25 June 2011


In another room they were baking, mulling wine.
I was warm with cloves, melting butter, demerara,
and wearing your pyjamas.

I have been reading through the archives of  Julia Darling's blog. It is heartbreaking. But also full of beans. Beans and personality and the odd typo. It makes me think that the internet can be used for good things. Julia actually writes (in 2002) that 'apparently this kind of a diary is called a BLOG... derived from web logs. Mmmm'.

I was directed to it by my tutor as we were discussing my dissertation - illness, women, poetry. I knew the name Julia Darling from somewhere, but only in a vague kind of way. She was a novelist, playwright and poet. I say 'was' as she died in April 2005 of breast cancer. The blog is the diary of her final three years, and she documents her writing and her changing body and the people around her and the many projects she enthused about.

I read and read and read it through straight after my tutorial. And lo and behold, she lived in Newcastle. She was at the centre of the whole North East writing scene. She talks of all the theatres, art galleries, streets and hospitals that I know oh so well. She mentions people I am familiar with, and the town I grew up in. It turns out my mother met her more than once, and she was very good friends with friends of ours. This makes it so much more real, the tragedy more cutting... Mum can picture her in the Queen's Hall Arts Centre wearing a turban and chatting away to the arty types of Hexham. Full of energy and getting stuck in to the last. The blog is brimming with people, more than just the characters Julia created in her writing. She left school young and writes from not a formal but an intuitive background. She tries to 'go into the space where poems are made every day' and enters 'that pleasurable made up world that I control absolutely'. She gets to the truth of  a thing.

'The streets in the real world are much colder than in my made up one'


Ma said...

And we have Neil Astley who has done so much for poetry - good things come out of the North you know......

Ma said...

PS - it also reminds me of the John Burnside quote "If I could do real life I wouldn't be a writer."