something sensational to read on the train

Yes! It is happening. And you, dear reader, are very cordially invited by Rack Press to come along and celebrate its fifth birthday, and the publication of four new poetry pamphlets.  The pamphlets are:

Ian Parks’ A Caxton Letter, Philip Morre’s Here’s to the Home Country, fellow Salt poet David Kennedy’s Mistral, and my very own Oscar & Henry. Long-awaited, at least by me.

The launch will be on Thursday, Jan 14th, at the Horse Hospital – a very groovy venue – in Bloomsbury, behind Russell Square tube station, at 6.30pm.

Rsvp to rackpress at nicholasmurray.co.uk.

Now, the story of the tangled relations between the two rival writers Wilde and James is a fascinating one, virtually encompassing the social and aesthetic tensions of the late 19th century.  But it is also a deeply personal one (clearly, to me, at any rate) and I find it very moving. Their feelings about each other were never straightforward, and their work reflected, refracted, and even echoed each other’s work in strange ways. When I wrote my first-ever Henry James poem (The Master and the Future) five years ago I had no idea what it would lead to, and I certainly didn’t think it would lead to Reading Gaol. But now I have a white light in my head.

On a serious note, this pamphlet is intended as a first stab, the beginning of the project. It is emphatically not done yet. There is MUCH more to say; and there are bits of ‘story’ not yet made quite narrative in the body of this work as it now stands… my aim is for it to be a splendid book in about three years. It will be splendid because it will be about Oscar Wilde and Henry James.

Just in case you’ve forgotten or somehow managed to miss it, as I’ve been going on about it… here’s what Ira Lightman has written about these poems:

“For Henry, having two countries meant staged risk, and privacy. For Oscar, having the world meant everything bet on the one toss. In a 20’s Modernist trope, this sequence hints at big unanalysed scandals by almost making them cockney rhyming slang: Evans-Bush shows us Two Great Late Victorians through the prism of the 1920s, even while she looks back 90 years at the Modernists, in a double manoeuvre.

In literary judgment we think about sex, but in our own lives we think about love. An equal attention to Henry James and Oscar Wilde at once can illuminate both. Henry remains, at this stage, Evans-Bush’s object of quiet love: touchstone to a vision of love that is the secret, and the secret joy of these poems.”

–Ira Lightman

Hope to see you on Thursday.

November 30, 1900

Earth, receive an honoured guest:
Oscar Wilde is laid to rest.

***
Oscar knew the price of everything.
Once in prison, once in exile,
once with his health, once with his family,
once in money, once with success,
he paid the price for wit and hubris.,
for having cake, for sowing oats, for sable-collared overcoats.

***
Wilde expired in a hotel room in Paris,
murmuring, either that wallpaper goes or I do
having finally learned to do without the frills,
having learned at last that almost everything is frills –
the proof of the gentleman in the unpaid bills,
the garlanded rivalries, guarded shock of the master
never mattering more or less or ever after –
a-boom-di-a-da, boom-di-a-da, boom-di-a-da, boom-di-a-da,
and an unhealthy green haze evaporating over the hills.

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