BOOK REVIEW – JILL DAWSON (EDITOR) - THE VIRAGO BOOK OF WICKED VERSE 1992. An impressive and important anthology of irreverent, erotic and politically incorrect verse by the leading lights of feminist literature, showing that women can have as mucky, subversive and deliciously wild minds as any male authors. There are several well known names here, from across the World and from many time periods, Sappho, Margaret Atwood, Wendy Cope, Maya Angelou, Stevie Smith, Carol Ann Duffy, Dorothy Parker, and many more. Gillian Allnut’s Thatcherthicky is a political parody of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky, taking a savage swipe at Britain’s Iron Lady Prime Minister and her Cabinet. Alison Chisolm makes a fool of herself in Office Party. Jan Sellers tells of Young Love- a Health And Safety warning, addressed to lesbians alerting them to the ban on their sexual activities in the council property shower blocks, where people worry that they might slip and hurt themselves. There are a few anonymous verses, presented on strong assumption that the authors are women. One was found in Holloway Prison, which makes such an assertion pretty well definitive. Diamond Lilly is another, in which a family have come to dominate the sex scene of London for generations.
My favourite poem is Margaret Atwood’s siren Song, in which the siren promises to whisper to the listener why she succeeds in luring doomed sailors to their fate. By assuming that the narration is for your ears only you fall into her trap and realize that you are her latest victim yourself. A delightful, subversive collection that shows that men have no monopoly on mischief. There are many lesser-known writers here, and showcasing Japanese verse in translation, alongside the generous supply of European, and American / Canadian authors is a masterstroke. The editor, herself adding poems, has clearly had a great deal of fun putting this work together. Poems vary in length from limericks to lengthy free verse material. Most poems here are complete and self contained, bar from a few Sappho fragments (all that survive of her work) and a minority of portions from longer poems. Overall, a fine collection indeed.