Week 6

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.

Romantics postage stamp

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.)

from Lydia Davis essay

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.

Week 2

You haven’t missed anything, faithful few, but it is week 2 of the lockdown here in Scotland, and I thought I’d share something I’m reading. Reading is prescribed for this period of isolation, yet it proves to be more difficult than I thought to find the right book (always with the exception of the blessed Hilary Mantel, who provided just the book on 5 March). Some people keep a tottering pile of unread books by their beds, I keep them shelved – overflowing the shelves – beside my desk, so that was where I turned. There’s a lot of poetry waiting there. I picked up Ronald Johnson’s The Book of the Green Man, republished by admirable Uniform Books, and this afternoon enjoyed wandering with him in the Lake District (‘I lay on the sublime motions of the grasses…’) and in the footsteps of Francis Kilvert and Henry Vaughan in Wales. Just half the book, winter and spring; it seems too soon to anticipate summer, let alone autumn.

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Continue reading “Week 2”

Book event

Nicolas Bouvier, So It Goes: travels in the Aran Isles, Xian & places in between 

translated by Robyn Marsack

‘Every essay here shimmers with imaginative insight and wry humour. […Bouvier is] one of the most brilliant, penetrating and individual travel writers of his time.’                             – Colin Thubron

I’ll be talking to Peter Kravitz, about translating Bouvier’s work; Peter commissioned my translation of Bouvier’s L’Usage du monde (The Way of the World) in Polygon’s early days, when we boldly asked Patrick Leigh Fermor to write an introduction…

Date: 6 February 2020

Place: The Lighthouse Bookshop, Edinburgh; tickets bookable

 

Book talk

Fifty Fifty: Carcanet’s jubilee in letters

I’ll be talking about the making of this book and what I learnt while trawling Carcanet’s fascinating archive, in connection with a small display of items from the archive at Scotland’s international poetry festival, StAnza. It’s a free event.

Date: Saturday 7 March 2020, 16:00-16:45

Place: Conference Room, Byre Theatre, Abbey St, St Andrews

Book launch

Nicolas Bouvier, So It Goes: travels in the Aran Isles, Xian & places in between 

translated by Robyn Marsack

‘Every essay here shimmers with imaginative insight and wry humour. […Bouvier is] one of the most brilliant, penetrating and individual travel writers of his time.’                             – Colin Thubron

I’ll be talking to Peter Kravitz, about translating Bouvier’s work; Peter commissioned my translation of Bouvier’s L’Usage du monde (The Way of the World) in Polygon’s early days, when we boldly asked Patrick Leigh Fermor to write an introduction…

Date: 23 October 2019, 18.00-20.00 – conversation at 19.00

Place: Iota Arts Space, 25 Hyndland Street, G11

(round the corner from Kelvinhall subway)

The event is free but space is limited   

Do let me know if you intend to come! You can email me through this site.