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Three Poems

Fiona Pitt-Kethley, 5 March 1987

... AIDS Condoms can never save the world from germs – machines run out of them and chemists close; a friend blames two abortions on the things; some funny little foreign ones don’t fit; besides, they’re not much use for oral sex. Evangelists rejoice God’s got the gays. (He’s let off lesbians though – and wankers too – of course, we all know they go blind ...

Three Poems

Fiona Pitt-Kethley, 20 February 1986

... The Ecumenical Movement My first years were haunted by foreign names, phrases like ‘apostolical succession’ and strange invasions of dressed-up prelates. After a quick ordination, blessing or what have you in the chapel, they’d go out the back to take their photographs. (I liked the geometry of our garden – first, the square washing-line that wouldn’t spin, then the two apple trees set in the lawn forming a triangle with the pear outside the circle of a fairy ring ...


Fiona Pitt-Kethley: Life in Hastings, 17 April 1986

... Next door but one’s being converted into luxury flats. Some weeks back, a dead rat appeared in the road outside. His body seemed to be pointing in the direction of our house. Luckily, he didn’t make it. My home’s a bit like the House of Usher or a brothel for masochists. In the last century, an optimistic Italian shoved two towers on an ordinary Regency building and filled parts with frescoes, decorative plasterwork, Cupids and Carrara marble ...


Fiona Pitt-Kethley: Santería, 27 July 2017

... Early​ this year I had my first and only encounter with Santería. It was at the beach. I had long been an enthusiast for cold water swimming. I liked it even when I lived in Hastings, but it’s slightly easier now that I’m in southern Spain, where I snorkel regularly at my local beach. From mid-May to mid-October the temperatures are fine. For the rest of the year I only do the odd cold plunge into the sea and swim for a few minutes at most ...


Fiona Pitt-Kethley: Extras, 20 June 1985

... Five years ago I applied to the Film Artistes’ Association – the union for extras – in an attempt to find a way of funding my writing. I needed a job that didn’t take all my time and yet paid well. Prostitution had crossed my mind – I expect most women fantasise about that – but the memory of a foreign student and patron of tarts whom I’d once taught brought me back to reality ...


Fiona Pitt-Kethley: The Ravine, 20 May 2004

... For nearly two years, we have lived in Orihuela Costa, on the Costa Blanca in Spain, among a cocktail of nationalities. Last September, when my son was celebrating his seventh birthday, his Dutch friends brought round a girl from the next road who looked Malaysian. She stayed and had a slice of cake. Her older sisters who came to collect her were introduced as Norwegians ...

How long?

Hilary Mantel, 27 February 1992

The Literary Companion to Sex: An Anthology of Prose and Poetry 
edited by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Sinclair-Stevenson, 415 pp., £18, February 1992, 1 85619 127 3
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The Love Quest: A Sexual Odyssey 
by Anne Cumming.
Peter Owen, 200 pp., £15.50, November 1991, 9780720608359
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... Fiona Pitt-Kethley’s favourite novel is a 16th-century Chinese work called Chin P’ing Mei. This book, she believes, was written as an act of vengeance. The author imbued each of the 1600 pages of his manuscript with poison, and presented it to a politician against whom he had a grudge. He knew that the minister, who had a huge appetite for pornography, would lick and turn each page, and so do himself to death ...

An Avuncular Request

Eric Winter, 27 May 1993

... her when she goes out on the High in case she might, naively, buy something sexy or deathly by ...


Mary-Kay Wilmers, 10 November 1988

The Faber Book of Seductions 
edited by Jenny Newman.
Faber, 366 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 571 15110 8
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Journeys to the Underworld 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Chatto, 226 pp., £10, October 1988, 9780701132231
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... to lead them to bed. ‘I like to think I’m a sort of gay bachelor, Don Juan or Casanova,’ Fiona Pitt-Kethley says at the beginning of her startling account of the sights she saw and the men she laid in the course of two journeys to Italy in search of the lairs of the sibyls and other poets and prophets of the Ancient world. She doesn’t, she ...

Rites of Passage

Anthony Quinn, 27 June 1991

The Elephant 
by Richard Rayner.
Cape, 276 pp., £13.99, May 1991, 0 224 03005 1
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The Misfortunes of Nigel 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Peter Owen, 176 pp., £12.95, June 1991, 0 7206 0830 9
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Famous for the creatures 
by Andrew Motion.
Viking, 248 pp., £14.99, June 1991, 0 670 82286 8
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Double Lives 
by Stephen Wall.
Bloomsbury, 154 pp., £13.99, June 1991, 0 7475 0910 7
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... punchlines are thrown away without timing or wit. In a comic novel, that’s a serious deficiency. Fiona Pitt-Kethley has written her first novel, so the question of her much-disputed talent can be examined from a fresh angle. The publishers have blazoned their author as ‘Britain’s most controversial poet’, though this accolade does not appear to be ...

De Mortuis

Christopher Driver, 28 June 1990

The Ruffian on the Stair: Reflection on Death 
edited by Rosemary Dinnage.
Viking, 291 pp., £14.99, April 1990, 0 670 82763 0
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Death, Ritual and Bereavement 
edited by Ralph Houlbrooke.
Routledge, 250 pp., £35, October 1990, 0 415 01165 5
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In the Face of Death 
by Peter Noll, translated by Hans Noll.
Viking, 254 pp., £15.99, April 1990, 0 670 80703 6
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... are already designed for turning up one’s toes, and at the risk of proclaiming myself as the Fiona Pitt-Kethley of the crematorium, a paid lyricist to fin-de-siècle obsequies, my muse is waiting. I am just about old enough to find myself mourning friends and colleagues younger than myself (a vicissitude endured by my mother, now 92, for a quarter ...

What the doctor said

Edna Longley, 22 March 1990

A New Path to the Waterfall 
by Raymond Carver.
Collins Harvill, 158 pp., £11, September 1989, 0 00 271043 9
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by Ted Hughes.
Faber, 55 pp., £8.99, September 1989, 0 571 14167 6
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Poems 1954-1987 
by Peter Redgrove.
Penguin, 228 pp., £5.99, August 1989, 0 14 058641 5
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The First Earthquake 
by Peter Redgrove.
Secker, 76 pp., £7.50, August 1989, 0 436 41006 0
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Mount Eagle 
by John Montague.
Bloodaxe, 75 pp., £12.95, June 1989, 1 85224 090 3
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The Wreck of the Archangel 
by George Mackay Brown.
Murray, 116 pp., £11.95, September 1989, 0 7195 4750 4
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The Perfect Man 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Abacus, 96 pp., £3.99, November 1989, 0 349 10122 1
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... produces tacit conspiracies of specialisation. Thus George Mackay Brown specialises in Feyness, Fiona Pitt-Kethley in Coarseness. Mackay Brown’s The Wreck of the Archangel may charm – Said stone to buttercup, ‘Dance till you’re yellow rags, then die’ – but his legendary Orkney serves only limited purposes beyond its own wistful ...

Out of the blue

Mark Ford, 10 December 1987

Meeting the British 
by Paul Muldoon.
Faber, 53 pp., £9.95, May 1987, 0 571 14858 1
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Partingtime Hall 
by James Fenton and John Fuller.
Salamander, 69 pp., £7.50, April 1987, 0 948681 05 5
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Private Parts 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Chatto, 72 pp., £4.95, June 1987, 9780701132064
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Bright River Yonder 
by John Hartley Williams.
Bloodaxe, 87 pp., £4.95, April 1987, 1 85224 028 8
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... verse, The Illusionists. One of the book’s best satires is a scabrous fantasy on Wendy Cope and Fiona Pitt-Kethley, who were each launched last year to huge popular acclaim. Pitt-Kethley has been the quicker to consolidate her success, and her new collection, Private Parts, shouldn’t disappoint the large following ...

Here comes Amy

Christopher Reid, 17 April 1986

What the light was like 
by Amy Clampitt.
Faber, 110 pp., £4, February 1986, 0 571 13814 4
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Facing Nature 
by John Updike.
Deutsch, 110 pp., £9.95, January 1986, 0 233 97798 8
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by Jeremy Reed.
Cape, 128 pp., £4.95, November 1985, 0 224 02346 2
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by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, 36 pp., £8.95, December 1985, 0 906427 98 3
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Dramatic Verse: 1973-1985 
by Tony Harrison.
Bloodaxe, 448 pp., £20, December 1985, 0 906427 81 9
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Sky Ray Lolly 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Chatto, 64 pp., £3.95, April 1986, 0 7011 3046 6
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The Tower of Glass 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Mariscat, £3, September 1985, 0 946588 07 4
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Making cocoa for Kingsley Amis 
by Wendy Cope.
Faber, 65 pp., £7.95, March 1986, 0 571 13977 9
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... verse drama is still a lively proposition, in the right hands. There is hardly a single poem in Fiona Pitt-Kethley’s Sky Ray Lolly that could not be improved by judicious rewriting – the adjusting of a line-length here, the straightening-out of a passage of exposition there. Her deadpan manner works most effectively when there is at least the ...


Jenny Diski, 5 November 1992

by Madonna.
Secker, 128 pp., £25, October 1992, 0 436 27084 6
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Sex and Sensibility 
by Julie Burchill.
Grafton, 269 pp., £5.99, October 1992, 0 00 637858 7
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Too hot to handle 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Peter Owen, 134 pp., £15.50, November 1992, 0 7206 0875 9
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... make that much more than a repetition of a tale already told. When it comes to self-revelation, Fiona Pitt-Kethley’s volume makes Madonna’s bared bits and bobs look like a suburban room-setting in House and Garden. It is not, however, quite the triumph of self-knowledge I was after. There’s a certain bravado in publishing a collection of rejected ...

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