Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Nicola Shulman in Conversation with Alan Jenkins

Wyatt: used bladders
A double rainbow soared over the greying skies of West London; several literary types huddled for comfort and instruction under the aegis of the marvellous bookshop Lutyens and Rubinstein, for a conversation between Nicola Shulman and poet and editor Alan Jenkins (whose Rimbaud translation, Drunken Boats, is out now) about Sir Thomas Wyatt, and Nicky's new biography of the poet, Graven with Diamonds. Nicky spoke about how lines of Wyatt would come to her at significant moments (in particular 'They flee from me that sometime me did seek'), which led her to want to understand what lay behind these seemingly inert poems. We learned that whenever King Henry VIII was rich 'he doesn't make love, he makes war'. We were treated to a reading of a Wyatt poem (to illustrate its potential usage in a courtly game) with appropriate squeaks from a blue heart - Nicky's thesis being that a lot of the poems don't make any sense unless they are referring to an actual physical object such as a heart made from a bladder. When discussing 'they flee from me,' in answering the question 'who', Jenkins said 'Chicks!' An early modern poet was brought to life for us: I'm very glad that he has been sought, and I certainly won't flee from him next time I see him in an anthology. I may even get the collected poems... We repaired afterwards to the home of modern poet Edward Barker, who was himself brandishing the collected works. Outside the sky was blue and red. One thing I wondered, in support of Nicky's argument about hearts, was why playing cards had hearts, spades, diamonds and clubs, if hearts were not also a recognisable object. If anybody knows anything about the origin of these symbols, do let me know.

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