Friday, June 1, 2018

On the Road in Santa Cruz: Tilly Washburn Shaw Goes Vroom!

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
Flagrant metal chains of gear.

Out walking in the fog on Westcliff Drive,
everything becalmed & muffled way high up
over the Pacific, when comes a rumbling
and thrumming from afar, soon right upon
us, a whole strip of them winding in and
out of coastal curves, passing us one, two,
three abreast, all black-helmeted and in
dark leather, so of course I think

Hell’s Angels, instantly prepare my stormiest
scowl for their mechanized intrusion, mean to
flout this enemy invasion with every mortal muscle,
screwing my eyes into a masterful blast—,

when gradually it dawns, under all that armor,
inside harsh headgear, the scrawny pigtail, a
slight mounding in front, occasional flagrant
metal chains or gear, every single one of them’s
a woman!  Whatever can I do but cheer?


— Tilly Washburn Shaw


A literary scholar, poet, and University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) faculty member in Literature from 1966 to 1993, Tilly Washburn Shaw was one of few tenured women in UCSC’s early days and the only tenured woman in literature. One of the first among her peers at UCSC to become interested in feminist studies and women’s writing, she determined to teach half her classes on women authors every year from the ‘80s on.

In addition to her published work on Valery, Yeats, and Rilke, she developed a specialist interest in Conrad and Lawrence in the ‘70s and Levertov, Plath, Sexton, and especially Adrienne Rich in the ‘80s.  

Vroom! is from her 2002 collection of poetry, Swimming Closer to Shore.