Last week I saw a recording of Edith Sitwell being interviewed in 1959 by John Freeman for the BBC Face to Face programme. It was extraordinary to watch this woman, who I had read so much about and seen in so many still pictures, animated. I was initially struck by how bad her teeth were.
I became frustrated by Freeman's questioning style, so much was left out and unexplored. 'Poetry has two parents,' Dame Edith said. What did she mean?
A critic once stated that Sitwell was 'as ugly as modern poetry'. I, of course, don't find either unattractive. Edith looked beautiful, almost ecstatic in a religious sense, as she talked about filling a notebook with re-writes of just one poem and then, sometimes, 'putting it aside for a while'. Her poetry was inspired, she said, by a humble love of God and of humanity and she described the artist undergoing perpetual 'resurrections' as they find over and over renewed inspiration for their creative work.
It was wonderful to see how poetry could fill this woman - ill, depressed, at the end of her life - with such vigour. Maybe it will do the same for me when my days begin to run out.