An old man sits down to author his memoirs. For three hours every day he writes longhand in a notebook. He dies. When his daughter discovers his work, she reads page after page: 'I lived. I lived. I lived.'

Is this a short story? It being brief and a narrative.


A number of years ago I bought a CD, Poetry in Performance (Vol 2, 57 Productions, and I was immediately caught by the arresting 'the poem that was really a list' by Francesca Beard.

More recently, her haunting diction and striking rhythms have come back to me. I cannot claim this voice totally for myself, though the ideas are mine, and it keeps breaking out:

The caretaker who is really a poet.
The criminal who is really a protester.
The civilian who may be a rebel.
The child who is collateral damage.
The terrorist who might have been a goat herder.
The wrestle which was really an embrace.
The philosopher who was really stone.
The scaffold which was once a tree.
The meditation that was really sleep.
The words which became a knife.

Try it for yourself, especially while you are watching the news.
I am very excited to announce that poet, Jackie Kay, who was 'in residence' during the Scarborough Literature Festival in April, went to see 'Words in My Head'. She wrote the following:

‘I spent a dreamy, special hour transported by this extraordinary soundscape/art installation. It seemed as if it was reaching my very soul! Sitwell gets inside your head. She’s an inspiration.’


Recently, I was struck again by my relative safety as compared to what faces great swathes of my fellow human beings. Unlike many women, I am not scratching around for enough to eat, or walking miles for (supposedly) clean water, or living in a flimsy shelter, or under the constant threat of physical or sexual violence. Unlike many writers around the world, I am not worried that the next poem I create will mean I will end up in prison.

In this country, we have mostly come to see poetry as something safe and fluffy, comforting, perhaps, on ocassion challenging. But dangerous? Yet as I lie in my snug bed, I listen to a Lybian reciting poetry which has landed him in prison and caused him to be tortured. The authorities found these words (which, of course, I cannot understand as they are in his own language) so menacing and intimidating that they had to shut the perpetrator up. Incarcerated, he had no access to paper and pens, so he spent hours committing his poetry to memory, another act of difiance.

Words, these things we often use irreverantly or with little thought or effort, are seen in some parts as if they had the force of grenades and the power to topple regimes.
Barry Forshaw (biographer of Steig Larsson), speaking at the Scarborough Literature Festival, tries to convince us that Larsson's Millennium trilogy is good, despite how badly written it is. An interesting argument. Apparently, the rumour that if only Larsson had lived, his books would have been better edited, is false. His editor says they are exactly as the author intended. In other words, in my opinion, poorly structured, poorly plotted and with flimsy, unengaging characterisation.

According to Forshaw, Larsson enjoyed his comics, and that made sense to me, what he should have been writing were graphic novels. How they have gained the reputation for literariness is beyond me. Not that some graphic novels can't be literary, I should hasten to add, just that many are not, and don't pretend to be.

During the talk it was also suggested that Lisbeth Salander is Pippi Longsotcking (Astrid Lindgren's wonderful creation) grown up. I was saddened by this thought. Pippi is above all other things kind and generous. Not adjectives I would associate with Larsson's broken and brittle heroine.