I have an eclectic selection of pointers this week, starting with Grayson Perry. You may be familiar with Perry’s ceramics, or you may have come across him in Tim Turnbull’s poem ‘Ode on a Grayson Perry Urn’. In a couple of series over lockdown, he was on the television with Grayson Perry’s Art Club, which invited some celebrities, but mainly ordinary people up and down the county to submit art work which responded to the situation. It was a cheerful, celebratory programme, but also very moving sometimes as people told the stories behind their work. It was due to have an exhibition in Manchester before the second lockdown was announced, but has now opened. There is a warm review of it here. That might help put the big vase in Turnbull’s poem into context for you.
In another link to The Poems of the Decade, Julia Copus, author of ‘An Easy Passage’, has published a biography of poet Charlotte Mew. Some of you may know her poem ‘The Trees Are Down’, which is frequently anthologised, but generally she is too little known. She was a key figure in the early twentieth century, highly regarded by other poets and deserves to be better known. Read a review of Copus’ book here. After that, read the biography – and some of Mew’s poems.
The other important female writer to have been in the news recently is Emily Brontë, who is far more widely known that Charlotte Mew, especially through her novel Wuthering Heights. A manuscript of her early poems has been discovered, handwritten of course, with some annotations by sister Charlotte. Charlotte Brontë’s discovery of Emily’s handwritten poems is credited with setting the three sisters (with Anne) on their literary journey, as Charlotte instinctively felt there was something powerful and significant in her sister’s writings. Read about the discovery here.
We often assume that literary reputations are consistent, and once established, secure. Any reader of John Donne, however, will know that is not the case. Writers can fall out of favour and also be clutched from history and resurrected. I don’t know much about Sam Riviere, expect that he published an anthology of poems called Kim Kardashian’s Marriage. He has just published his second novel, Dead Souls, borrowing its title from Nikolai Gogol, and I was intrigued and amused by some very varied reviews of its acerbic, single paragraph style – from ‘brilliant’ to ‘unreadable’. Try this one from The Guardian, then read the New York Times and finish off with NPR. Clearly, not everyone agrees!
And with theatres beginning to reopen or planning to reopen, you might be interested to read about a feminist version of Macbeth being rehearsed to the Almeida Theatre in London, starring Saoirse Ronan as Lady Macbeth.