Plans are underway for a fabulous Transatlantic Literary Women event at Glasgow Women’s Library in June. Here’s a taster of the last event I went to there, and what we might expect to see as part of the TLW series in the summer. Looking forward to it!
This time last week I was enjoying the fabulous #herland Burn’s Night Woolf Supper at Glasgow Women’s Library. There are many alternative Burns nights in Glasgow, but this was unmissable. Robert Burns and Virginia Woolf share the same birthday, a fascination with Mary Queen of Scots, and much more besides. One line in Woolf’s feminist tract A Room of One’s Own stands out – or should I say blazes out? – in particular:
‘Yet genius of a sort must have existed among women as it must have existed among the working classes. Now and again an Emily Brontë or a Robert Burns blazes out and proves its presence.’ — Virginia Woolf
The Herland event took the connections between Woolf and Burns as a prompt for night of poetry, music and feasting. We gathered in the library dressed in our best ‘Bloomsbury with a Burns twist’. Picture women in feathered hats, wearing creative fusions of tartan, tweed and sweeping patterned shawls. Library volunteers have decorated the room in suffragette colours with thistle-like patterns that evoke the work of Woolf’s sister, artist Vanessa Bell. One wall exhibits Woolf’s book covers (some are even projected, in purple, green and white, on the ceiling), with smatterings of pamphlets on Woolf’s connection to Scotland. I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to display my own Woolf/Burns cut-up book art. Our salonnieres for the evening are poets JL Williams (dressed as a wolf) and Jane Goldman (with thistle-purple hair). The tone is set for a unique event.
Throughout the evening we have a feast of wonderful performances. Rahat Zahid ‘blazes out’ with her translations of Woolf and Burns into Urdu. Nuala Watt blazes out with her polyvocal poetry and singing. Poet Lila Matsumoto plays the fiddle as she leads us into the reading room where we enjoy a delicious Malaysian buffet from Julie MacLeod’s Street Kitchen. Then Sophie Collins shares an autobiography-poem inspired by Woolf’s Orlando, followed by a trio of local poets (above) who take full advantage of Mrs Dalloway rhyming with Galloway. Performer and writer MacGillivray gives a blazing performance that fuses electric harp, mermaid song and sound recordings of Mary Queen of Scots’ old haunts.
Although the supper is not a transatlantic event, it still forms a bridge, between Woolf’s England and Burns’ Scotland. The event also reaches across time: Burns was born in 1759, Woolf, on the same day in 1882, and both of them are channelled through our contemporary performers. It makes sense then, that we’ll be reaching across the Atlantic at Glasgow Women’s Library this summer.
Put June the 3rd in your diaries, for the summer extravaganza of the Transatlantic Literary Women series. There will be music and food. There will be poetry, talks and workshops. There will be keynote papers given by Professor Melanie Dawson (William and Mary College, USA) on ageing, advertising and modernity, and by Professor Gary Totten (University of Nevada, Las Vegas) on African American women travel writing. You’ll have the chance to nominate and give a pitch for your transatlantic literary woman of the year (perhaps even dressed in your own TLW inspired get-up). We’re looking forward to a day of translatlantic voices, blazing out! See you there – sláinte!
In the meantime, see you at our Transatlantic Modernisms Workshop on Wednesday and don’t forget to submit to our Creative Writing Student Showcase by February the 14th. We look forward to hearing your work on the 28th!
By Saskia McCracken