Saturday, February 17, 2007

A flurry of excitement in Cheap Street on Saturday as best-selling author Debby Holt does a book-signing at Hunting Raven bookshop. Frome, as well as 2 thriving theatres and a licenced cinema, has its own independent book shop - recently extended, an'all, so everything the writer needs really.

I can feel one of my Frome-twinned-with-Eden moments coming on - well we are at the heart centre of the universe in ley-line terms, apparently, and Simon Pegg mentioned us in a Hot Fuzz interview - so I'll add a quick burble about our cool cafe society and a pic from the lovely Parisien night at Christies:

Some things recur inexplicably. Like James Blunt, and summer barbecues (wow, it’s hot today, let’s light a fire!). Another of these is the question “Can creative writing be taught?” Like a persistent knotweed it burst forth in the Readers’ Page in last Saturday’s Guardian - which I’d only bought because the Guide carried a rave review of Luke Wright’s new tour, coming to the Merlin on March 10th. (click on 'gigs' at his site to book)
But back to the question, and in particular the way in which Keats’s famous quote “If poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree it had better not come at all” is wheeled out to support the Case Against. Why? Keats might have meant poetry needs to grow from experiential processes not intellect. He might have meant that when he’s not in the mood he can’t force his words to the quality he wants. He might have meant it needs to take its time unfurling, or that it should be free of self-conscious affectations. What he’s unlikely to have meant is that writers should not attempt to learn their craft like any other artist.
Which links me in a raggy sort of way to our walk on Sunday through Vallis, snowdrop tiers luminous and exquisite all along the riverside, to revisit the grave of Siegfried Sassoon in Mells. Sassoon was a mentor to Wilfred Owen and even helped to edit Anthem for Doomed Youth, changing, our friend Gloria tells us, the mourning wail of shrill choirs of shells from “demonic” to “demented”. Both anthropomorphic, but maybe the original was more phonically apt? Still, at least it shows that Owen was open-minded about guidance.

And Wednesday (21st) was the centenary of WH Auden, the poet with a passion for humanness. We've been revisiting his words. 'Lay your sleeping head my love' is the most exquisite tribute to ordinary love I've ever read, and Emily reminds me of another: September 1st 1939: There is no such thing as the State, And no one exists alone...We must love one another or die.

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