by Angela Macmillan
One of the great things about the Internet is the wealth of material that would never see the light of day without it. One such wonderful thing is this recollection by Walter de la Mare of an interview with Thomas Hardy. Walter de la Mare is an old man at the time of the recording and there is something quite wonderful about listening to this very Edwardian voice, speaking to you across 50 years. He describes going to Max Gate to meet Thomas Hardy and being surprised to find not a dour old pessimist but an affable old gentleman. Walter de la Mare has never been fashionable in the academic world but his poems continue to delight the old and young. ‘The Listeners’ – ‘ “Is there anybody there?” said the traveller’, is the most requested poem of Radio 4’s Poetry Please. Walter de la Mare, Selected Poems is an excellent new collection of his best work edited by the poet Matthew Sweeney and published by Faber and Faber, 2006.
de la Mare as fiction writer is not so well known these days. Fortunately Hesperus Press have recently collected and published three of his short stories (‘Missing’, ‘The Almond Tree’ and ‘Crewe’) with the added bonus of a foreword by Russell Hoban. If you enjoy Missing (Modern Voices), see if you can find a copy of his brilliant dark short story ‘Seaton’s Aunt’
Jane Davis writes to point out that Liverpool poet Eleanor Rees has been shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, for her new book Andraste’s Hair. The collection is published by Salt Publishing and you can find out more about it here.
Eleanor has also recently launched a collaborative piece with writer Rachel Rogers for Merseyside Dance Initative documenting the rehearsal process for The Migrant Body project, a collaboration of European dancers and experimental choreography. She is also working with artist Jyll Bradley on The Fragrant Project responding to the complex history of Liverpool Botanical Collection as part of the Liverpool Commissions for 2008. This is due to launch August 2007.
Eleanor’s website is here and she also has a myspace page which is here.
Here’s the complete 2007 shortlist:
Best collection prize (£10,000)
Domestic Violence by Eavan Boland (Carcanet)
Gift Songs by John Burnside (Jonathan Cape)
The Drowned Book by Sean O’Brien (Picador)
Birds with a Broken Wing by Adam Thorpe (Jonathan Cape)
The Harbour Beyond the Movie by Luke Kennard (Salt Publishing)
Beasts of Nalunga by Jack Mapanje (Bloodaxe)
Best first collection prize (£5,000)
Twenty Four Preludes and Fugues on Dimitri Shostakovich by Joanna Boulter (Arc Publications)
Galatea by Melanie Challenger (Salt Publishing)
Look We Have Coming to Dover! by Daljit Nagra (Faber and Faber)
Andraste’s Hair by Eleanor Rees (Salt Publishing)
Best single poem prize (£1,000)
The Hut in Question by David Harsent (Poetry Review)
Thursday by Lorraine Mariner (The Rialto)
Dunt by Alice Oswald (Poetry London)
The Day I Knew I Wouldn’t Live Forever by Carole Satyamurti (The Interpreter’s House)
Goulash by Myra Schneider (The North)
The Birkdale Nightingale by Jean Sprackland (Poetry Review)
Posted by Chris Routledge
Philip Davis, editor of The Reader writes to say that Ian MacMillan, poet, performer and broadcaster is to become a regular contributor to the magazine, starting with the Christmas 2007 edition. Ian MacMillan, who has been described by the TES as “the Shirley Bassey of performance poetry”, presents The Verb on BBC Radio 3 and has recently been appointed Poet in Space by the Yorkshire Planetarium. We’re pleased to be on his trajectory.
Let me confess. I love libraries. I love almost everything about them, from the faint smell of dust to the sound of distant voices, the gentle clatter of book trolleys and the click-thump of the date stamp. Back when university libraries were quiet, empty places where you could do serious work, I did serious work in them, including a PhD thesis and some of the first things I ever published. I even wrote two high-speed, strictly-for-the-money, no names no pack drill history books in a university library, scribbling away for weeks like a student with all the deadlines for an entire degree course coming down at once. It was great fun.
But one thing about libraries annoys me: having to take the books back before a certain date. It’s not so bad if you have one library card and you visit regularly. But if you have three or four library cards, plus a couple belonging to your kids, it can be difficult to keep track. Even more so if the loan periods are all different and the numbers of books large. My staff library card at the university library, for example, allows me to take out more books than I can lift for an entire year. And while my local library cards only give me five for a fortnight, I have two cards. My daughter’s card allows her to take out books for a fortnight and DVDs for a week. You see where I’m going with this. We pay fines.
Let it not be said however that I am a person who sits back and puts up with something when a complex technological solution is only a few clicks away. Many libraries these days allow you to manage your borrowing online, much like a bank. But what would really help would be a way of getting the due dates from the library website to my calendar. Enter a clever piece of Mac only software called Library Books, which can be downloaded from here. The developer asks for donations if you like using the software.
Library Books places a little star in the taskbar and a number to indicate the books you have on loan. Click on the star and you get details of all your borrowings from multiple libraries. You can add the information to the Mac’s calendar, iCal, with a single click, to receive reminders in good time about when your books should be going back. Setting up the system is easy. Several UK library systems, and many others from other countries are listed as presets and you can also set up unlisted libraries using the “generic” library types. University of Liverpool is an INNOPAC system, for example which is listed. You enter your user name and password, and Library Books connects to your library account. You can even list several library accounts at once, which is very useful. If your specific library isn’t listed the developer will add it as a preset if you ask nicely.
I’m going to see how I get on using it. Here’s the link to Library Books again (Mac users only).
Posted by Chris Routledge
Today marks the 800th anniversary of Liverpool’s town charter and publisher Capsica is celebrating the event by giving away the entire 5,000-copy print run of Longing, the third in its Mersey Minis series. Mersey Minis contain writing about Liverpool and the River Mersey from the past 800 years. The final two volumes, Loving and Leaving, will be launched in September and November respectively. Names already featured in the series include Charles Dickens, John Lennon, Will Self, King John, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Courtney Love, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Tracey Emin.
Copies of Longing, which includes new writing about Liverpool by over 80 authors, will be handed out at over 50 different venues across Merseyside on August 28th and The Reader is helping to give away copies of the book. Everyone who emails us on Tuesday 28th August will get a free copy of Longing. Just send an email including your postal address to us using the contact form in the menu above. All new subscribers to The Reader magazine will also get a free copy of Longing until all our copies are gone. Deborah Mulhearn, editor and compiler of Longing is featured in The Reader Number 28, which will be published at Christmas 2007.
More information about Mersey Minis is available here. You can subscribe to The Reader here.
Writer and editor Helen Tookey is already predicting the start of autumn and the approach of winter and to make matters worse she’s been reading Gerard Manley Hopkins, a poet almost guaranteed to bring on an attack of the winter blues. Over on her blog she’s written a short appreciation of the poem ‘Spring and Fall’ that addresses his remarkable ability to ‘feel’ his mortality and accept it:
There must have been hundreds of poems prompted by the melancholy scent of autumn in the air (as it is at the minute, towards the end of August), but one of the best must be ‘Spring and Fall’ by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-89), subtitled ‘To a young child’:
Margaret, are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leaves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! as the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you will weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sorrow’s springs are the same.
Nor mouth had, nor no mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It is the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.
There are so many things so perfectly expressed here: what seems the simple sorrow of a child at the dying, falling leaves; the painful adult knowledge of the world’s ways, and of death, and the painful knowledge too that your child will come to know this in his or her turn; and the feeling that the child is actually suffering from a sadness she can’t yet understand or articulate; and the awful thought of the child’s own mortality as well as of your own.
Here’s the link to the whole post.
Rebel Girls: their fight for the vote is a new book by Jill Liddington, about the forgotten suffragettes across the north of England. Published by Virago it tracks the story of those who took their message out to the remotest Yorkshire dales to win Edwardian hearts and minds.
Jill Liddington will be speaking about the book at a host of events across the country this autumn, and is visiting Liverpool on Saturday 6th October. For full details of these events click here
As of today The Reader has a new website, which includes news and information about the magazine, about Reader community projects and events. There is also a revamped and easier to use shop where you can subscribe to the magazine and buy back issues.
I’ve been away on a Scottish island odyssey for the last couple of weeks, but The Reader’s flock of Internet starlings has been hard at work. Here are some of the juiciest worms they found:
Recommendation. Vintage’s much-publicised series of literary pairings received a stylish boost with A.S. Byatt’s recommendation of Middlemarch in The Guardian newspaper. Eliot’s novel is paired with Byatt’s Possession in the Vintage Classic Twins series. Both novels are of course “books for grown-up people”.
Books for children seem to have been in the news a lot this summer. But however successful the Children’s Book That Cannot Be Named may be, helping children to read is an ongoing challenge for many parents. One innovative service that might help is Tumblebooks, described as “an online collection of read-along titles for elementary, middle school, and high school students which features adjustable online text and complete audio narration. Sentences are highlited as they are being read and the pages turn automatically … ” The Reader Online has no connection with Tumblebooks, but it sounds like an interesting idea for a digital native generation.
On Literary Festivals. The Times carried an interesting piece about the growth of book festivals and quotes Armando Iannucci pitching for an intern job at The Reader: “People are hungry for substance and unafraid of ideas and big themes.” We concur.
How To Write a Book. And for those budding (and otherwise) writers among you, here’s a bombastic blog article by technology writer and consultant Scott Berkun in which he argues that anyone can write a book. It may suck, but …
Walk of Shame Award. And talking of Scottish islands, Scotland on Sunday reported on the first day of the Edinburgh Festival on a conversation between Will Self and Philip Gourevitch, who recently held a month-long residency on the island of Jura, where George Orwell wrote 1984. His shocking admission when faced with the prospect of walking: “I haven’t been to Barnhill. I drove up to the end of the road in a downpour and the guy who controls the gate wasn’t around. I couldn’t find anybody to open it so I could drive up there.”
Posted by Chris
With time on her hands now she has handed the editorship of The Reader over to husband Philip Davis, Jane Davis has found this useful ‘reading pillow’ on the Montessori By Hand sewing site. Start now and it could be complete in time for Christmas.