You are Her
Arc Publications, £8.99 (PB), £11.69 (HB)
Another ‘miscellaneous’ collection, my first since 2002, You are Her takes its title from a faded information board on Hadrian’s Wall (which has since been replaced I noticed when I was last up there). It plays around themes of location and disorientation, investigating the possibility of the transformation of suffering. Some of the poems arose from a horse-riding accident in 1995 that damaged my spine – the same week that Superman fell off his horse, with much more serious consequences. The central section considers the legacy of Capability Brown, born in Northumberland, at Kirkharle, in 1716, happily combining my fascination with the landscape, biography, gardening and the 18th century.
book of days
Smokestack Books, £7.95
Throughout 2006 I made a practice of writing a renga verse every day, alternating three lines and two lines. It was an opportunity to watch the year as it passed and to save what caught my eye or seemed important, a mixture of the ridiculous and the sublime. The book really came together when Sue Dunne showed me her twelve ceramic fragments cast from the hedgerows of Northumberland throughout the year. It’s grown to incorporate live readings with musician Rosie Lewis and friends. I would never have expected such a tight form to admit so many interpretations and invite so much appreciation. book of days was Inpress’s Book of the Month when it came out in Autumn 2009.
The Toast of the Kit-Cat Club: A Life of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
This biography in verse of the 18th century writer and traveller Lady Mary Wortley Montagu (1689–1762) was seven years in the making. I started it during a residency at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Mass., worked on it some more at Hawthornden Castle and fitted the rest in between my other commitments. I am particularly grateful to Lady Mary’s biographer, Isobel Grundy, for her warm introduction:
"Who would have thought you could catch a person, a lifetime, in about sixty poems? …Each poem addresses a moment, offers a piercing insight, opens a window and leaves the different possibilities blowing through… I love the woman they are written about, and I find this tribute from one writer to another both dazzling and moving."
The Simultaneous Dress
I love the Man Ray photograph Bloodaxe were kind enough to let me have on the cover. It’s a lot more gorgeous than Sonia Delaunay’s simultaneous dress the book’s named after, which looks more like a huge patchwork banana. I’m very fond of this book generally – it marks the beginning of a change in the direction of my work, a new spaciousness.
Storyville came out to coincide with an exhibition of the same name by the artist Birtley Aris, accompanied by specially commissioned music by Keith Morris and Lewis Watson. Keith and Lewis composed music for the jazz section of the book and I got to be the singer in the band, which I adored. Like Gaul, this collection is divided into three parts: the other two sections look at memory/imagination (Home Movies) and prostitution (On the Game).
The Gentleness of the Very Tall
My second collection came out quite soon after my first. I also edited the anthology Sixty Women Poets during these rather hectic years when I moved 15 miles down the Tyne like a restless salmon. I was delighted to receive a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for Gentleness. It was also longlisted for a Los Angeles Times Book Award.
My first book Red came out in 1992 after poems were included in Carol Rumens’s anthology New Women Poets and an Echo Room pamphlet Acts of Love in 1990. A week after publication I was reading from it on a British Council tour to Berlin and East Germany just after the Wall came down. Although these poems feel very old, some going back to the mid-80s, quite a few are still current, still favourites.
Through the Garden Gate
Newcastle University, £7
This selection of work written in response to Moorbank Botanic Garden, where Linda was Leverhulme Poet in Residence 2010 – 11, is illustrated with drawings by Kim Lewis.
It is available from Robinson-Gay Gallery, Hexham. Price £7.
The Moon & Flowers
Queens Hall Arts Centre, £5
The fruits of a three year journey at Chesters Walled Garden in a neatly folding map format, designed by Melanie Ashby. Twelve poems chart the month-by-month ritual of presence, the rigour and beauty of paying attention to a changing world. These were the starting point for the soundscape recorded and edited by Chris Watson.
Available from: Queen's Hall Arts Centre, Hexham, or by post (cheques for £5 made payable to Queen's Hall Arts Centre) from Linda France, School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, The University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Newcastle NE1 7RU.
Talking Pen, £5
This little folding beauty (artfully designed by Steve Urwin, editor of Moodswing) was published to raise funds for a hostel for ex-untouchable girls in Nagpur, India. I stayed with them for two weeks during a six month trip to Sri Lanka and India in 2000-1. Two months of that time was spent on pilgrimage to the traditional Buddhist sacred sites on the plains of India and Nepal.
Available from: Talking Pen, 12 Derby Crescent, Moorside, Consett, County Durham, DH8 8DZ. Cheques (£5.00) payable to Talking Pen
Sand Press, £5
If Aerogramme captures some of the colour and light of the east, wild is its grey brooding Northumbrian sister. During 2002 Birtley Aris and I visited a different place in the North East in search of wild flowers. The poems and pen and ink drawings juxtapose a tiny flower with the wider landscape and spirit of the place.
This anthology of poems arising from the experience of bereavement was created in response to the entries received from all over the world to the first Cruse Tyneside Poetry Competition. I read over 500 poems, all written straight from the heart, and the book includes the winners, commended poems and a selection of the rest — all charting the journey through grief, from the shocked early days to a place of greater calm and resolution. Buying a copy of Rowing Home will help anyone suffering the pain of loss and also support Cruse in its important work.
Available from: Cruse Bereavement Care, 2 St Gabriel’s Avenue, Heaton, Newcastle upon Tyne NE6 5QN. Cheques (£10.00) payable to Cruse Bereavement Care Tyneside
Sixty Women Poets
I read over 100 women poets for this anthology of work from Britain and Ireland since 1971, when Stevie Smith died. It took me a year full-time and there were books stacked up in every room of my house. Even though all the reading was immensely stimulating I had to restrain myself from writing any poetry of my own during this time, which is maybe why the poems in Gentleness came out in such a torrent when they could.
Poetry Book Society Special Commendation
"This is full-bodied, full-blooded stuff; there's ambivalence and unease as well as celebration" – Suzi Feay, Time Out
The Poetry Virgins, £5.95
It was a real pleasure to edit this selection of poems from the repertoire of the Poetry Virgins. I remember sitting on my lawn one beautiful sunny afternoon going through a nearly-there version with Julia Darling and Ellen Phethean. Before the Newcastle launch (in then-Dillons, now-Waterstones) we drank champagne from bookish mugs in the stock room upstairs, the Poetry Virgins all dressed in black with wondrous jewellery and chef’s hats.