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Why was George Eliot’s Right Hand Larger than Her Left Hand?

Writing About What You Know Best:

A fundamental aspect of writing poetry for the student or beginning writer of poetry is to write about what they know best. A failure to take this advice usually guarantees flawed writing. This is not to suggest that the poetry can’t reach out beyond immediate experience. It is this initial knowledge which accompanies inspiration that is fundamental to the success of the poem.

Writing about what You Know

‘that her right hand was broader than her left hand from

the amount of butter which she had made in her youth’

Oscar Browning writing on George Eliot (1890)

None of her biographers mention it

nor do they seem very interested at all

in the dairy at Griff House

her childhood home

agitating the cream, pounding the curds

making butter and cheese

with an upright plunger


sweated-drenched, stinking work

who knew it well

enough and carried it through long years

until her pen found out Hetty Sorrel

the ill-fated milkmaid in Adam Bede

who ruined her hands with the churning.

Jeff Guess

©Jeff Guess 2017

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