News and views
Will Self: the performer
According to Will Self, if you shake a tree in Cromer, a Self, his namesake, will fall out.
If you were lucky enough to be seated at our sold-out NNF13 event, then you’ll have enjoyed an evening packed with scrumptious wordplay and literary insight; but it was the playful nature, the devilish twinkle in his eye that kept our Playhouse audience engrossed from start to finish.
“May all of your gussets turn to glass paper” – a retort directed at our first questioner. Yet the questions kept on coming, and would have continued for hours on end, given the chance.
And the odd swear – don’t forget those...
But for me, Friday night was all about the reading. It managed to make me feel like an eight-year-old again – by that I mean back in primary school, sat cross-legged, willing the teacher to keep on giving life to the words he or she read.
Self projects his words; he acts them out, deftly miming choice words with his free hand. The characters were given playful tones and accents - all combining to leave the audience member fully immersed in Self’s world.
Throughout the evening we were treated to two readings, one from the Booker shortlisted Umbrella, and a hilarious short story from Liver. Between those readings, Self had a fascinating discussion with WCN chief exec, Chris Gribble and answered some very good questions from the audience.
If you missed out, listen to the podcast below. And don't forget, we're topping off our NNF13 Words & Ideas events with Electronic Voice Phenomena
- hopefully see you there.
It’s all about the money
Sympathy, belief and politics: An account of Ali Smith’s incredible Harriet Martineau lecture
As Writers’ Centre Norwich’s CEO Chris Gribble explained in his introduction, the idea for a Harriet Martineau lecture came when we were investigating Norwich’s literary luminaries as research towards Norwich’s UNESCO bid. Chris was subject to enthusiastic advocacy about the little known Harriet Martineau from local expert, Stuart Hobday.
So it was quite an occasion, as Stuart sat in the audience watching his dream for a celebration of Martineau’s life and work being realised and the crowd clapped expectantly as Ali Smith took to the stage.
“I talk very quickly,” said Ali. “Please don’t mind. Don’t worry, let it flow right over you.”
And we did. But we did worry a little - everybody sat forward in their seats as Smith’s flow began; not wanting to miss a reference, not wanting to lose one pithy line.
Smith firstly named her piece ‘The Hour and the Woman’. Then -
“Everything sooner or later transforms into story,” said Ali Smith. And so her story began.
It started with a description of two tiny babies, born twenty years apart in the same room in Gurney Court, Norwich. One of the women is well known to us; she graces our five pound notes; Elizabeth Fry, prison reformer. The other is much less well known in the UK at least; Harriet Martineau (b.1802).
One might want to say her name over and over, so that it absorbs into the walls, into the fabric of the buildings and into the streets of Norwich.
Harriet Martineau. Harriet Martineau.
Smith teased us with the prospect of reciting this name for the full hour of the lecture; then relented although “if I did it, Norwich could take it,” she said.
Then Smith’s “Norwich kind of tune” began, describing “a city with its own sharp taste.” She wove stories from Norwich’s past both historical and mythic, creating a wave of smiles in the audience as she drew our attention to the flute made from the bones of a swan displayed in Norwich Castle Museum. She related a story where a musician described the music that she would play on this swan’s bones – which would go ‘and all shall be well and all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.’
She unearthed the hundred or so Roman bodies of white people buried under Anglia TV, lying together with one black woman; who was she? “There’s a story there,” said Smith.
She talked of a city of “unabashed progressors” and the hard-working city of tradespeople and manufacturers described by Daniel Defoe.
All in all, it was a beautiful song.
Then Ali Smith started talking about money.
How Elizabeth Fry and Florence Nightingale are the only women to have graced our notes, and how soon Elizabeth Fry is to be replaced by Winston Churchill – soon we will have no women on our bank notes at all.
“Tonight,” she said, “it’s all about what's on the money.”
Ali Smith paused for a beat and then began talking about Harriet Martineau, her incredible life and legacy.
Martineau’s influence on Virginia Woolf was notable; in a lecture Woolf had named Harriet amongst many other still famous female predecessors who had smoothed the way for Woolf, who had made her writing possible. Why has Harriet’s name not flourished in the same way as the others’ have?, asked Smith.
This is a woman who designed and built her own house in the Lake District, then ran a farm – and this was the least of her many achievements.
This is a rejecter of religious tenants who faced hostility from her own friends and family due to her then incredibly challenging ideas.
This was a sickly woman who defied doctors, a woman who went deaf whilst a pre-teen and who listened to her own nuanced world through a hearing trumpet.
It all started when Martineau, in an attempt to mobilise and educate against inequality, began writing economic pamphlets in a way that nobody had previously attempted. They proved incredibly popular and were read by everybody. She became so well-known that she was even banned from visiting Russia by the Tsar.
She travelled America, wrote about the slave trade, agitating for abolition and change.
She rejected creationism, and impressed Darwin and his brother Erasmus with her radical ideas, which were so incendiary that they were never published. That given -
‘I was astonished to find how little ugly she was,’ said Darwin.
‘One ought not to think of her as a woman,’ said Erasmus.
And we all smiled again.
Sympathy, belief and politics are all connected in Martineau’s work, said Smith, and it is the way that Martineau approaches everything with such sympathy that is fundamental about her.
Smith also noted Martineau’s “sharp muster-kick of spirit,” her indomitable need for utterance so strong that when Martineau was diagnosed with a serious illness she wrote her autobiography (nearly 1000 pages of it) very quickly in order to get her own story down before she died. She also wrote her own obituary.
The same obituary that was published when she died 20 years later.
Martineau never followed the expected course, and betrayed the doctors who diagnosed her swift end from an ovarian tumour by going to see a mesmerist and then recovering a mere two months later.
Instead of wasting away, she rode a camel across the Middle East, noting her boredom when visiting a harem, as there was simply nothing to do. Noticing a sad looking young girl in there, she resolved to make her laugh, passing around her ear trumpet, amusing them all so that they did not want to let her leave.
Because she was irrepressible. She was sympathetic, she was inspirational.
Martineau gave advice about writing: ‘know what you want to say and then say it,’ – and Ali Smith noted that this professed lack of self-editing is perhaps why some of Martineau’s “fountainous” writings are not better known.
However Martineau’s novel The Hour and the Man is a “witty and meaty read” about art connecting threads, art aware of its own potential to create change.
This is why we should be remembering Martineau on our £5 notes.
As it’s all about the money.
Maria Miller recently noted culture’s value as a commodity. A couple of weeks ago, a newspaper article considered that on current projections, inequality will be at Victorian standards in twenty years time.
Imagine Martineau’s eye on today’s issues, what would she say, do? What does it really mean to work in the arts today?
Here Smith traced an etymological trail from ‘to tell a yarn’ – guts – entrails – storytellers - to tell – count – account.
It’s all about the money.
Because “we tell and retell for the art of survival, to know what we’re worth.”
So the ‘Woman and the Hour’ ended, to delighted smiles as we all finally breathed out and sat back in our seats.
Through the Q&A we mused on the effect of Norwich on Martineau’s work; Smith saying that being an outsider was crucial for Martineau as it meant she could understand the differences between people, and was at home both in and out of the hub of things.
Similarly, when considering the impact of Martineau’s deafness on her life and work, the otherness created by this disability was also deemed formative – the hearing trumpet a powerful symbol, allowing Martineau to hear and see differently; to listen to her own silent, questioning voice.
Then came the end of the evening and the applause and this is what the applause said:
Ali Smith’s Harriet Martineau was irrepressible, sympathetic and inspirational.
Exactly like this lecture and this lecturer.
Ali Smith noted the following references in her research for this event, with thanks:
Please note this is by no means an exact transcription of the evening, and all errors are the blogger's own! For the real deal please listen to the event podcast:
A Modern Poet- from Twitter to Television.
Organised in collaboration with The Rialto, our first Norfolk & Norwich Festival event brought Sophie Hannah, Hannah Lowe, and Don Paterson to the Norwich Playhouse for an evening of poetry.
The clichéd image of a poet is often of an ethereal being who plucks rhymes from the air, and cultivates an unworldly muse, writing art for arts sake. This event proved that, if anything, inspiration tended towards the mundane; from writing about a dead dog, to writing a letter to an ex-boyfriend explaining how much better you are now.
Sophie Hannah began by confessing her addiction to Twitter (you can follow her @sophiehannahcb1) and reading a poem on the Dalai Lama not following her back on Twitter; showing that a poem really can be formed out of anything. Throughout her reading Sophie was accompanied by knowing giggles and smirks, as her poems recalled familiar feelings within the audience.
Listen to Sophie read:
Hannah Lowe was next on stage and started by reading 'Fist', which she described as a bleak poem. She explained that she writes a lot about her hometown of Ilford, and her father, for whom her first collection of poetry, Chick, is named. Hannah’s reading was a bitter-tender experience. (You can get a taster of Hannah’s poetry, and watch her read at the Norwich Showcase on Youtube.)
Don Paterson began by announcing:
He followed this statement by recounting a recent occasion when he went to see a famous (and un-named poet) at a reading, and ended up wishing the poems would end so he could hear the introductions to the poems, because the writer was far better at introducing his work then reading it.
And, actually, a lot of the joy at a poetry reading, or any literary reading, is the writer’s introduction to the piece they will be reading. It is the introduction which gives the audience an insight into the process of writing, and a clue about where the magic bean of inspiration originated. It is the introduction, and the Q&A’s at the literary event which reveal the writer.
Don’s introductions supported this, reading a poem based on the television series, House, and explaining that he believes soaps have taken the place of religion. He followed this with a found poem created via a google search- it was composed of insults, with each line beginning ‘What Paterson fails to realise...’
It was this self-awareness which seemed to become the theme of the evening- Sophie, Hannah and Don unpicked their motivations and explained their writing to us.
Michael Mackmin, the editor of The Rialto
opened the Q&A by describing Hannah’s poetry as a way of recovering memories. WCN Programme Director Jonathan Morley followed this by suggesting that Sophie’s writing was public poetry, and Don’s was poetry as philosophy (Don guffawed slightly at this...). Michael then asked, ‘Does poetry come out of form, or form out of poetry?’
This question inspired a discussion about what writing meant to the poets, and why they found themselves writing:
Hannah said that there was so much secrecy around her father that she began recreating him through her poetry- reforming his existence into a narrative which she could control and understand.
The Q&A finished with a question about the role of the internet in the modern writers life:
Sophie countered this with:
If this has inspired you to join Twitter, you can follow us @WritersCentre
, Sophie Hannah @SophiehannahCB1
and Hannah Lowe @Hannahlowepoet
The real joy of literary events, as I hope I’ve shown in this blog, is discovering the stories and the people behind the writing. Events with writers bring a new dimension to the stories that you love, as well as giving you an intriguing glimpse into the authors’ lives.
We hope to see you at one of our events soon- coming up for the Words & Ideas strand of the Festival is the Inaugural Harriet Martineau Lecture with Ali Smith
, a Live Literature double bill
with Luke Wright and Nathan Penlington, the debut performance of I Wish I Was Lonely
from Hannah Walker and Chris Thorpe and the Electronic Voice Phenomena
You can take a look at the other events coming up on our What’s On Page
A Special Evening of Poetry for an Extra Special Price
On the 13th May, Writers’ Centre Norwich will be host to a trio of poets at Norwich Playhouse. Organised in collaboration with The Rialto Magazine, poets Don Paterson, Sophie Hannah and Hannah Lowe will be opening Words & Ideas at the Norfolk & Norwich Festival. And, even if we do say so ourselves, this is one event you won’t want to miss. Especially as you can buy tickets half price.
The evening promises to be a delightful exploration of contemporary poetry- I can’t wait to hear all of the poets, but I am particularly looking forward to hearing Sophie Hannah read again.
I was lucky enough to hear her read at the EDP Book Awards last year, and felt connected with the text in a way which I hadn’t experienced when reading her poetry at home. (It also persuaded me to dig out her collection of Selected Poems when I got home, and to re-imagine the slants and emphasis of the writing.)
Sophie Hannah’s poetry is clever, witty, and undeniably wicked. Her writing has a vicious, razor sharp edge. Sophie takes everyday incidents, and spins them into bittersweet poems, writing with grace and intelligence. It’s little wonder that she has been shortlisted for the TS Eliot Prize, while her bestselling psychological thrillers continue to receive critical acclaim.
For a taster of Sophie’s poetry, you can watch her read If People Disapprove on YouTube.
While Sophie Hannah is sure to make you laugh, Don Paterson
will make you shift forward in your seat, alert and straight-backed.
Paterson has won most of the poetry prizes around; from the Forward Prize to the TS Eliot Prize (twice). His accolades speak for themselves, but don’t capture the scope and quality of his work. Don Paterson writes lyrically on fable and charm, creating an intimate exploration of the moments that unite us all.
Don Paterson’s reading is sure to be both thought provoking and moving, and a perfect foil for Sophie Hannah and Hannah Lowe’s readings.
Don Paterson reads Rain:
Last, but certainly not least, Hannah Lowe
will also be reading at the event. Hannah published her first full-length collection, Chick
, earlier this year. Described as an “extraordinary debut”, the publication heralds a fresh and outstanding voice into the world of contemporary poetry.
Hannah joined us last year to read at The Norwich Showcase
and you can watch her reading on YouTube:
Lowe’s sensory poetry is deeply personal. Chick
is named after her father, and it tells the story of his extraordinary character, a Chinese-black Jamaican migrant who gambled professionally. Hannah’s poems capture an emotional truth, but always resist sentimentality with peculiar beauty.
This Rialto event promises to introduce you to a world of brilliant poetry, bringing established and emerging poets together for an evening of immersive entertainment. And, I for one, can’t wait.
Get your tickets now.
The Readers' Circle Decides
WCN Programme Assistant Lara Narkiewicz blogs about the Readers’ Circle, a unique programme which encourages readers to get involved with each stage of our Summer Reads book selection process.
Last summer WCN Programme Manager Sam Ruddock, poet and Summer Reads friend Julia Webb and myself visited a number of libraries across Norfolk. We were there to promote Summer Reads and to meet keen readers. These events were a real success and we got to know a lot of enthusiastic readers along the way.
This made us wonder why we hadn’t involved readers earlier on in the programme. So, for 2013 we formed the Readers’ Circle and invited some of the brilliant readers we’d already met to join us in choosing the books that would make up Summer Reads 2013.
The Readers’ Circle was made up keen readers, librarians, booksellers and several WCN staff. Our readers all had different jobs and backgrounds- some were employed full-time, others were retired, some were writers and poets and others had careers in the literary sector. Each of them brought a unique and valuable viewpoint about the process and the books. We started meeting in September 2012 with a longlist of 116 prospective titles and a need to whittle them down to 6. We really had a task on our hands!
For the next four months, the dedicated members of the Circle popped in to the office to pick up books, and sent us reviews of the books they had read- 20 or so each and every week! To follow up on this and to reduce the longlist to a shortlist, we had a meeting every month where readers debated long and hard about each contender.
When we started, we asked everyone to commit to reading at least 6 books. Everyone did this, and many read and reviewed between twenty and thirty titles; an extraordinary effort.
By January, we had worked our way down to just 20 titles, and came together for an epic meeting to cut the list down to the final six. It was at that meeting where the effort, the opinions about the books, and the enjoyment that the Readers’ Circle had had from the experience became really clear.
When we reached the final six, there was a real feeling of satisfaction, teamwork and excitement about Summer Reads (accompanied by celebratory cake and bubbly)!
The Readers’ Circle was a unique and fantastic experience for me, and one which I have thoroughly enjoyed. It was great to be part of a group that was truly passionate about choosing books that would encourage others to go outside their literary comfort zone and try something new. With a mix of poetry, non-fiction, short stories, fiction and books in translation, we have a first-class selection of titles that Sam and I are delighted to be promoting across Norfolk on behalf of WCN. And for that we have the Readers’ Circle to thank.
If you would like to take part in the Readers’ Circle in 2014, Writers’ Centre Norwich will have more information available at our “Get Involved!” events in 8 libraries across Norfolk in May and August.
Details of dates and times will be available on our website soon. Alternatively, contact Writers’ Centre Norwich at email@example.com
I look forward to meeting you!
This years’ Summer Reads will be launched on the 1st of May.
To keep up to date, follow @WCNBookClub
Or ‘Like’ WCN Book Club
Find out more about last year’s Summer Reads campaign at www.summerreads.org.uk
Guest Blog Post: The Inner Melody of Julian of Norwich's Writing
In advance of Julian Week (6th-10th May), Louise Øhrstrøm, co-ordinator of Julian Week, blogs about the upcoming event with Mikael R Andreasen and Edwin Kelly.
Two international guests will be visiting Norwich for the upcoming Julian Week (6th-10th of May). Danish Mikael R Andreasen will be playing songs he has composed on Julian's lyrics. Irish Edwin Kelly will be reading from his experimental translation of Julian's writings. Louise Øhrstrøm has asked the two artists what they find fascinating about Julian of Norwich as a writer.
In 2010 Mikael R Andreasen's Danish band Kloster released their critical acclaimed fourth album, The Winds and Waves Still Know His Voice, which holds songs based on Julian of Norwich’s Middle English lyrics. Kloster was booked for Roskilde Festival (the biggest music festival in Northern Europe) in 2011 because of that album and has played at a number of venues in Europe.
Mikael R Andreasen heard about Julian from a friend and soon learned that Julian's words somehow seemed really easy to put into melody:
“It was as if the passages contained some sort of inner melody themselves. Later, when I started reading Julian's complete work in English, I noticed, that also just by reading, the text seemed very rhythmic and had an almost melodic ease or flow to it”, Mikael explains.
Edwin Kelly became interested in Julian when he did an MA in Poetry at University of East Anglia. He currently works on an experimental translation of her texts, inspired by an ancient tradition of editing manuscripts:
“I work with Julian's texts in a way I feel it has been worked with throughout the last 600 years or so - simply as an engaged reader who wants to know more. In medieval times this engagement may have been mainly looking for devotional and spiritual guidance. In an academic context, this engagement may look at the production of the text itself. Personally, I'm most interested in the emotional power of the text and how this has been maintained through the centuries. I work with the text as a document of the experience and as a physical object”, Edwin says.
Both artists find that there is something about Julian's voice that makes her writings relevant even for a modern reader.
Edwin explains: “The texts themselves are consistently surprising. Just when I feel I have categorised them, something in their style will lead me to question my assumptions. I think Julian's texts are, to some extent, taken a little for granted. Often, interest is in relation who she is rather than what she wrote. I think people will be pleasantly surprised if they take the time to read and respond to what she wrote. It will deepen their appreciation of a fascinating and surprising figure”.
Mikael R Andreasen particularly likes the way in which Julian talks about suffering and love:
“Today it seems like whenever love hurts a tiny bit, people tend to throw it away in search for any kind of new 'suffer-absent-love.' It is as if we have created a culture where we are trying to avoid suffering at all cost. In such a culture, I find it both interesting and provoking to read how Julian almost asked for an experience of suffering in order to understand what love is all about.”
Meet Mikael R Andreasen and Edwin Kelly at Julian Week at the Comforting Words event.
For more info, please visit the Julian Week website.
Other Julian Week events include:
Julian of Norwich: Poetry Writing and Critical Reading Workshop by poet Edwin Kelly and PhD student Louise Øhrstrøm
Julian of Norwich as a Poet: Language and the Search for Meaning in A Showing of Love
Translating the Poetry of the Holocaust- A New Collaborative Project
“Translating the Poetry of the Holocaust” is the title of a major new research project led by Professor Jean Boase-Beier at the University of East Anglia, working in partnership with Writers’ Centre Norwich, and including a number of public events.
Historical documents and eye-witness accounts have given us the facts about the mass-murder, degradation and annihilation of whole communities in Europe between the early 1930s and 1945.
“Translating the Poetry of the Holocaust” aims to explore the legacy of poetry created during the Holocaust, as poetry does more than document facts; it invites the reader to engage. Poetry can have a profound emotional effect on its reader, and it is through this emotional connection that we can keep events such as the Holocaust alive in peoples’ memories.
The difficulty in translating this poetry is ensuring that the translation is still interesting and meaningful for readers so far removed in time and place, whilst preserving the original message and meaning of the text. Professor Jean Boase-Beier will be translating the poetry with others, and hopes to further share the work with anyone who has an interest in the Holocaust, or in translated poetry.
Much of the Holocaust poetry we are familiar with is in English translation, written by members of the Jewish communities who were interred in camps, or detained in ghettos, and managed to flee abroad. Boase-Beier is keen to find examples of Holocaust poetry in other languages such as Italian, French or Hungarian, and intends to include poetry written by victims and survivors who were not Jewish.
This project will result in an academic book, and an anthology of the poetry translated by Jean Boase-Beier and other writers. There will also be a series of public events, and an exhibition. Professor Boase-Beier hopes that anyone who is interested in the Holocaust, poetry, translation, or the movement between culture and languages will attend the events.
The first public event in Norwich will be a Café Conversation held by Jean Boase-Beier, in the UEA Café Conversation series run by BJ Epstein. This takes place on 26th April at 2 pm in the White Lion Café, and is entitled “What’s the Point of Holocaust Poetry?". Please come along if you are interested- there’s no need for you to have been to any of the other Café Conversations. (Find out more about Café Conversations)
Later on in the year there will be an event in a local Norwich bookshop, and on 4th and 5th November there will be a free exhibition on Holocaust poetry and its translation at the Forum. There will also be two workshops, one on each day, and a poetry reading in the Library Training Room on 5th November.
On December 4th there will be a Translation Workshop on Holocaust poetry from 5-7 pm at UEA. This is part of the series of Workshops for the MA students, and, like all Translation Workshops in the series, it is open to members of the public and is a unique opportunity to see what MA students are learning about translation, and to join in. For further details on the workshops contact Dr Cecilia Rossi on firstname.lastname@example.org.
For further details on "Translating the Poetry of the Holocaust", contact Prof Jean Boase-Beier on email@example.com
Writing Talk- A Guest Blog Post from Alex Hamilton
Writer and Journalist Alex Hamilton blogs about his new book, Writing Talk, a collection of interviews and anecdotes with some of the most distinguished writers of our time. Author interviews include discussions with Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Heller and Angela Carter. Here's what Alex had to say:
Writing Talk is made up of 85 of my hundreds of conversations with top writers of the last fifty years, some for The Times, most for the Guardian. They are all authors of fiction or poetry, plus half a dozen cartoonists. Whenever possible I saw them in their own homes, where they’d be at ease, without distractions. Sometimes, when my newspaper could afford it, I’d meet in another country, such as Graham Greene in Antibes, Muriel Spark in Rome, Hergé in Brussels, Erskine Caldwell in Monaco, George Mackay Brown in Stromness, Régine Deforges and Romain Gary in Paris…
But USA and India were too costly, so I’d catch such Americans as Vonnegut, Jacqueline Susann, Updike, Spillane and Stephen King en passant. A hotel, a restaurant, anything but their publishing house. The Singhalese Tambimuttu chose a bench in a park. R. K. Narayan from India struggled up 74 stairs to my flat — it was fascinating to find them all so different from each other.
There are many light occasions in the business of interviewing authors. Such as with publisher and writer D. J. Enright, who thanked me for my piece but added that his mother hadn't known about the opium I'd revealed, which he'd enjoyed with academic colleagues in the Far East ("The exam papers tended to be marked rather high, but at least they were consistently high.")
Another unexpected cheer came to me from Muriel Spark, in whose company I'd spent two days in Rome, full of questions, who wrote to me back in London saying great, but that she hadn't realised our meeting was an interview.
Again, it was good luck for me when I bumped into Graham Greene in Antibes the evening before we were due to meet and he suggested a drink, but not where I'd been — he had a feud there, he said, but we'd go round the corner to where the HQ of the Mafia drank. This relaxed us both, and the next day he talked freely all day long. Julian Symons years later told me that he classed Greene at the head of the second division, but I thought he was up there in the first.
While my novels and collections of stories lasted a reasonable time, newspaper features in those days were soon past and forgotten, so I hope reviving these interviews will entertain and inform my contemporaries and stimulate and intrigue newer generations of writers and readers.
Find out more about Writing Talk.
Read a Guardian article on Writing Talk.
More about Alex
Alex Hamilton grew up in Brazil and Argentina, but came to Britain at sixteen to attend Clifton College. After graduating from The Queen’s College, Oxford, he cruised through a great miscellany of around fifty jobs, from building a gas station to selling offal in Smithfield, while also writing fiction; this led first to a Saturday column in The Times
, then, for twenty-five years, writing on the arts for the Guardian
He not only reviewed literally thousands of works of fiction and non-fiction but interviewed the professionals involved in every aspect of the book trade. Alex has in the past published three novels and four collections of short stories — three of them in his particular genre of quiet, subtle horror — plus a volume of his Collected Stories, The Attic Express
. He has also edited six anthologies of horror stories and appeared in many others.
In 1965 he married Stephanie Nettell, another literary journalist, and they have two sons and two grandchildren. After twenty-eight years in a flat near London’s Oxford Street, in 1997 they changed gear to live in an old farmhouse in West Norfolk.
Laughing in the Dark: a Snapshot from the Lahore Literary Festival
The British Council recently enabled me to travel to Pakistan to visit the first Lahore Literary Festival. The festival itself and the opportunity to glimpse Pakistan from behind the news headlines provided an enlightening, refreshing experience, and one that will remain with me for a long time. The following is a set of reflections on what I saw and the thoughts it inspired in me. For an excellent insight into the social impact of the festival, I recommend an article from the Indian Express entitled ‘Literature and Longing in Lahore’.
I discovered literature through attending festivals.
Although much of my childhood was spent with my head in a book and as I grew up it was in relation to characters in books that I increasingly understood my own identity and ambitions, it was only with attending literary festivals in my early-twenties that I encountered literature as a social, communal experience and started to engage with the world of literature beyond that contained within a book. Being read to, meeting authors, the buzz of an excited audience discussing big ideas, feeling involved in something bigger than one person sitting in a chair with a book: it was all this I fell in love with and that transformed me from a compulsive reader into someone who wanted to make a career in literature. Nothing can replace the private experience of reading a book, but for provocation and immersing yourself in literature and the world, there is nowhere like a festival.
That I’m talking so idealistically about festivals is due in no small part to my experience in Lahore. I had not realised how inadvertently blasé I had become about festivals – there’s one almost every week in the UK and authors are reeling under the expectation to promote a book at every conceivable opportunity – until surrounded with the energy of a new festival in a city recently starved of cultural opportunity.
Imagine living in a society where cinemas have closed down having been targeted by terrorists, sports teams no longer visit, and even the fabled kite flying Basant that heralds the coming of spring and covers the city in a brightly coloured blanket each February has been cancelled. And now imagine that into this desert comes a literary festival, complete with authors from around the world, high profile Pakistani writers, discussions on themes such as ‘Literature and Resistance’ and ‘The Globalisation of Pakistan’s Literature’, and the chance to discuss political troubles in a secular public space.
In such circumstances, the raucous, almost bawdy yet respectful atmosphere that was like nothing I’ve ever experienced at a festival started to make sense. The very existence of the festival was an act of social defiance that said things like this can happen safely in modern Pakistan. That it passed off so positively may mark a watershed for the city.
Had I not been with the British Council, I never would have thought to visit Pakistan. In fact, I’d have been terrified to. Yet three days there showed me how narrow such a viewpoint would have been. The Lahore I encountered was populated with friendly, warm, engaged, intelligent, liberal people. We were safe walking the streets both around the festival and the old city centre, were welcomed as tourists into Mosques, and saw nearly nobody wearing the burqa. It was a city I felt comfortable in.
‘I feel like our generation has been deprived of so much this city has to offer’, wrote @azafark on Twitter as the early spring sunshine appeared in the sky above Lahore for the second day of the festival. Crowds bulged. If the auditoriums of the Alhamra Art Centre were two-thirds full at 9am on the first day, they were bursting at the seams and spilling into the aisles by the second. The festival concluded with a conversation between William Dalrymple and Ahmed Rashid on ‘Cultures in Conflict’. Outside the queue of those who couldn’t get in snaked around the paths of the centre. I quickly abandoned any hope of attending and settled into people watching as the crowds enthusiastically discussed what they had seen and heard during the day.
In total, more than 15,000 people came through the festival over the two days. The audiences were made up of an even split between men and women, and ranged in age from teenagers through to those in their late eighties. If a theme emerged from the festival it was the state of Pakistan: its difficulties, challenges, and international standing. There was no shying away from recent troubles, but a pragmatic approach to the future abounded. ‘Yes we have challenges. But that is not who we are,’ said Nadeem Aslam, whose recently published fourth novel, The Blind Man’s Garden is both a metaphor for, and exploration of, life in Pakistan over the past decade. Reading from the book he treated the audience to the first chapter, where the main character, Rohan, recalls a conversation he had when his son was a child. On finding Jeo distressed by a story, ‘Rohan had given a small laugh to comfort him and asked,
‘But have you ever heard a story in which the evil person triumphs at the end?’
The boy thought for a while before replying.
‘No,’ he said, ‘but before they lose, they harm the good people. That is what I am afraid of.’
It was a passage that resonated with me and, I suspect, the entire audience. At other points in the weekend, a range of other writers responded to the challenges of the day. Lahore born prominent left-wing academic Tariq Ali echoed the sentiments of Rudyard Kipling a century earlier in calling for the teaching of history through stories and narratives so as to keep it alive and prevent aberrations such as the Taliban occurring. Discussing satire, Mohammed Hanif and Moni Mohsin argued that in difficult times ‘you have to laugh in the dark,’ especially when ‘the darkness keeps getting darker…and the lightness more hysterical.’
Elsewhere passionate debates about national identities and self determination brought anger towards the behaviour of both Pakistan and India in Kashmir, and dismay at the utter breakdown in political relations between the two. And yet conversation returned time and again to the question of whether literature can actually change anything. There’s a dichotomy in literature between the quiet, private artform we all fall in love with, and how that then impacts on the world itself. No author involved was able or willing to categorically suggest that either writing or festivals alone can change the world. Yet there was a sense that, in ‘building self resistance’ (Selma Dabbagh) and ‘letting you live’ (Basharat Peer) they can change people. And how else is the world changed?
‘Now that it's over,’ writes Komail Aijazuddin in the Indian Express
, ‘the energy and intensity conjured over the last few days have nowhere to go. I am anxious, but for once it is because of something we've gained, not lost.’ I had expected my experiences in Pakistan to be somewhat different to the Pakistan of the news. But what I encountered was as far from that which we see as it is possible to get. The country has its significant problems to overcome. They were openly discussed and will take time and concerted effort to resolve. Yet the people I met convinced me that better times lie ahead for the people of Lahore. They certainly deserve it. And in the meantime, they now have a literary festival that can only go from strength to strength.
Story and Sugar- A Guest Blog from Escalator Winner James Ferron Anderson
James Ferron Anderson won a place on our 2006-2007 Escalator Literature Scheme and a TLC Free Read in 2011. His novel, The River and the Sea, was published by Rethink Press last year, after winning the Rethink Press New Novel Award.
Of course: we live by story. I want bread… and there’s a story there of me having the desire for bread, having no bread, planning to get bread. Not the most complex story. It goes on. What kind of bread? Will the shop have bread? Will this story have a happy ending? Well, it’s got a few layers. I tell myself stories of my hopes, fears, loves, hatreds, miseries, pleasures, and then buy into them.
This is the platitude that we…I, rather… understand and misunderstand our worlds through story. That realization came early, and that to explore these stories and the motivation behind them would be to understand the world better, and Jesus knows I needed that, sharpish.
But there was another level to which it could be taken: stories constructed with no illusion that what was being made had reality, that nebulous thing. The intentionally-made story, about people who never existed, doing things I usually had no experience of in places I probably had never been. An amalgam of the experienced and the read about. And unlike the story of the bread, and the few thousand other stories I’d tell myself every day, these I might choose to exhibit.
One of the first short stories I sent off anywhere, The Bog Menagerie, won the Bryan McMahon Short Story Award in Listowel, County Kerry and 2000 euro. When the letter came I phoned up a friend and read it to him. Is this a hoax? Think about those words in the letter… really carefully… I’ll read it again… Is this a fraud of some kind? I was shaking. I was shaking because if it was real somebody else had valued my plaything, my toy, my tool for trying to figure out what the hell was going on around me.
I never knew affirmation mattered until I got it.
I had a novel underway. It had been underway for four or five years. A novel is a heavy-duty JCB-tooled project in the world of story-telling construction. I submitted it for an Escalator Award. I got it. I remember being asked by Leila Telford to write a few words about how it felt. I said the affirmation mattered, the money mattered, the mentor mattered, the class on 'Reading in Public' mattered, the sometime company of the other winners mattered, the kudos for applying to an agent mattered. What part of it didn’t matter?
Yet I didn’t need Escalator to keep me working with words, incidents, relationships, consequences: the making-up of stuff. I wrote because the act of writing, even when frustrating, was always better than not writing. But what this award did was a magnified version of the Listowel and other awards: it took me out of the back room and kept the idea of making connections with readers via the page and its contents foregrounded. Of course writers benefit from sugar lumps that in various ways keep the pony trotting. My Escalator Award was more than a sugar lump (or a loaf of bread) in keeping me on the road that linked my images to the minds of others and not galloping off across the bogs and mires of solipsism. We can only thrive, if that is the word, for so long on neglect. We can only thrive so long in isolation. When I did take a slump in motivation a couple of years later a TLC Free Read Award shoved me back up onto my particular road.
I went on to write The River and The Sea
. It won the Rethink Press New Novels Award, and was published in November 2012. It’s a wonderful book, and I’m very pleased. I’m currently working on the provisionally titled Terminal City
, a rather noir love story set in Vancouver in 1940 and 1959. It’s going slowly but it’s going. Long may the pony trot.
More About James'
I was born in Northern Ireland where I worked as a weaver, glassblower and soldier. I moved to Norwich, partly to study but mostly to get my children away from the violence that was Northern Ireland in those years. I began to write in different forms, including poetry, short stories, plays and, more recently, novels. One of my first short stories, The Bog Menagerie
, won the Bryan MacMahon Short Story Award and 2000 euro in my native Ireland. All The Whole Wide World
, another short story, was broadcast on Short Story Radio. The River and The Sea
won the Rethink Press New Novels Award in 2012, and was published soon after.
Visit James' website.
From Page to Stage: Susan Sellers Blogs about her Novel's Adaptation
Susan Sellers, 2007 Escalator winner, has kindly written us a blog about her Escalator novel Vanessa and Virginia being adapted for stage. Vanessa And Virginia will be playing at Riverside Studios from March 26th to the 14th April.
Writer Sebastian Faulks once remarked that turning a novel into a play is like turning a painting into a sculpture. I don't know if this metaphor is an accurate description of the process, but seeing my novel Vanessa and Virginia
adapted for the stage has been a fascinating experience.
Vanessa and Virginia
I wrote the final draft of Vanessa and Virginia
(a fictionalised account of the intense and sometimes turbulent relationship between Virginia Woolf and her artist sister Vanessa Bell), during the first months of being accepted onto WCN's Escalator Literature
programme. The novel was published by a brave independent run by two writers called Two Ravens
, and went on to sell to America, France, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Russia, Poland, Brazil, Lithuania, Portugal, China, Korea and Japan. So, for anyone reading this trying to get their writing published, my advice is 'don't overlook the independents since they can often take risks mainstream presses cannot'.
was adapted for the stage by Elizabeth Wright, and the first thing that struck me about her script was its shortness. The novel is about 70,000 words long, the play less than 10,000 - and some of these are stage directions! Anything not absolutely essential to the central story of the two women had to be cut for the play. I was very fortunate to have Elizabeth as the book's adaptor. Not only is she a highly talented theatre writer, she is also a Woolf scholar, specialising in Woolf's interest in theatre.
I was invited by director Emma Gersch, from the award-winning Moving Stories Theatre
, to assist the two actors cast as Vanessa and Virginia with their research. Since the story progresses from the sisters' childhood into old age, the first thing we did was prepare a time-line consisting of dates, facts, quotes and images which the actors pinned up round the rehearsal room. It was riveting to watch how the actors built up the characters of the two women and decided with the director how all the different elements of the play should be staged.
The design was given to the hugely gifted Kate Unwin
(credits include the extraordinary Metro-Boulot-Dodo at the National), who drew on the fact Woolf's sister Vanessa Bell was a painter. Since this was initially a touring production, a slide show of images based on Bell's artwork was created, and Kate also grouped the various props the actors use in a semi-circle round the edge of each performance space - as if they were the pools of colour on a palette.
There is original music in the play, created during rehearsal by composer Jeremy Thurlow
. The music is not only hauntingly beautiful, it also serves an important function in helping the actors mark the transitions between time-shifts.
After performances across the UK, and in France, Germany and Poland, the play of Vanessa and Virginia
is currently back in rehearsal for a London run at the Riverside Studios
, Hammersmith, from March 26th until April 14th. The play is being redesigned for the more permanent space of the Riverside - and I for one can't wait to see it!
I'd like to say a huge thank you to Michelle Spring, Sal Cline, Midge Gilles, Chris Gribble, everyone at WCN and especially my fellow 'Escalatees', for making the Escalator year the start of such an extraordinary journey.
Find out more about Vanessa and Virginia at the Riverside.
Read more about the play on Susan's blog.
Find out more about Escalator Literature Writing Competition.
After a nomadic childhood, Susan Sellers ran away to Paris. Renting a chambre de bonne, she worked as a barmaid, tour-guide and nanny, bluffed her way as a software translator and co-wrote a film script with a Hollywood screenwriter. She became closely involved withleading French feminist writers and translated Hélène Cixous. From Paris she travelled to Swaziland, teaching English to tribal grandmothers, and to Peru, where she worked for a women’s aid agency.
She is Professor of English and Related Literature at the University of St Andrews. In 2002 she won the Canongate Prize for Short Story Writing and, following a year with Escalator, completed her first novel Vanessa and Virginia in 2008. She is currently completing her second novel, Given the Choice
, which is set in the contemporary London art world and gives the reader a choice of endings. She has already started on a third. Susan is represented by Jenny Brown at Jenny Brown Associates.
UNESCO City of Literature brings Ali Smith as Visiting Professor
Following the successful designation of Norwich as England’s first and the world’s sixth UNESCO City of Literature
, we’re delighted to announce that the Booker-shortlisted novelist, Ali Smith, has joined the UEA Creative Writing programme this semester as a UNESCO City of Literature visiting professor. She’ll be working with Creative Writing and Translation students, offering individual tutorials and seminars.
The UEA will be marking the UNESCO designation by appointing two visiting professors of international repute annually. The playwright Timberlake Wertenbaker was the inaugural professor in the Autumn 2012 semester.
And that’s not all...
Ali, who was shortlisted for both the Orange Prize and the Man Booker Prize for her 2001 novel Hotel World and for her 2004 novel The Accidental, will soon be hosting a literary event in the heart of Norwich. We’re very excited about it, and just sorry that we can’t tell you more.
The UNESCO City of Literature status is building up a head of steam. Sign-up to our e-news on the top-left of this page to keep up with all the literary delights heading to Norwich in 2013 – it’s going to be a busy, inspiring year!
Writing Tarantula’s Web: the Long Haul
John Smart won our New Ventures Non-fiction award back in 2005. He got in touch with us recently with news of his soon-to-be-published biography, Tarantula's Web: John Hayward, T.S. Eliot and their Circle, and kindly wrote us the following about his journey towards publication.
In 2002 I was showing a friend around the school where I taught. He pointed out a name on the Honours Boards in the school hall. In gilt letters it read for the year 1918: John Hayward Exhibition to King’s College Cambridge. I remembered that John Hayward had edited The Penguin Book of English Verse
but otherwise knew nothing of him. My friend said that John Hayward’s papers had been embargoed until the year 2000 but were now available at his old Cambridge college. I had been looking for something to write for some time and this seemed a promising lead.
So I looked up all the material I could find on the internet and found I owned two books edited by Hayward for the Nonesuch Press. More interestingly, I soon discovered that John Hayward had shared a flat for eleven years with T. S. Eliot.
So I got permission to read the papers at King’s. When I first opened the catalogues I realised the size of the undertaking. Hayward was a prolific writer and his letters alone took days to read. The files also contained all the reviews he had written – in one year he had done nearly 300 – some poems, an abandoned novel, lectures he had given, photographs and all the paraphernalia of a literary life.
I began writing up what I had found straightaway. The gain was that I wouldn’t forget completely about it as I acquired more material. The difficulty was fitting it all together much later to make a coherent narrative.
There followed regular visits to Cambridge and then to family archives in Wales and London. I found many of Hayward’s papers at the University of Texas and employed a proxy researcher there. The trail led to unexpected places – to the Houghton Library at Harvard, to France and Ireland – and to unexpected people who rang or wrote to me out of the blue with their memories.
The writing was interrupted by difficulties; schoolwork took its time; the material was sometimes hard to find and travel had its own problems. At first, I thought the task might take three or more years. In fact it took ten. The writing was also much harder than I had expected. I was helped enormously by winning the New Ventures Non-fiction award in 2005 and the mentoring process which followed which forced me to examine my own style.
At first, excited by my discoveries, I had naively assumed that the narrative itself would more or less carry the reader forward. But I soon began to realize that this was not so. The writing had to be as convincing and powerful as I could possibly make it. I cast and re-cast every sentence and revised constantly. Structurally the problem was how best to combine the narrative drive whilst bringing out the themes and preoccupations of the life.
There were times when I thought I could never do this at all and the typescript sat reproachfully on my desk month after month, but I finally made it and look forward to the publication date of January 12 with excitement, and some fear and trepidation.
John will be at Holt Bookshop, 6.30pm on Friday, January 11th, to talk about his new book. Tickets are available from the bookshop, cost £5 and are redeemable against the purchase of the book on the night.
High Impact- A Literary Tour with a Difference
As a book nerd of the highest order I go to a lot of literary events. A lot of signings, talks, discussions, readings- as long as there’s books involved I’m there. However, sometimes there’s an event that looks so brilliant I know that I’m going to tell all of my friends to come. High Impact is one of those events.
High Impact takes place over six days, across six cities, and features six best-selling and prize winning authors. The writers all hail from neighbouring countries Belgium and the Netherlands, and include authors Chika Unigwe and Herman Koch.
I heard Chika read earlier this year at Worlds from her latest novel, Night Dancer. I have rarely enjoyed a reading so much, or felt a room fall into such a deep silence. Chika has the gift of writing brilliantly, and the much-sought after but only occasionally achieved, gift of speaking brilliantly too. Her reading conjured up Africa and created a character so vivid that if you closed your eyes you could imagine her standing in front of you. I cannot wait to hear from her again, and would highly recommend her novels.
Herman Koch’s The Dinner is one of my best books of the year. Described as a cross between The Slap (Christos Tsiolkas) and We Need To Talk About Kevin (Lionel Shriver), The Dinner is a wicked narrative of crises and parental collusion. Interestingly Herman Koch also works as a comedy actor- so his reading is sure to be brilliant.
High Impact will arrive at Norwich Arts Centre on the 18th January, and you can buy your ticket from them online.
The other visiting authors include Lieve Joris, Poet Laureate Ramsey Nasr, Peter Terrin, a psychological thriller writer, and Judith Vanistendael, a graphic novelist. See below for a little more information about these writers:
Lieve Joris: whose journalism & non-fiction books on Africa, China, the Middle East & Europe have earned her the reputation as the VS Naipaul or Ryszard Kapuscinski of the Low Countries. Author of the acclaimed The Rebel’s Hour (Atlantic, 2008):
‘Powerful and timely, intensely imagined.’ - Paul Theroux
Ramsey Nasr: the Dutch Poet Laureate & all-round Renaissance Man (actor, director, poet, journalist & librettist), famed for his beautiful prose, provocative politics & exciting public appearances. Heavenly Life was published by Banipal in 2010.
‘With this collection Anglophone readers are introduced to a poet of global scope.’ – Marilyn Hacker
Peter Terrin: this year’s winner of the prestigious AKO Literature Prize & author of the magnificent psychological thriller The Guard (Maclehose Press, 2012):
'A rich and gripping mix of all the ingredients that make for a truly haunting atmosphere.' - Writers' Hub
Judith Vanistendael: the Posy Simmonds of Belgium; the bold & brilliant graphic novelist of When David Lost His Voice (Self Made Hero, 2012):
‘Big, bleak, brilliant and stark.’ – The Economist
High Impact is sponsored by Flanders House and the Netherlands Embassy in London and curated by Rosie Goldsmith. To find out more about the tour visit the High Impact website.
Norfolk's Great Australian Writer
A few weeks ago Dr Toby Davidson of Macquarie University, Sydney, came to WCN to donate two books about the celebrated Sydney poet, Francis Webb (1925-73). Webb spent 4-5 years in the late 1950s in Norfolk and wrote a series of poems on the region. Read on to find out more about Norfolk's great Australian writer in a blog post by Toby Davidson, and why not enjoy a couple of his poems too.
It was my pleasure today (Thurs 9th November) to donate two books to the Writers' Centre Norwich: Francis Webb's Collected Poems, which I have edited for University of Western Australia Publishing (2011), and Michael Griffith's landmark biography God's Fool: The Life and Poetry of Francis Webb (1991) which includes a full chapter on Webb's Norfolk movements. Both titles are now also available as e-books (UWA Publishing, Amazon) for those who may be interested in the immediately-downloadable versions.
Francis Webb (1925-73) is Norfolk's great Australian poet. Australian poetry royalty such as Judith Wright, Les Murray, Gwen Harwood, Chris Wallace-Crabbe and Robert Adamson have all credited him with being one of the most talented and prodigious Australian poets of all time. Raised in Sydney by his paternal grandparents after his mother (terminal pneumonia) and father (institutionalised with 'melancholia') were cruelly taken away, Webb was first published in Australia's major cultural journal the Bulletin while still a schoolboy during World War Two. After a stint in Canada training for the RAAF and working in various labouring jobs, he first came to England in 1949. He was in a state of turmoil at the time, having fallen out with his Bulletin father-figures Douglas Stewart and Norman Lindsay over his preference for English and American moderns including Hart Crane, Dylan Thomas, T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. It was Robert Lowell, however, who most stirred him to write in the confessional style and to 'openly acknowledge God and the Redemption' as Webb himself put it. Upon reaching his aunt's house in Epsom, he suffered his first breakdown and was institutionalised. This scenario would sadly come to repeat itself again and again from the point of his next visit in 1953.
From 1953-55 he was insitutionalised in several hospitals around the Birmingham and Surrey areas, initially for 'persecution mania' which would later present itself as chronic, yet episodic, schizophrenia which allowed periods of clarity to write despite the illness, sometimes heavy medications and shock treatment. His verse play about Hitler 'Birthday' was broadcast on the BBC in 1955 and 'A Death of Winson Green' appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, raising literary eyebrows in the UK and Australia. In 1956 he moved to his ancestral Norfolk region (his family were also great sailors), first to Hellesdon Hospital in Drayton, then up the road to David Rice Hospital, a more modern facility with forward-looking doctors who encouraged his creative efforts. He stayed in the region until returning to Australia in 1960, making his Norfolk experience one of the most stable in a life filled with transitions and upheavals.
Webb's English-era poems, notably 'Mousehold Heath', 'Beeston Regis', 'October', 'Gale Force', 'Bells of St Peter Mancroft', 'The Chalice', 'Kookaburra on Television', 'Derelict Church', 'Hethersett' and his majestic fourteen-poem sequence 'Around Costessey', feature in his final two collections Socrates (1961) and The Ghost of the Cock (1964). In 1969 his Collected Poems was first published with a foreword by esteemed English poet and critic Sir Herbert Read. Read concluded: "From the beginning Webb has been concerned with the same tragic problems as Rilke, Eliot, Pasternak and, to mention a contemporary who presents a close parallel, Robert Lowell. I cannot, after long meditation on his verse, place his achievement on a level lower than that suggested by these names."
I will now myself conclude with my sincere hope that local writers may finally have the opportunity to hold Webb as one of their own. Cameron Self on his Literary Norfolk website has begun this process with his appraisal of the Collected Poems from a Norfolkian perspective, and I thank him for his important contribution.
Here are two selections from the poetry to get you started. The first is from the 'Around Costessey' sequence, which features a four-poem tribute to the Norfolk school painter Anthony Sandys but also this evocation of the remaining tower of the old Costessey Hall, now on Costessey golf course as it turns out (my thanks to Jeremy Noel-Todd from University of East Anglia for taking me there recently, where we could see the initials on the old clock):
from Around Costessey: The Tower (1964)
This tower of a red stone, eroded whistling ghost
Where bush and grasses cross themselves and cower
and juvenile pigeons play at being lost
And the airman's initials rest one single hour.
What frightens you must be a ruin and a waste.
But on this Easter Monday I will drink
Your Costessey to the dregs, and likely think
To find in these red stones the selfsame taste.
For out of my soul one hundred times before
Has leapt a ghostly thing, bare in its power,
As faith, and to the ceaseless, causeless war
Brought truce, bearing itself like this old tower.
from Bells of St Peter Mancroft (1961)
Gay golden volleys of banter
Bombard the clockword grief;
A frission of fold at the centre
of prayer, bright core of life.
Who knew the old lofty tower,
The ancient holy eye,
To come open like a flower
to roll and wink with joy?
Townspeople, who wear
Shrewd colours and know the move,
Now blunder and wander, I swear,
In a transport of love.
Norfolk once gave Francis Webb refuge and inspiration; now, it returns to you all, and to stay. I encourage you to claim him as a Norfolk's great Australian poet - he would have quietly relished such a title.
Dr Toby Davidson
Macquarie University, Sydney