Much ado about writing, Mattapoisett poet pens first book

Aug 15, 2022

MATTAPOISETT — According to Mattapoisett-based poet Elizabeth Sylvia, it’s never too late to be creative. 

This summer, Sylvia, 48, published her first book of poetry, “None but Witches,” which explores female characters in the work of William Shakespeare. 

“A lot of the book thinks about not just what it means to be a woman, but what it means to be treated as one,” said Sylvia.

Sylvia, who admitted that she is not a “Shakespeare specialist,” at times doubted her qualifications to write her series of poems. 

She said she eventually realized that “we should all feel qualified to have our own responses to the things we’re passionate about.”

And for Sylvia, this did start as a passion project. “None but Witches” began as a New Year’s resolution to read all of Shakespeare’s plays in one year — a project that she said took two years to complete. 

While reading Shakespeare’s plays, Sylvia said she found herself drawn to mothers and queens. 

“You don’t have to be a queen to really connect with the idea that there might be forces beyond your control that are making life difficult for your children,” said Sylvia, who is a mother herself.

Inspired by The Bard’s work, Sylvia organized her book into four sections: queens, daughters, lovers and witches. 

According to Sylvia, the book begins with examining the often superficial power of queens in Shakespeare’s work and ends with poems that look into the actual power of those who are deemed “witches.” 

“Being a witch is basically being somebody who wants to have authority over themselves,” said Sylvia. “And you should feel powerful to embrace that even if it would be perceived as negative by someone else.”

Sylvia has been writing poetry “on and off” for years, she said. But it was her involvement in a Mattapoisett poetry group that gave her the final push to seek out publication. 

“It’s a big leap for any writer to submit their poetry to the public to read,” she said. 

The group’s support led to Sylvia submitting her work to several publishing houses until Three Mile Harbor Press, a New York publisher, awarded her with a poetry prize and publication. 

“Being creative in whatever capacity is such a gift, and I hope that everybody thinks to themselves it’s not too late,” said Sylvia. “And you don’t have to publish a book to be a poet. The process of writing is what’s really beautiful, powerful and important.”