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Reading: Critical Commentary: ‘An Articulation of Female Evil’ and ‘To Withhold’


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Critical Commentary: ‘An Articulation of Female Evil’ and ‘To Withhold’


Catherine Woodward

University of East Anglia, GB
About Catherine
Dr Catherine (Cat) Woodward is feminist lyric poet. First collection Sphinx (Saló press), second collection Blood. Flower. Joy! (Knives, Forks and Spoons press). Her PhD thesis was in lyric and robot voice, her research was funded through the CHASE consortium by the AHRC. In 2018 she won the Ivan Juritz Prize for a series of short lyrics.
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These poems are taken from my current project, The Complaint. The Complaint is a series of poems which dwell lyrically on my refusal to have children and the social stigma this confers upon me as, ostensibly, a woman who refuses a corner stone of femininity, femininity which is taken for granted as the condition for my humanity. I use lyric indulgence to challenge what is habitually represented as my seeming lack, perversion, or inhumanity. I allow the vibrancy and depth of my lyric utterance to trouble what is assumed to be my shallow experience, while using lyric excesses to insist on the unique beauty and complexity of my subject position as such a woman/human. The Complaint belongs to a larger project of stylistic imitation, Imitations. The Complaint approaches the voice of Denise Riley, celebrated for her lyrics on the loss of her child. The resultant colloquy is uncomfortable for me as it faces up to the gravity of my denial in the context of such loss. I offer my own voicing as, I hope, welcome in that same discursive field of lyric utterance, so that the two feminine/human lyric subjectivities might in some way commune in an expanded space. My commentary will analyse my poems in light of these contexts, considering what my experimentation has achieved and how it achieves it.
How to Cite: Woodward, C. (2019). Critical Commentary: ‘An Articulation of Female Evil’ and ‘To Withhold’. Roundtable, 2(2), 5. DOI:
Published on 21 Nov 2019.
Peer Reviewed


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