For the past eight months or more, there’s been very little doing chez Baroque. This has been the case for a variety of reasons, and very boring it was, too. Over the past few days, with the help of a student who’s doing her work experience placement here in Baroque Mansions (every girl’s dream), the place has been given a lick of paint, a spit & polish, all-new content, and lots of little repairs. I’ve fixed the broken feed link. We’ve put back the pictures that fell off the wall. I even repaired the navigation bar, which was crumbling away at the edge. In short, it was a shambles, and it has now had a much-needed renovation and redecoration.
The sidebar now features all-new books – including Christopher Reid’s insanely clever novel in verse, Kate Tempest’s Brand New Ancients, which won the Ted Hughes award earlier in the year, and Lucy Inglis’ long-awaited Georgian London. I’m very excited about that last one; I’ve been reading her blog since it was new, and I actually feel oddly chuffed and proud of her to see the beautiful book… The pay-off for summer ending is definitely the new autumn crop of books arriving.
I’ve updated all my course and workshop information, and also made a separate page for editing. Term starts in three weeks! So if you want to join my Poetic Technique course or advanced workshop group this term, have a look and let me know. I’ve also updated the Saturday page. On October we’ll (finally) be doing the Sonnet workshop, and January 11th is the day of the second annual TS Eliot Prize shortlist workshop, the day before the big reading. A date for the calendar!
I’ve updated the Readings & Events page: it now features things that are actually coming up. Well, it features the one thing that’s coming up. Next week I’m off to the second annual Wise Words Festival in Canterbury, where I’ll be doing a reading & conversation with Nancy Gaffield, and a blogging workshop on Saturday the 14th. Are you near Canterbury? Come along!
The photographs on the pages are just about my favourite thing. It’s not that I don’t love Marie Antoinette and the parrot/pirate joke (God knows), but she’s a bit late for Baroque and – to be frankly honest – gives off a slightly wrong message. Our new presiding spirit is the colourful, literary and very down-to-earth Lady Mary Wortley Montagu – seen above, in William Frith’s later painting, rejecting the love declaration of Alexander Pope. Highly suitable!
By the time she was about 14, by the way, Lady Mary had written two books filled with poetry, a short epistolary novel, and a prose-and-verse romance modelled on Aphra Behn’s Voyage to the Isle of Love. Her most famous writings are her letters from her travels – which only occurred because she was in such disgrace at court over a satirical poem she had written that she had to accompany her diplomat husband to the Ottoman Empire. (She said that nowhere else were women so free as they were there.)
One of my favourite possessions is a tiny little book of her letters, Vol 1, printed in 1763, which I bought – I think – outside a junk shop in Raynes Park in about the early 80s. Well, when I asked my esteemed other, who is a photographer, to bring his digital camera hereunto and help me with my website, his idea was to find old pages of poetry to photograph. The oldest book in the house was this one, and the words are also completely terrific. So Lady Mary Wortley Montagu has taken up residence and I’m happy about it!
Another of my favourite possessions is another small book, called Warriner’s English Grammar – a book I can remember weeping and throwing across the kitchen when I was about ten. I inherited my English teacher dad’s copy when he died, and discovered that it is not only a wondrous thing, complete and authoritative and marvellous, it is also laid out in a style of extreme beauty, using Eric Gill’s Perpetua, and a really wonderful red colour. So David photographed details from that, too.
In short – it all feels very exciting! Come in, look around, have a cup of tea…