I spent September and October 2018 at the Houghton Library in Harvard, as a Library Visiting Fellow, thinking about leftovers and aphorisms (and aphorisms as leftovers) in Edward Lear’s poetry, diaries and letters.
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.