1st Edition

Form and Modernity in Women’s Poetry, 1895–1922 A Line of Her Own

By Sarah Parker Copyright 2024

    While W. B. Yeats’s influential account of the ‘Tragic Generation’ claims that most fin-de-siècle poets died, or at least stopped writing, shortly after 1900, this book explodes this narrative by attending to the twentieth-century poetry produced by women poets Alice Meynell, Michael Field (Katharine Bradley and Edith Cooper), Dollie Radford, and Katharine Tynan. While primarily associated with the late nineteenth century, these poets were active in the twentieth century, but their later writing is overlooked in modernist-dominated studies, partly due to this poetry’s adherence to traditional form. This book reveals that these poets, far from being irrelevant to modernity, used these established forms to address contemporary concerns, including suffrage, sexuality, motherhood, and the First World War. The chapters focus on Meynell’s manipulations of metre to contemplate temporality and literary tradition; Michael Field’s use of blank verse to portray the conflicted modern woman; Radford’s adaptation of the aesthetic song-like lyric to tackle the experience of the city, urban crime, and suffrage; and Tynan’s employment of the ballad to soothe bereaved mothers during the First World War. This book ultimately shows that traditional forms played a vital role in shaping mature women poets’ responses to modernity, illuminating debates about form, tradition, and gender in twentieth-century poetry.


    Chapter One: “Trysts with Time”: Alice Meynell, Metre, and the Temporalities of Modern Poetry

    Chapter Two: “Women are ever captive”: Michael Field and Twentieth-Century Verse Drama

    Chapter Three: “The snatch of a song that is sung”: Dollie Radford’s Lyrics of Modernity

    Chapter Four: “I am the pillars of the house”: Katharine Tynan’s Fortifying Ballads

    Conclusion: A Line of Her Own


    Sarah Parker is Senior Lecturer in English at Loughborough University. She is the author of The Lesbian Muse and Poetic Identity, 1889–1930 (Routledge, 2013), Michael Field: Decadent Moderns (co-edited with Ana Parejo Vadillo, Ohio University Press, 2019), Michael Field, ‘For That Moment Only’, and Other Prose Works (co-edited with Alex Murray, MHRA, 2022), and Interrogating Lesbian Modernism: Histories, Forms, Genres (co-edited with Elizabeth English and Jana Funke, Edinburgh University Press, 2023). In 2023, she co-curated the Poets in Vogue exhibition at the National Poetry Library, Southbank Centre, London. She has published articles and chapters on poets including H.D., Iris Tree, Amy Levy, Olive Custance, and Edna St. Vincent Millay.