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Monday, June 29, 2020

‘An overdub of The Dancing Girl by Letitia Elizabeth Landon’ from British Standards is published online in The Nest issue of A) Glimpse) Of)

Founded in October 2009 by Dimitra Ioannou, A) GLIMPSE) OF) is an Athens based independent journal which publishes works by contemporary writers and artists in order to generate new narratives for the now. See here:

What the ‘now’ constitutes now is the nesting-down of quarantine and lockdown, and the ‘Nest’ issue is presented as a strand which may be accessed here:

There are lots of responses by artists and writers to the issue (though only one I recognised, Amy McCauley, whose work I admire greatly), and I’m the latest in this strand.


My contribution, which I read on the short video above, is ‘An overdub of The Dancing Girl by Letitia Elizabeth Landon’, one of the ‘14 Standards’ from the section of that name in British Standards. Big thanks to Dimitra.

’14 Standards’ were all written in ‘lockdown’, and sometimes obliquely, and sometimes directly, refer to that event, though each is a version of a poem by a significant Romantic poet. This is the section of British Standards where the concentration on Brexit becomes dispersed.

Letitia Elizabeth Landon (LEL as she’s known) is pretty much recognised today, though I don’t know the work that well, though she has a large selection of sonnets in the anthology I’ve been working from, which I have read with interest and pleasure; it was quite difficult to choose a poem. There’s a recent biography too, and a slightly churlish review of it here: .

The title about dancing got me thinking about my collaborations with dancer Jo Blowers. See here: for details of a piece called ‘Shutters’ from the 1990s that was revived a few years ago, and to which I allude here. More on work with Jo here and here. Of course, I’ve experimented with the form here, and the word ‘form’ is indeed the axis the poem spins on. Here’s LEL’s original for intertextual reading:

A light and joyous figure, one that seems 
As if the air were her own element;
Begirt with cheerful thoughts, and bringing back 
Old days, when nymphs upon Arcadian plains 
Made musical the wind, and in the sun 
Flash’d their bright cymbals and their whitest hands.
These were the days of poetry—the woods 
Were haunted with sweet shadows; and the caves 
Odorous with moss, and lit with shining spars,
Were homes where Naiades met some graceful youth
Beneath the moonlit heaven—all this is past; 
Ours is a darker and a sadder age; 
Heaven help us through it !—’tis a weary world 
The dust and ashes of a happier time. 
British Standards was begun in 2020, after Brexit Independence Day; the first section was finished late March, by which time we were already ‘nesting down’. For that first section, I transposed poems from part of Wordsworth’s ‘Poems Dedicated to National Independence and Liberty’, retitled ‘Poems of National Independence’, cheekily subtitled ‘liberties with Wordsworth’. I write about that sequence here:

‘14 Standards’ (with links to other poems in the sequence) may be read about here:

British Standards is Book Three of ‘The English Strain’ project. There are two comprehensive posts to check out, one that looks at Book One, The English Strain here and another at Book Two, Bad Idea here . All these posts carry further links.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Poem from 'Poems of National Independence' talking to the dead (Wordsworth) on STRIDE today

As part of the 'Talking to the Dead' feature on Stride magazine (which began with posts from 17th June 2020) I've contributed one of my 14 'Poems of National Independence', writings-through of Wordsworth's sonnets. This is one of the odd ones out in the sequence, in that it speaks back, writes back, talks to, the dead author, tracking his infamous revisionary poetics. It snuck up on me quite innocently. I was planning to 'transpose' this sonnet, which is about a silent black deportee from France, in a different way, but I discovered that I had two versions of the poem to work with. Fascinated by the differences, this poem emerged between the two authorised Wordsworth versions.

Read it on Stride here.

Watch me read it (best to see the text as well, it's not very oral, as it happens) above.

I transposed poems from a part of Wordsworth’s ‘Poems Dedicated to National Independence and Liberty’, and retitled them ‘Poems of National Independence’. I added the subtitle ‘liberties with Wordsworth’. I’d only selected ones written 1802-3. Each carries Wordsworth's first line as its title, for identification. The poems are easy to find, though not always in the versions I have used. Wordsworth wrote over 500 sonnets; I’ve read about 100 of them this year.

This blog post from Jonathan Bate, who was about to publish his Radical Wordsworth biography at the time I was writing the poems, is illuminating about the early vs. the late poems. This is relevant, since the poems I have selected are late revisions of early poems. 

Leader, Zachary. Revision and Romantic Authorship. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, and Wolfson, Susan J. Formal Charges: The Shaping of Poetry in British Romanticism. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997, are also particularly good on Wordsworth's revisions. Wolfson is good at any time, of course, and a principal theoretical input to The Meaning of Form. (See here.) 

There is a general hubpost to all the other parts of this sequence and the way it links to other parts of 'The English Strain' project, and this 'Wordsworth' part of 'British Standards' here.

There are two posts about the background to the project: one that looks back at Book One, The English Strain here (to be published later this year) and another at Book Two, Bad Idea here .

I am delighted to report that two other poems from ‘Poems of National Independence’ (in British Standards) are published by International Times. Here they are with short laptop videos:

There are many speakings to the dead on this Stride feature. Here's another: Patricia Farrell's 'bambin', talking to Guillaume of Poitiers.