The first thing that struck me when I was watching Anna Cady’s Earth was the ugliness of mottled trees which is really a kind of beauty. Seeing the naked human limbs made me think how human forms are like that too: beautiful in their imperfections.
This comparison of human physiques and the bodies of trees brought to mind the myth of Daphne who was turned into a laurel to escape the god Apollo. I reread the story as told by Ovid, and also studied stories of nymphs who were transformed to escape the attentions of Pan: Pitys who was turned into a pine tree, and Syrinx who metamorphosed into reeds. Syrinx’s story is particularly troubling, because on hearing the mournful sound that the reeds make, Pan cuts the reeds and fashions the first pan-pipe. Out of a violation comes music, comes art: a disturbing conclusion to the story.
Dryad, however, is not about mythical violations but real violence happening to women now. I was inspired in part by the South African poet, Michelle McGrane, who will be holding a campaign against sexual violence during November 2013 on her blog Peony Moon <http://peonymoon.wordpress.com/>. Responding to the rape of an acquaintance that was “receiving humiliating treatment at the hands of the police, the legal system and a few of the people close to her”, Michelle called for poems to highlight the myths and prejudices surrounding rape survivors. One such problem is the tendency in stories of violence for women to be healed quickly and easily, for them to have a straight-forward ‘happy ending’. Unfortunately, it is not always that simple and I hope that Dryad hints at the tortuous path to recuperation and healing.
Zoë Brigley grew up in Wales, but now lives in Ohio, USA. Her debut book of poems The Secret (Bloodaxe Books, 2007) was a Poetry Book Society Recommendation, and was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. Her second collection Conquest (Bloodaxe, 2012) was also a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. She is the co-editor of a volume of scholarly essays, Feminism, Literature and Rape Narratives (Routledge, 2010) and a collection of women’s poetry, Bluebeard’s Wives (Heaventree, 2007). She has taught creative writing at Warwick University and at the University of Northampton.