Thursday, 9 February 2012

Edith Sitwell, my favourite poet

When I say that, it doesn't actually mean that I am an afficianado of poetry, rather that she did poetry and I like it better than any other I happen to have come across. I like her earlier work best of all. It is deeply autobiographical and creates dreamy images in my head. 
One of my favourite poems, Colonel Fantock (1924) was inspired by days spent playing with her brothers Osbert and Sacheverell in the gardens at Renishaw Hall, the childhood home. 

They are amongst my favourite gardens, with small rooms created by box hedging and totally exuberant and quite informal planting. No sign of 'The white border' or 'The blue border' style of planting. Colours are mixed for dramatic effect and that suits me far better.
As a teenager, when I was inspired by medieval gothic imagery and black and white silent films, I went through a phase of making long dresses out of old brocade curtains. So when I came across Edith and saw photos of her in just the same kind of outfit and setting, I knew I would like her. In particular, I love the photos of her taken by Cecil Beaton.

Extract from Colonel Fantock

But Dagobert and Peregrine and I
were children then; we walked like shy gazelles
among the music of the thin flower-bells.
And life still held some promise, -- never ask
of what, -- but life seemed less a stranger, then,
than ever after in this cold existence.
I was always a little outside life-- one dead, like a small ghost,
a little cold air wandering and lost.
All day within the straw-roofed arabesque
of the towered castle and the sleepy gardens wandered
we; those delicate paladins the waves
told us fantastic legends that we pondered....