I was looking at the Royal Mail site last week, as my friend J suggested that I could order stamps rather than going to the Post Office. ‘Why I live at the P.O.’ is an extraordinary story by Eudora Welty; it used to feel like the caption for my life in publishing, before editing was done onscreen. I’ve always enjoyed the sense of completion that comes with stamping and posting, a physical relinquishment much more satisfying than merely pointing the cursor at ‘send’.
Remember when beautiful commemorative stamps were issued regularly and were available for more than a fortnight? I’m bored by the red and blue definitives. So I was excited to find online the new ‘Romantics’ set, with their linocuts and quotations, some predictable (Keats and Wordsworth), others less so, like Clare, and then Letitia Landon, unknown to me. I couldn’t buy them as loose stamps (shame), so I bought them as postcards.
What a thought! I don’t even want to look her up – though I will – but simply relish those lines: absence and moonlight, both sharper these days.
On Tuesday evening I was taking a holiday from Edwin Morgan, having been so thoroughly immersed for weeks in work for the celebration of his centenary. Yet on picking up Lydia Davis’s Essays, there he was, an entirely unexpected presence. She’s written about his one-word poem, ‘Homage to Louis Zukovsky’, reflecting on titles, and on how much we need to know to ‘receive the full impact of a piece of writing’. (And she slipped in a fine short piece of her own.)
He would have been so pleased by her rejection of footnotes; I insisted on them for the cast of A Book of Lives, although his friend H said Eddie wouldn’t really approve. I wanted to make the poems ‘accessible’, I suppose, and for Lydia Davis, that’s no concern of the poet. She ends, ‘It’s not necessary to try to appeal to everyone, or even to explain oneself.’ I found that refreshing.