05 February 2015

Poetry Thursday - flashback to 1966

Hindsight (via)

Photograph, Art Student, Female, Working Class

Her hair is cut into that perfect slant
– An innovation circa ‘64 by Vidal Sassoon.
She’s wearing C&A’s best effort at Quant
Ending just below the knicker-line, daisy-strewn.
Keeping herself in tights could blow her grant
Entirely, so each precious pair is soon
Spattered with nail-varnish dots that stop each run.
She’s a girl, eighteen – just wants to have fun.

She’s not 'a chick'. Not yet. Besides, by then
She’ll find the term 'offensive'. 'Dollybird', to quote
Her favourite mags, is what she aspires to when
Her head’s still full of Honey and Petticoat.
It’s almost the last year that, quite this blithely, men
Up ladders or on building sites wolf-whistle to note
The approval they’re sure she will appreciate.
Why not? She did it for their benefit, looks great.

Nor does she object. Wouldn’t think she has the right.
Though when that lech of a lecturer comments on her tits
To a male classmate, openly, she might
Feel – quick as a run in nylon – that it’s
Not what ought to happen, is not polite,
She’ll burn, but smile, have no word that fits
The insult, can’t subject it to language’s prism.
In sixty-six there’s plenty sex, but not 'sexism'.

Soon: The Female Eunuch and enough
Will be enough. Thanks to newfound feminism and Greer,
Women’ll have the words for all this stuff,
What already rankles, but confuses her, will seem clear
And she’ll (consciously) be no one’s 'bit of fluff'
Or 'skirt' or 'crumpet'. She’ll know the rule is 'gay' not 'queer',
'Ms' not 'Miss' or 'Mrs' – she’ll happily obey it
And, sure as the Pill in her pocket, that’s how she’ll say it.

This photo’s saying nothing, is black and white, opaque.
A frozen moment, not a memory.
The boyfriend with the Pentax took it for the sake
Of taking it, a shot among many others, randomly,
To see how it would develop. Didn’t imagine it’d make
An image so typical it’d capture time so perfectly.
How does she feel? Hey, girl, did it feel strange
To be waiting for the a-changing times to change?
Liz Lochhead
From Jubilee Lines - 60 Poets for 60 Years (Faber), edited by Carol Ann Duffy (via)

Recognise that girl? Perhaps like me you were 18 in 1966 - ah, what a time that was ... and what a time there was to come, what a change in attitudes, in language, in expectations (even for some of us, a change of continents), had we but known it...

The poem was written in 2012, in response to Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy's request for 60 poems in celebration of the Diamond Jubilee.

Liz Lochhead, born in 1947, attended Glasgow School of Art, where she was part of a creative writing group. She stood out as a rare female presence among Scottish writers of the 1970s, which was enabling and inspiring for the generation that followed. "The female voices that Lochhead has deployed in her monologues and many of her poems undoubtedly draw on a Scottish oral tradition that goes right back to the ballads, is subverted by the music-hall, and takes pleasure in a distinctive West of Scotland tradition of storytelling and humour" says one biography. She was named the second Scots Makar, national poet, in 2011.

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