What book(s) are you reading right now?
Breasts And Eggs by Mieko Kawakami which I spotted via Tammy Lai-Ming Ho’s Twitter and I pre-ordered it. So glad! A beautiful book with gorgeously drawn characters. I am very taken with Kawakami’s drawing of Midoriko’s character. I have not finished the book yet, so I will say no more. I have been re-reading Object Lessons by Eavan Boland (RIP) and some essays by Simone Weil. I don’t tend to read large quantities of fiction, as it doesn’t appear to be my metier. I am drawn to essays, non-fiction, history and biography. I still haven’t got my hands on ‘Making Integral’ Essays on Richard Murphy (CUP), having not been into town for a while now.
A book you loved reading as a child.
I read and re-read a biography of Dame Alicia Markova when I was a child. I don’t know who wrote it or where it came from. I suspect that my mum had bought it at the old music library or at a library sale. I knew every detail of her dances and costumes because I read that book to pieces. I was obsessed with Markova’s world which was a hugely fascinating place to be in. I love detail. I would go back to books on Markova, or on Mary Queen of Scots because of the exhaustive costume and historical detail, which I needed. The books were worn out when I eventually put them down, or moved into my first place. I have not seen either of the books since.
A book you have read more than once.
This is a draw! I have read The Secret History by Donna Tartt a few times, same with A.S Byatt’s Possession, and Elizabeth Barrett-Browning, A Biography, by Margaret Forster. I think that Dora Van Gelder’s The Real World Of Fairies is a book that would devastate me if it were lost. Not least because it was a final gift from a very good friend, who, before his passing, always knew what book to recommend to me when I visited and who had kept copies of Edith Sitwell’s and Doris Lessing’s books for me in a special shelf in his library. The copies of the Sitwells and Lessings were likely first print-runs, and it was nice to be thought of and considered in terms of the reading that I would enjoy, and not alone as a house-guest and extended family member.
A book that you started but never finished.
I have not been able to bring myself to finish The Letters Of Sylvia Plath, Volume 2, 1956-1963. I read a lot about the volume in the media, and as I proceed through the book the tortuous inevitability of the ruination of the Plath/Hughes marriage becomes more stark. It is a claustrophobic book. I often find myself headache-y or gasping for breath in VAW scenarios both implicit and explicit. Part of me prefers to read the poems (which I can do again and again) because they are transformative. Separating the art from the life in Plath’s case is almost a necessity, we can watch her create from the raw material of her life, but I find the bruised body, the miscarriage, and the descent of her psyche into her final days unbearably sad. I am not sure if I have the bravery to finish it, maybe it is a way of honouring her - I am not sure.
A book with personal resonance.
I thought about this and there are a few. The Dora Van Gelder resonates, but I am going to say Eavan Boland: Inside History which I contributed to. I wrote the chapter “A Modern Encounter With Foebus Abierat” - based on Eavan Boland’s translation of “Phoebus was gone, all gone, his journey over” which I felt encapsulated Eavan Boland’s ideas as a woman and a poet. The kernel of the translation is of female transgression against the established order. Eavan asked to meet me and was delighted with the essay. I think meeting her meant so much to me as a poet and we remained in touch over the last four years of her life, through committee work, or meetings, or emails. She picked me up after a bad burn-out and I am very grateful to have known her. We need to talk about her interventions in the areas of equality and diversity. I am linking the poem here.