Protect the garden patch of your sprouting creativity and fertile idea-seeds, writer. Heed Elizabethan poet, Isabella Whitney, when she advises in A Sweet Nosegay;
In any wise, be chary that
thou lettest in no Swine:
No Dog to scrape, nor beast that doth
to raven still incline.
For though he make no spare of them,
to such as have good skill:
To slip, to shear, or get in time,
and not his branches kill:
Yet bars he out, such greedy guts,
as come with spite to toot.
And without skill, both Herb and Flower
pluck rashly by the root.
Extract from A Sweet Nosegay, or Pleasant Posy: Containing a Hundred and Ten Philosophical Flowers (1573)
Have you ever been betrayed by your words? In the comedic ‘war between the sexes’ text, Gospels of the Distaff (Les Evangiles des Quenouilles c.1475), a sewing circle of women, led by six elderly doctresses, decide to gather and share their collective feminist knowledge in the form of a book. Their knowledge is both profound and trivial.
On Garters in the Street
Nowe ye for as true as the gospell that yf the hose of a woman or of a mayden unbyndeth in the strete & that she lese it, it is sygne & fayleth neuer that her husbande or her loue gothe elles where.
(from Watson’s 1510 translation)
As none of the spinners and needleworkers can write, they ask a humble cleric to transcribe their teachings. He wields a pen, they wield the distaff. He transcribes their words not in the frame of an intimate knowledge but unfortunately, for himself and the women, ironically, as an immense joke.
You, writer, are in possession of both your knowledge and the means to write it. What are you waiting for?
Are you writing what needs to be written? It takes guts, and balls, to do so.
Take, for example, Gwerful Mechain (1460–1502); a medieval Welsh poet who wrote Poem to the Vagina as a correction to the canon of poems about women, and women’s bodies, that neglect the quim.
Cywydd y Cedor (Extract from Poem to the Vagina)
You are a body of boundless strength,
a faultless court of fat’s plumage.
I declare, the quim is fair,
circle of broad-edged lips,
it is a valley longer than a spoon or a hand,
a ditch to hold a penis two hands long;
cunt there by the swelling arse,
song’s table with its double in red.
And the bright saints, men of the church,
when they get the chance, perfect gift,
don’t fail, highest blessing,
by Beuno, to give it a good feel.
For this reason, thorough rebuke,
all you proud poets,
let songs to the quim circulate
without fail to gain reward.
What does your world say you must not write? What are you denied to write?