My first radio piece went out last night: a tiny essay, and a conversation with Shahidha Bari, on George Orwell and absurdity.
I’ve done a couple of interviews recently, following my selection as a New Generation Thinker.
There’s bits in there about my work, but also about the process of becoming an NGT: how I applied and prepared for the workshops, and how I found the experience.
I’m very lucky, very happy, and very bemused to have been selected as an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker 2020.
When I go to art galleries, and afterwards pop into the gift shop, I can never find postcards of the pictures I really liked. So I carry a ghost gallery in my head: Ed and Melody by Robert Mapplethorpe (1988); Stanley Spencer’s The Dustman (1934)…
At the Lowry in Salford, I twisted the postcard display in vain – because the images I liked weren’t the ‘matchstalk men’ that come to mind when we think of L. S. Lowry:
It’s been over two years since Professor Suzie Hanna and I recorded Glenda Jackson reciting ‘The Blue from Heaven’ in a little Woolwich studio. Since then, the track has been waiting patiently in the wings as Suzie experimented with ways to animate Stevie Smith’s extraordinary poem.
Suzie tested out filmed footage, symbolic imagery, collage (all juggled with running a busy Masters course at NUA) but nothing seemed quite right for this strange, resistant little text. Describing Arthur riding through a blue world – coloured by mysterious gigantic cornflowers, which tower above his head – the poem challenges us to separate the literal from the symbolic, the metaphorical from the nonsensical.
I happened to see on Twitter that the Abingdon County Hall Museum, just a few miles from Oxford, was holding a week-long exhibition on the life and work of Dorothy Richardson. I’ve got a great dissertation student working on Dorothy Richardson this year, so I decided that this counted as teaching prep. I left my (almost-finished) thesis behind for the mid-week trip to Abingdon.
Well, it’s always fun doing this, fitting other words to an old tune. (Stevie Smith, ‘A Turn Outside’
Stevie Smith sang a lot of her poems in performance. Often, her subtitles include instructions about the tunes which they should be sung to.
It was not right of Coleridge in fact it was wrong
(But often we all do wrong)
As the truth is I think he was already stuck
With Kubla Khan.
He was weeping and wailing: I am finished, finished,
I shall never write another word of it,
When along comes the Person from Porlock
And takes the blame for it.
Coleridge’s Person from Porlock had a good few outings in the mid-twentieth-century.