World Poetry Day (1): International Women’s Day

This month we are celebrating both International Women’s Day (8th March) and World Poetry Day (21st March). Therefore, we are showcasing material held in the Special Collections and Science Fiction Foundation collections which contains poetry written by women who personally or professionally impacted greatly on their respective field of literature.

Phillis Wheatley, Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (1773)

Poems on Various Subjects was authored by Phillis Wheatley. Phillis was purchased as a slave by John Wheatley, a Boston Merchant and Tailor, in 1761. She was tutored by John’s children in reading and writing, and wrote her first poem ‘To The University of Cambridge, New England’ at the age of 12. She was relieved of her domestic duties by the Wheatley family, and encouraged  to continue working on her literature. An illustration of Wheatley by Scipio Moorhead, another Boston slave, is provided in the frontispiece; the below extract is taken from a poem within the volume written by Wheatley in return. Our copy belonged to one of the William’s of the Rathbone family (by date most likely IV or V), as signed on the title page. 

SPEC Y77.3.255

To S.M. a young African Painter, on seeing his Works (p. 114).
When first thy pencil did those beauties give,
And breathing figures learnt from thee to live, 
How did those prospects give my soul delight,
A new creation rushing on my sight?

Radclyffe Hall, Rhymes and Rhythms (1948)

Rhymes and Rhythms was published posthumously in an edition of only 500 numbered copies in Milan. Our copy from the Zania collection is numbered as “5”. The text is provided in both the original language of English as well as Italian. Radclyffe Hall (1880-1943) is best known for her work The Well of Lonliness, which when published in 1928 was subject to a trial for obscenity and banned in Great Britain. A self-described “invert”, she lived with two long-term female partners during her lifetime, hence the dedication page inscription “Dedicated to Our Three Selves”.

SPEC ZANIA E68

Those Who Have Eyes… (p.61)
As I took my way down a certain street,
I saw a shop with a corpse of meat,
And a horse that hadn’t enough to eat,
And a cur that limped on neglected feet,
And a cat that rubbed its sores on a wall,
And a lobster that crawled about a stall,
And an organ monkey coughing and small.
But the sight that filled me with deepest rage, 
Was a nightingale in a six inch cage.

Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay (and various others), Five Finger Piglets: Poems (1999)

Carol Ann Duffy and Jackie Kay contributed to this anthology for children, Five Finger Piglets: Poems. Duffy was appointed poet laureate in 2009, and she is the first woman, first Scot, and first openly LGBT person to hold the position; Kay is the third Scottish Poet Laureate, appointed in 2016, and also identifies as LGBT. Our copy of the anthology is held in the SPEC Patten series, as Brian Patten also contributed to this volume. The poetry is understandably centered upon many themes that would be familiar to children (such as friendship disputes at school and losing a ball in the neighbours garden), but, nonetheless, the volume is a excellently fun read for adults, too.

SPEC Patten 108 © 1999 Macmillan Children’s Books, Carol Ann Duffy, Jackie Kay

Excerpt from Dracula (p. 36-7), by and © Jackie Kay
I crawled along the pine floor to my father’s bed.
It was empty. Just a white pillow and a headrest.
My dad gave a large guffaw from the balcony. 

Took off his black cape; threw back his head, 
said, ‘Got you there didn’t I?
Okay. The Joke’s over. Back to your bed.’

Can you believe that? All I am asking is:
who needs imagination, a fear or a dread, 
when what we’ve got is parent’s instead?

Charlotte Brooke, Reliques of Irish Poetry (1816)

Reliques of Irish Poetry was first published in the late eighteenth century. Brooke (c. 1740–1793) was passionate in the preservation of Irish culture and heritage through translating traditional poetry. Our beautiful gilt-tooled calf-bound copy of the 1816 reissue includes an extensive biography of Brooke’s life, as well as poetry and prose in both English and Irish. The text contains poetry of varied types, including quasi-epic style heroics, elegies to loves lost, and odes to wars.

SPEC Y81.3.426

Elergy III, exerpt (p. 260, attributed by Brooke to Edmond Ryan)
For thee all dangers would I brave,
Life with joy, with pride exposing, 
Breast for thee the stormy wave,
Winds and tides in vain opposing.

Ursula K. Le Guin, The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination (2004)

As one of the most influential female Science Fiction authors of all time, Ursula K. Le Guin (1929-2018) is best known for her fiction, including The Left Hand of Darkness (1969; which won both the Hugo and Nebula awards in 1970). However, in her 2004 collection of non-fiction essays The Wave in the Mind, she explores themes including the family, on being a woman, Tolkein, and writing. One particular interesting essay is her thoughts on stress rhythms in poetry and prose; she demonstrates, using various texts, the technique and necessity of reading with stress and rhythm in mind.

PX320.L34.W38 2004 © Ursula K. Le Guin

The observation of a pattern, even a arbitrary pattern, can give strength to words that otherwise would be bleating like lost lambs. (p. 78)

All the above can be consulted in the reading room. As usual, please do contact scastaff@liverpool.ac.uk for more information.

International Cat Day

Today we are feline very good in Special Collections and Archives – August 8th 2017 is International Cat Day. As we are cat-loving librarians and archivists, we have selected a taster of our best cat themed items from the Children’s books, Science Fiction Foundation Collections, Cunard Archive, and University Archive fur you to enjoy.

Children’s Literature

SC&A houses more than 7000 pre-First World War children’s books, of which the tale of mischievous cats throughout is a common feature. In The Tale of Tom Kitten, Tom and his siblings Mittens and Moppet play outside in their best clothes, only for them to be stolen by ducks (Oldham 173). Tit, Tiny, and Tittens: The Three White Kittens are a handful, too – they get themselves in all sorts of predicaments (JUV 308:60).

Oldham 173

JUV.308:60

The History of Whittington and His Cat is the feline rags to riches story we are all familiar with. The copy held here in Special Collections is in the form of a chapbook, a small paperback for children which would sell for a cheap price and provide a story with a moral message. This copy also includes the alphabet, allowing children to practice their reading skills from the most basic stage (Oldham 43).

Oldham 43

Science Fiction Foundation Collections

Continuing the theme of children’s literature, the below novel from the Science Fiction collections is written for the young adults audience in the Bantam Action series. In this short novel, robot cats are created to clean-up the city, but are hijacked and used for evil deeds (PR6061.I39.C99 1996). Cats also crop-up regularly in Science Fiction as representation of earth-like normality and domesticity on space ships (for presumably a similar purpose as a ships cat; see below). A personal favorite is Jonesy, Ripley’s ginger tom, from the Alien franchise.

PR6061.I39.C99 1996

Cunard

Cats were commonplace aboard ships for many reasons – they caught vermin, provided comfort to crew, and even predicted storms through their enhanced sensitivity to low pressure environments. Some ships cats have become famous; ‘Unsinkable Sam’, a German cat, survived the sinking of three ships during World War II! From the Cunard archive here, we see below Captain Rostron’s cat and her adorable kittens aboard the Mauretania, from the Cunard Magazine during the mid 1920s (D42/PR5/12).

D42/PR5/12. Cunard Magazine, Vol. 16.

University Archive 

A prominent deposit within the staff papers of the University Archive are the papers of Professor (and Sir) Charles Reilly. One of the most important figures in the history of twentieth-century architecture in Britain, Sir Reilly dominated architectural education and had a profound influence on architectural practice. The below photograph shows Sir Charles Reilly holding a rather uninterested Timoshenko the cat, in the garden of his home in Twickenham during the the World War II era (D938/2/15).

D938/2/15. Photograph by Louise Sedgwick ©

The Special Collections and Archives Cats

From the top left to the bottom right: Audrey and Lilly (Jo Klett, University Archivist), Clara (Katy Hooper, Special Collections Librarian), Chester (Robyn Orr, Library Assistant), Yan, Barry, and Hamilton (Jenny Higham, Special Collections and Archives Manager), and Reginald Ecclefechan (Lucy Evans, Assistant Librarian – Special Collections).

All of these items are available to view right meow in the Special Collections and Archives reading room (except our pet cats – we wish, though…). Please do see our website for more information on visiting us.