In her debut collection, Ruth Wiggins recovers the forgotten voices of the nuns, abbesses and local women of the medieval abbey at Barking. Against a backdrop of famine, plague, war and spiritual upheaval, these poems explore the strange, uncertain days of the early abbey: mysterious visions, politics, violence and sisterhood, and end with the final abbess mourning the eradication of her home as the Dissolution unhouses her, her sisters, and countless others across Europe. Barking was one of the most significant abbeys in Britain and a centre of learning for women, it offered space to the devout, the bookish, and those who simply did not fit anywhere else. These poems introduce some remarkable characters: poets, visionaries, washerwomen and queens, and range from the sacred feminine to the protofeminist. Whether one reads The Lost Book of Barkynge as a series of monologues or as a sequence evoking time and place, what emerges is an excavation of forgotten stories. Here the lost voices of the women of Barking are restored in poems that voice the power and poignancy of their lives –
So our words let them reach then flicker into brightness.