Writer AS Byatt (as quoted by Dr Giles Fraser on 'Thought for the Day', the Today Programme, Radio 4, 16th March 2011) has said that since we no longer have religion to tell us our position in the world, we need social media, as we only exist if people tell us we do.

On the other hand, Byatt cites poet Wallace Stevens: 'From this the poem springs, that we live in a place that is not our own and, much more, not ourselves.' Suggesting that with the creative endeavour we have to come out of the self which others reflect back to go to another landscape, perhaps a lonelier, a bleaker, a less chatter filled one.
What is a short story?

Tash Aw: 'For me, the short form is about suggestion, about the murkier, more troubled existence that lies beyond the confines of a few thousand words.'

After the Census by Kate Evans

‘Have you done it yet?’ ‘What?’ ‘The census.’ ‘Still got a week.’ ‘Yes, but you might as well get it done now.’ ‘Yes,’ she lifts it up and then quickly puts it down again without making a mark. ‘I’ll do it later.’

He turns back to his paper, flicking the pages with sharp snaps of his thick wrists. She knows it’s the idea of a great-great-great niece or nephew finding him in the 2011 records which is behind his keenness. He clears his throat, a guttural huh-huh-huh. She leaves the room as if an urgent appointment has just presented itself.

Once through the kitchen and back door, she slows her pace. The sky makes her think of being enclosed in one of those Fabergé eggs he so hankers after. Yolk flowers are beginning to spatter her forsythia twigs, the daffodils and crocuses have cracked through the ground and are rattling their heads together in a breeze laden with the earth’s dampness. She’d pulled on her wellies and an old jumper over her cashmere twin-set on the way out. Now she sits on a low wall and lights a cigarette. For a moment she considers the red-veined, oxalic-acid-green tongues waving above the pink stalks of rhubarb forcing their way through a bottomless upturned bucket. It was question 4 which had stopped her in her tracks.

How could she possibly know?


For those who haven't seen it in today's Scarborough Evening News, my review of the latest biography of Edith Sitwell:

‘Edith Sitwell, Avant Garde Poet, English Genius’. Richard Greene’s title says it all. Rightly, in my opinion, he argues that Sitwell’s brilliance has been much misunderstood, ignored and, ultimately, forgotten. She did not, of course, help her own cause, making enemies of many a reviewer, labelling them the ‘Pipsqueakery’. And the ethereal nature of her work was out of step with the kitchen sink realism of the 1950s and ‘60s. Even so, Greene suggests, Sitwell’s almost complete rubbing out from the literary annals after her death in 1964, is deplorable. It is fitting then, that this new biography, thirty years after Victoria Glendinning’s, should be published to right this wrong.

Greene, in his 444 pages of narrative and 64 further pages of notes and references, does an admirable job of re-establishing Sitwell’s reputation. He also places Scarborough at the centre of her influences; not only her childhood experiences here, but the place itself. ‘Scratch the surface of Edith Sitwell’s poetry and you will find Scarborough and its contradictions. … In this seaport, fashion and frivolity formed a thin façade beyond which lay grief and catastrophe.’ However, it is not just, as Greene says, in terms of content, that Scarborough pulses through her poetry, it is in its very rhythms, echoing the sea’s which, as Sitwell herself wrote, came to beat within her veins.

Greene had access to documents that have only just become available, and his extensive volume comprehensively charts her life from unhappy childhood to the respected writer whose biography of Elizabeth I was once optioned by Hollywood. It details her torturous relationships, with her parents, her former governess and the artist Pavel Tcheltichew, as well as the more nourishing ones, especially with her brothers and fellow creatives such as Siegfried Sassoon and Stephen Spender.

Though Greene’s account is robustly written, for me it lacks the warmth of Glendinning’s. He appears to be very concerned with rooting out what ‘actually happened’. He seems to forget that, for a poet, honesty is not about facts, it is about a much more complex and compelling emotional truth.

'Edith Sitwell, Avant Garde Poet, English Genius' by Richard Greene was published in hardback by Virago on 3rd March 2011, £25


Coastival was a success. Seven hundred people visited Wood End Creative Industries Centre during the three days to experience the various exhibitions there. Whether they all sat and listened through the whole of 'Words in My Head' cannot be known, however I like to think that maybe they were all touched by it in some way. It's as if I had produced a poetry collection and 700 people have at least picked it off the shelf, that's an achievement in poetry terms.

A few people also left praise-full comments, such as:
'A wonderful installation for the place - and a wonderful place for the installation!'
'Wonderful theatre.'
'Brill' signed, 'a non poetry person'.

Then there was the Cober Hill residential which generated a store of great writing for me and the participants. I went to see poet, Sean O'Brien, talk and read last Friday and he spoke about 'the silence' which follows the creation of a poetry book. It seems to me that we all need that moment of silence when we 'stand and stare' - marvel even - at all that we have done.


Written on the Cober Hill residential:

And if we were to love
what then?

Would we dare to
spend a thousand years

Would we fight and scratch,
what if we did?
What would survive then?

And if we did love
ourselves and each other?

Deeply as the ocean rifts.
Passionately as the volcanic earth.
Secretly as the forest greens.
Endlessly as the desert drought.

And if we should love
more than hate?

Turn guns to ploughs,
bombs to heat,
soldiers to peacekeepers.

What then?
What then.