A friend of mine said in an email that she was shocked by the sentiment expressed in the poem I posted recently. I couldn't understand what she was on about, until I re-read it and realised how it might be taken, out of context, as it was, posted on my blog. As part of the 'Words in My Head' sequence, hopefully it will be read as a homage to Edith Sitwell's 'Façade'. And for those people who know her story, they will recognise that it is taken from an experience she describes in her autobiography, Taken Care Of.

Though, on reflection, it is indeed shocking that the little girl Edith should be so estranged from her mother as to not understand why other children would cry at the loss of theirs.

I am very excited at the moment as 'Words in My Head' is really beginning to take shape. I heard it in its entirety for the first time last night and my co-conspirator, musician Matt Barnard, has done an amazing job. He has created a rich tapestry of sound that envelops and enhances my poetry which sits at the very heart of it. I don't think my poems have ever sounded so good!

In addition, my lovely Mark has created the pedestal and my sister Ros has dressed the head superbly:

Next week, we are trying it all out in the space it has been designed for, the Sitwell Library, and I am exceptionally excited about that!

When I was in my twenties, I would devour novels at the rate of one a week. In recent years, I've been reading poetry and non-fiction, less fiction, and have become more discerning in what I spend my time on.

However, I'm getting back into novels and had a couple recommended so picked them up over the festive season. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, should have really gripped me - a murder-mystery, some political comment and a feisty female character. However, it didn't. It needs a thorough edit, probably bringing it down by at least a third. The pace, which should carry the reader through, plummets as it over-explains, repeats itself and uses five sentences where five words would do. I understand that Larsson died shortly after handing his manuscripts into the publisher, so could not have done the edit. It's an enormous shame no-one else thought to do it in his memory.

On the other hand, another doorstopper of a work, Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, should not have appealed to me at all. About an armed robber who escapes prison in Australia to end up being involved with the mafia and violence in India (and beyond, though I haven't got to that bit), I would not normally have picked it up if a friend hadn't handed it to me. Yet it is tightly, subtly and evocatively written. Another friend appeared to dismiss it as 'that hippy classic they're making a film of with Johnny Depp'. However, I think it does a better job of looking at the nature of goodness than Larsson, who is, perhaps, considered more literary.

Shantaram is based on truth, so the author claims. And the detail gives it an authenticity - at times engaging, at times horrifying - which is hard to dismiss. At first I had difficulty accepting the beauty of the book, knowing it was written by a man who had deliberately set out to cause harm to others. Roberts has since been re-captured, done his time in prison, re-invented himself. And in my head I do believe in rehabilitation, yet in my heart I found it hard to trust in the redemption of this writer. Maybe, in the end, that discomfort is at the very kernel of this disturbing book.
My article about Edith Sitwell appeared in Poetry News:

And Coastival is approaching ( Some of Edith's most famous poems - Façade - are my least favourite, though they were innovative for their time and surely the fore-runner of today's rap.

My tribute comes in this poem:

Childhood 1
Old Sir Faulk,
misplaced his wife.
Mollie and Gladys,
little shadows in mourning weeds,
wept their loss at high tea,
- even the chittering song birds knew to chitter no more.
Lady Faulk, lost, gone, for now and for ever.

I imagined my own mother so disposed of
and asked, persistently.
But why, why, why did they cry?
Happy New Year. This season's greeting. Though, of course, it's all rather arbitrary. Some pagans consider Samhain as the New Year, others Midwinter. The Chinese will be celebrating in weeks to come and some Christians haven't even seen Christmas in yet. I could go on.

However, for everyone, there does seem to be a need to mark a completed cycle of time and, perhaps, take a moment for reflection. I am not immune to this. Looking outwards, I hope for peace where there is conflict, relief where there is pain, possibility where there is despair. Personally, 2010 has been good to me and I do not need more from 2011. I wish for love and nurturing relationships and the opportunity to continue to explore my creativity and to make the best use of my talents. I want to encourage a more caring and just way of being for myself and for those I am able to be in contact with. I want the space to make mistakes and the humility to admit them and learn from them.

It is all a work in progress, as the planets make another revolution above our heads, only with very subtle alterations to their course.