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Lavinia Greenlaw, 3 August 1995

... For Don Paterson He preferred his glass eye to be of itself, vitreous not ocular or even optically convincing. Without pupil or iris, allowed to risk its stubbornly fluid nature, the blue held everything. It liquefied in candlelight and clouded over in winter. Once, at the opera, an aria built wave upon wave of sound, higher and closer till it struck the resonant frequency of blue glass and the molecules of his eye oscillated into a thousand flowers ...


Lavinia Greenlaw, 10 November 1994

... My six-year-old mechanic, you are up half the night inventing a pipe made from jars, a skiing car for flat icy roads and a timer-catapult involving a palm tree, candles and rope. You could barely stand when I once found you, having loosened the bars from the cot and stepped out so simply you shocked yourself. Today I am tearful, infatuated with bad ideas, the same song, over and over ...


Lavinia Greenlaw, 25 August 2011

... He walks his mind as a forest and sends of himself into dark places to which he cannot tell the way. The hunt comes on and he in his nerves streams ahead – hounds flung after a scent so violent no matter the path or what’s let fall.        A burst of clearing. Water beads and feathers her presence as she thickens and curves. He says words to himself not to look but his eyes are of their own and she at their centre a dark star contracting to itself discarding wave on wave on flare on fountain ...

The Long Day Closes

Lavinia Greenlaw, 27 June 2002

... Pulled from my shell of dreams and noise, I was taken to live in a quiet place where the undiluted dark of the streets without streetlight, had no emphasis. Boys on boys’ shoulders turned the crossroads signpost back, conferred on baffled drivers, four blind corners, an added hour of English winter. Power cuts shut the short days down. I moved my bed against the boards that hid the chimney, kindled warmth and probed the heater’s one grey bar ...

Four Poems

Lavinia Greenlaw, 22 May 1997

... Minus Ten The snow is blameless. It falls like someone who cannot stop talking, in querulous drifts. It covers the same ground we barely remember, collects evidence wherever we slip. Thaw turns to ice, freezing the surface to a single assertion. We must break glass with every step to reach a starting point. And the children. What of the children? Acquisitions Henry Ford boasted there would be no Egyptian mummies in his museum ...

Three Poems

Lavinia Greenlaw, 1 January 2009

... Saturday Night Out of the impenetrable wood Elizabeth Bishop And young girls shall gather to dance on the highways under petals of light that float from their shoulders and dip into lotioned shadows. They shall coil their salty hair and tug at their lapsed muslins as they fall like cushions, and spill. Do they dance for those creatures whose unmade selves come unbuttoning out of the dark? All strop and tang, they crave whatever will settle their erupted frames, their chemical blunders, their overgrown sentences ...

Four Poems

Lavinia Greenlaw, 8 March 2018

... There, he says His wife has died, he is alone and so we follow him into the storm because he wants to take us out. Out where? There, he says as we turn each black corner, there. A man in grief walking the empty centre of a Sunday-night small town caught up in the act of knowing where he’s going as we repeat the drenched streets. He’s already got us running in circles as if we can hold his world in place even form a new edge ...

Two Poems

Lavinia Greenlaw, 25 October 2018

... My father leaving I have found a form for my grief in the memory of a young deer I glimpsed by the side of the road half destroyed half poised to make a leap. The snow held in place its shock at being collapsed back into the earth while yet to know what it was here for or what needed to be done. Did you think the earth had taken hold the day you pulled off the road and walked away from your wife and four children as if we stopped your breath? All we could do was line up to watch you disappear ...

Diana of the Upper Air

Lavinia Greenlaw, 29 July 2021

... For​ a short while the highest point of the New York skyline was marked by a girl standing on tiptoe. At night she was also the brightest point, the focus of 66 incandescent lamps and ten spotlights, at a time when there was little electric light in the city. During the day, the sun detonated her gilded surface and she ‘flashed against a green-blue sky’, as Willa Cather described it in My Mortal Enemy ...

Spurious, Glorious

Lavinia Greenlaw: Three Long Poems, 13 September 2018

Three Poems 
by Hannah Sullivan.
Faber, 73 pp., £10.99, January 2018, 978 0 571 33767 5
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... The long poem​ pre-empts its own significance. We expect more of it and less of ourselves, adjusting our pace and investing in the big picture. Hannah Sullivan’s majestic debut offers three big pictures – birth, coming of age and death – but this isn’t a triptych. Instead, these themes extend across the book, with the poems acting as a set of transparencies that enlarge and complicate one another ...

All hail the microbe

Lavinia Greenlaw: Things Pile Up, 18 June 2020

Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils 
by David Farrier.
Fourth Estate, 307 pp., £16.99, March, 978 0 00 828634 7
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... In​ Footprints: In Search of Future Fossils, David Farrier reaches into the past in order to envisage the deep future. This can only ever be an extrapolation of the present – our knowledge, experience, language and ideas – but Farrier is relaxed about this. His focus is on the way life has been recorded in the substance of the world, the ways we can trace human impact and the ways we, in turn, might be traced in time to come ...

Out All Day with His Axe

Lavinia Greenlaw: ‘Osebol’, 18 August 2022

Osebol: Voices from a Swedish Village 
by Marit Kapla, translated by Peter Graves.
Allen Lane, 803 pp., £20, November 2021, 978 0 241 53520 2
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... Where​ is Osebol? Marit Kapla offers no introduction to this oral history of a Swedish village, just a map showing the southern half of the country and a cluster of places along the Klarälven river, which crosses from Norway. Much of the life of the village – education, work, shopping, fun – occurs in these other places. There are the secondary schools in Stöllet and Torsby, the shops in Malung and the ski lodge at Branäs ...

Indoor Raincoat

Lavinia Greenlaw: Joy Division, 23 April 2015

So This Is Permanence: Joy Division Lyrics and Notebooks 
by Ian Curtis, edited by Deborah Curtis and Jon Savage.
Faber, 304 pp., £27, October 2014, 978 0 571 30955 9
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... When​ people equate pop lyrics with poetry, they expect pop to feel flattered and sometimes it is. So This Is Permanence reminds us that lyrics can reward close attention without being recast. The book collects the words of Ian Curtis, the singer in Joy Division, who committed suicide in 1980 at the age of 23. Joy Division belonged to the scene that emerged into the space left behind by punk ...

I was there, was I?

Lavinia Greenlaw: ‘Bedsit Disco Queen’, 18 July 2013

Bedsit Disco Queen 
by Tracey Thorn.
Virago, 364 pp., £16.99, February 2013, 978 1 84408 866 9
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...  When Tracey Thorn was 17, she bought an electric guitar through a small ad in Melody Maker. Only when she got it home did she realise something was missing: she needed an amp. She played the guitar anyway and got ‘into the habit of making very little noise’. A couple of years later, with Ben Watt, she formed the band Everything But the Girl. In the last thirty years they’ve been ‘signed, dropped, re-signed, mixed and remixed’ while selling around nine million records ...

Such Little Trousers

Lavinia Greenlaw: Pamela Hansford Johnson, 21 March 2019

This Bed Thy Centre 
by Pamela Hansford Johnson.
Hodder, 288 pp., £8.99, October 2018, 978 1 4736 7985 6
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An Impossible Marriage 
by Pamela Hansford Johnson.
Hodder, 352 pp., £8.99, October 2018, 978 1 4736 7980 1
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The Last Resort 
by Pamela Hansford Johnson.
Hodder, 352 pp., £8.99, October 2018, 978 1 4736 7994 8
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The Holiday Friend 
by Pamela Hansford Johnson.
Hodder, 272 pp., £8.99, October 2018, 978 1 4736 7987 0
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... When​ Pamela Hansford Johnson died in 1981, the New York Times described her as ‘one of England’s best-known novelists’. I knew her name, or thought I did, but couldn’t recall the title of any of her books. Her 27 novels are mostly out of print. The New York Times briskly sets them aside, along with their author: Her death came almost a year after that of C ...

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