I will be visiting Sudeley Castle on Sunday 4th September. I will be reading poems in St Mary’s Church which houses the tomb of Katherine Parr. The whole day at the castle is a celebration of Katherine Parr. I wrote the poem about her whilst I was staying at The Hurst during my Arvon week. I can remember walking through the ice shrouded woods, snow on the horizon, thinking about the lines that became the poem. I can’t wait to read it at Sudeley and other poems from Queen, Jewel, Mistress that also link to the history of the castle.
Sudeley Castle Website
attributed to Master John, oil on panel, circa 1545
© National Portrait Gallery, London
I have had time now to get over job interviews, book launch and two of my children’s birthdays. It’s been a hectic few weeks and rushing from one thing to the next meant I have had no chance to think about my launch until today. You can listen to an audio recording of the launch on the Ledbury Poetry Festival website.
A kind man emailed me the next day to say how much he had enjoyed the launch and the poems. It was very flattering to receive an email like that, especially as I was still high from the joy of the event. Having my book in my hands after many years writing and finding the space to be a writer as well as mother, worker, wife, daughter was an emotional thing. The second part of the email was some advice that I had mispronounced one of the names and that I had mixed up Shakespeare and Marlowe when I mentioned the play Edward II in relation to his queen, Isabelle.
The pronunciation is something I dread as I am self-taught. I didn’t study history at university, I studied literature and my research has been very much alone, in the library with my head in a book. And as much as you can read a name and know a lot about that queen, it doesn’t teach you how to say it correctly. It’s something I was afraid of getting wrong and now I must seek out some experts to make sure I don’t do it again.
As for Shakespeare and Marlowe, of course I know that Marlowe wrote Edward II. I have read the play a number of times and the collected works of Shakespeare has gone everywhere with me since I brought it from a charity book shop seventeen years ago. Noticeably absent in that collected works is Edward II.
Although there are many theories that Marlowe was Shakespeare so perhaps I was thinking about that without realising it. No, I was flustered and overcome with the emotion of the event. Also, just before I had left to go the reading, my youngest son hit his brother in the nose with a huge piece of wood and the swelling looked monstrous – I was sure it was broken. I was shaking so much when I got there, thinking I should really take my son to hospital*. It wasn’t an intentional smack in the face with a stick, purely accidental and the result of brotherly love/hate. The kind of brawling Kit Marlowe would have been familiar with in the bar room.
* but poetry is more important than broken bones
The book launch for Queen, Jewel, Mistress is on Wednesday at 7.45pm. Do come along if you can make it. The venue is Bugage Hall, Ledbury and it is part of the Ledbury Poetry festival. Tickets can be brought from the box office or the festival website.
Trying to select which queen poems to read is quite hard. They all want to be read (clamouring for attention) and trying to choose is proving difficult this morning. Should it be a sequence from one period of history or a mix through different houses? Should I read my favourites or well-known queens to please the audience? Perhaps all the Anglo-Saxon queens deserve a time to shine. I just feel lucky I am sat here with my book, flicking through the pages, deciding on an order for the night. I have some more readings arranged for the next few months so I can read all the queens at different events. It will be so much fun.
My queen poems are going to be published by EYEWEAR next year….how brilliant is that?! I am so pleased I did a happy little dance! This collection means so much to me and I am looking forward to working with Todd Swift during the editing process, something I am interested in finding out about because this is my first collection! Now you can understand my excitement!
The poems loosely use the poetry from the relevant period to give the experience of moving through different poetic styles as well as the changing role of a queen/consort. Some poems are instantly recognisable as they mimic a familiar form; others are free verse or epistle. The aim was always to give each queen/consort a voice and capture the feeling of the historical period. This quote by Susan Howe highlights what I was aiming to do with the poems as I was writing them: ‘I wish I could tenderly lift from the dark side of history, voices that are anonymous, slighted-inarticulate.’
I swear, ’tis better to be lowly born,
And range with humble livers in content,
Than to be perk’d up in a glistering grief,
And wear a golden sorrow.
King Henry VIII Act II Scene III