The Lost Book of Barkynge
I was so excited about this week’s publication of my first full collection The Lost Book of Barkynge that I almost forgot to post about it here. Ironic really, as the collection is fundamentally an act of remembering. A foregrounding of women’s voices, lost from the historical record. The book traces the history of Barking Abbey (in what we would now call east London) through the voices of the abbesses, nuns, and local women, who lived there during the nine centuries of its existence. And so, on publication day, I returned to the ruins of the abbey.
As you enter from Abbey Road, with the River Roding at your back, there is a substantial sign orienting you in both time and space, a sign which mentions quite a few prominent men connected with the abbey’s past, some quite tangentially, but which abjectly fails to mention a single one of the many significant women who called Barking home, not even the founding abbess Æthelburh. It is coincidental but fitting, that this book was released during Women’s History Month as there remains a continued need to re-tell women’s history, not least because of the continued forgetting and trivialising of the lives of our foremothers.
At the close of my collection, there is a poem constructed out of the names of the final nuns and abbesses of Barking found in records of pensions granted at the time of the Dissolution, which I recited to the stones and the parakeets. I have a longer essay forthcoming about my journey writing this collection (of which more details later) but for now I’ll leave you with their names…
∞ Elizabeth Badcok ∞ Margery Ballard ∞ Elizabeth Banbrik ∞ Dorothy Barley ∞ Margaret Bramston ∞ Agnes Buknam ∞ Margaret Cotton ∞ Joan Drurye ∞ Martha Fabyan ∞ Dorothy Fitzlewes ∞ Joan Fyncham ∞ Matilda Gravell ∞ Margaret Grenehyll ∞ Agnes Horsey ∞ Alice Hyde ∞ Thomasina Jenney ∞ Margaret Kempe ∞ Lucy Long ∞ Audrey Mordaunt ∞ Winifred Mordaunt ∞ Margery Paston ∞ Katharine Pollard ∞ Elizabeth Prist ∞ Margaret Scrowpe ∞ Gabriel Shelton ∞ Anne Snowe ∞ Suzanna Suliarde ∞ Agnes Townesend ∞ Mary Tyrell ∞ Ursula Wentworth ∞ Elizabeth Wyott ∞
With huge thanks to Shearsman Books for giving the nuns of Barking a new home.