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:
Stevie Smith once claimed not to read any modern poetry. Whether or not that’s true, she certainly got most of her echoes from older writers: Tennyson, Euripides and the (now perhaps largely forgotten) contents of the Palgrave Treasury.
I think she was also deeply influenced by the Romantics.
I’ve been very busy this summer, visiting archives across the UK to look at their holdings of Stevie Smith manuscripts. Most of Smith’s materials are in the University of Tulsa (which I’m hoping to visit next summer), and those in the UK are quite scattered. I don’t mind. It’s a nice excuse to visit different cities.
So first on my list was Leeds, a city which I’d never visited before.
It was a wonderfully sunny day; the willowherb waved in the ruins and the white fluff fell like snow. But alas – Celia glanced at the blue-faced clock in the Ministry tower – it was eleven o’clock.
‘This night shall thy soul be required of thee’
My Soul is never required of me
It always has to be somebody else of course
Will my soul be required of me tonight perhaps?
(I often wonder what it will be like
To have one’s soul required of one
But all I can think of is the Out-Patients’ Department —
‘Are you Mrs. Briggs, dear?’
No, I am Scorpion.)