Julie-ann kindly answered some questions I sent her about Voices in the Garden. So I thought you’d like to hear more about her marvellous book about the remarkable person, Joan of Arc.
Firstly, I asked her to tell us more about the title:
The title came from the understanding that Joan first heard her ‘voices’ or her saints speaking to her in her garden at home. For three years the garden was most often the place where she heard them give advice or instructions. The house she was born and lived in and the garden still exist and can be visited today.
Then I asked about the inspiration:
I knew nothing about Joan except that she was burned at the stake until I saw a documentary on the BBC by the historian Mary Castor. I was captivated by what I heard and after that read every book I could find about her life, including the transcripts of her trials. The idea of writing poems about her came very gradually over a period of about two years as my research deepened. A French historian made the comment that the more you find out about Joan, the more you have to know, she just becomes more and more fascinating. She does not disappoint! She was truly extraordinary for any historical period.
And then I wanted to know a bit more about the characters involved.
One can’t write about Joan really without mentioning the people who made an impression on her, for instance, the Dauphin – she adored him though history hasn’t treated him as well as it might. I also wanted to look at the other women in her life. This included the prostitutes she chased out of camp who really despised her. Also Catherine de la Rochelle, the other ‘seer’. She thought she could top Joan’s experiences but she had met her match, Joan was not going to be outdone by anyone and her treatment of Catherine is such a good example of this.
The woman who impersonated Joan most impressively after she died, Claude des Armoises, was so daring, almost as daring as Joan herself. She nearly pulled it off, but in the end I think she couldn’t go the distance and had to confess. She made a lot of money though. Joan inspired people to act, to love, to hate in great measure. Conversion is the voice of a character who is supposed to have existed, an English guard
who hated her the most of any of her guards and treated her really badly, but was converted to her side by her incredible courage when she was executed. The knight who felled her at Compiègne, was outraged that she wouldn’t surrender to him because he didn’t have a high enough rank! That was Joan for you! She stirs people quite violently in one direction or the other, love or loathe, there is no middle ground.
Julie-ann Rowelljuliefirstname.lastname@example.orgMy new poetry collection Voices in the Garden is published by Lapwing Publications and available now