The new Featured Writer is Caroline Davies whose amazing and well-researched new collection Convoy has just been released by Cinnamon Press, and was even launched on board a ship! A chorus of lost voices are brought to the surface throughout the book, as if we were hearing them at the time. She handles the characterisation through tone and nuance of voice with great tenderness and even the ships are named and given personality. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have naval-types checking up on facts, as Caroline describes, while you put your collection together! It was very interesting to see Putin and Cameron giving medals to the surviving veterans of the Arctic Convoys only yesterday.
On the subject of war, next year sees the centenary of the outbreak of World War One and this could be a great opportunity for poets and writers and artists to get together to continue the tradition set by those at that time! To start with, I can’t help recommending three books that I’ve found unputdownable: Forgotten Voices of the Great War by Max Arthur; The Great War and Modern Memory by Paul Fussell; a fine novel called Her Privates We by Frederick Manning. According to William Boyd, who himself said this novel was ‘the finest and noblest book of men in war’, Ernest Hemingway read this book every year , ‘to remember how things were so that I will never lie to myself nor to anyone else about them.’ And yet it contains not one description of combat. It is mainly the men’s voices.
In May, the Heritage Lottery Fund started provided funding to help groups, communities and organisations mark the Centenary by exploring, conserving and sharing the heritage of the First World War, from memorials, buildings and sites, to photographs, letters and literature. You can find out more about the grants we offer from £3,000 – £10,000, £10,000 – £100,000 by looking up Heritage Lottery Fund.
We, as a culture, are still deeply affected by the work of the war poets and we still have conflicts to write about. Might this not be an opportune moment for groups of writers to think about ways of commemorating the outbreak of WW1. I’d love to be involved in something myself (even though I am half-hoping (yup, half!) that my book What the horses heard might be out next year). It’s a chance for groups to come together and make bids to the Arts Council to put on performances, produce anthologies, to collect relatives’ stories before the memories vanish, like fading script on memorials – in short, do what we can to make sure we find out about and record our response to what happened only two – three generations ago.