Remembering Beatrice Ravenel
An important figure in Charleston’s poetical past, Beatrice Ravenel was a well-studied, historically conscious, Huguenot descendant. She had always been a writer, though it wasn’t until her first husband—Francis Gualdo Ravenel—died and shortly after losing her inheritance, that Beatrice was forced to use her passion as a means of making a living for herself and her daughter. She published one collection in her lifetime, “The Arrow of Lightning” (1925), and is recognized as one of the best poets to come out of the Charleston Literary Renaissance.
Beatrice’s poetry is rife with natural imagery, Classical allusions, and historical critique. She took opportunities in her work to incorporate early feminist ideals and confront colonial justifications of violence against indigenous communities. Like all great artists, she took inspiration from the world around her: the islands, the creatures of the coasts, the people coming and going through her life and through the streets of the city, stranger and kin alike.
The pdf below contains scanned pages from “The Arrow of Lightning.”
The new morning light is a primitive,
A painter of faintly-filled outlines,
A singer of folk songs.
The dew-flattened vines by my window
Are all of one innocent green.
Nothing so young as that green—
An outline cut by a child
From a soft new blotter.
But when the light grows,
They suck up a pert chiaroscuro,
Gold meretricious knowing high-lights,
Dry in the sun.
Harrison, Rebecca. “White woman, Indian chief: Beatrice Ravenel and the poetic consciousness of captivity.” The Mississippi Quarterly, vol. 64, no. 1-2, 2011, p. 151+.
Ravenel, Beatrice. The Arrow of Lightening. New York, Harold Vinal, 1925.