War, or perhaps they didn’t even actually belong to her. The uncertain status of the objects is emblematic of how poorly the knowledge about this ‘creative woman of accomplishment’ has been treated over the centuries, overshadowed by interest in, and information about, her eminent spouse. This has allowed authors to project their own views onto Anna Magdalena, in some instances leading to misrepresentations (Talle 2020), and even misappropriation by the Nazis (Yearsley 2019). However, as poetic biographer, it has also given me rich opportunity to imagine into her life.

Anna Magdalena is one of the research subjects about whom I am writing poetic biographies, a project of restitution seeking to redress the omission of creative women of accomplishment from the historical record. This paper looks at the composition process I employed in writing about her thimble (one poem in a sequence), taking a quote from Susan Howe as its starting point which suggests that archival objects are ‘pre-articulate theatres’ (1985), positioning the archival object, even if missing, as a site for unfolding drama.