Poems inspired by South Bristol's pioneering woman inventor are a sellout

March 23 2018
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Poems inspired by South Bristol's pioneering woman inventor are a sellout. Totterdown resident Rachel Bentham and her co-author Alyson Hallett have created an anthology of poems called Project Boast.

A NEW book inspired by South Bristol inventor Sarah Guppy has created so much interest that it’s already sold out.

Totterdown resident Rachel Bentham and her co-author Alyson Hallett have created an anthology of poems called Project Boast.  

The idea came from reading about Sarah Guppy, the ground-breaking engineer and inventor who lived in Arnos Court off Bath Road in the 1800s, and whose ideas about bridge-building contributed to the Clifton suspension bridge. (Sarah Guppy was the subject of a South Bristol Voice feature in December 2017).

Neither Bentham nor Hallett had heard of Guppy – there's no plaque or public statue commemorating her and the inventor herself said that if women spoke of their achievements it might be seen as boastful.  

"We wanted to challenge the idea that speaking out is still seen as boastful," Alyson said. "Imagine a daffodil that doesn't open up when the sun's out in case someone thinks it's boasting. It would be ridiculous!"

The two authors invited contemporary poets to respond to the idea of speaking out. The poets took on the task with energy, wit and insight. 

 "They've approached the brief from so many different angles," said Rachel, who is doctor of literature and a Royal Literary Fellow.  "The anthology is packed with poems that will make you think, cry, laugh and want to be more daring.  That's what we're after – a book that wakes us up, that asks if we're being authentic and doing what we really want to do with our  precious lives."  

Project Boast is available from Triarchy Press:

www.triarchypress.net/boast

 

the trouble with you is you won’t be told

by Rachel Bentham

 

all my life I’ve

been told… shhh 

 

don’t fuss. don’t 

speak out of turn.

 

for centuries, 

we’ve been told:

 

don’t stick your neck out

don’t raise your voice

 

don’t make a show 

of yourself now.

 

don’t go getting 

ideas young lady

 

don’t be too big

for your boots.

 

now I buy the boots

with my earnings

they fit perfectly.

 

Mrs Guppy

Imagine a house late at night,

candle burning, a fever of moths

about a flame. Now see inside

 

her brain – a woman in a man's

world but only in name. After six

children she can play any game.

 

The last thing a bridge needs

is to be swept away and so she

designs one minus arches

 

and sterlings – a suspended road,

flood-proof, torrent-proof, every

bridge-crosser safe. She was born

 

to invent, to make the unmade. 

Who else designed a barnacle buster

for the British navy? Who else

 

devised a way to cook eggs 

in a kettle's steam, an exercise bed 

for women forbidden to stretch

 

in public? Sarah Guppy. She shows 

us a world as big or small as we make it, 

as bright or dull as we dream.