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Friday 7th February 2003

07/02/2003

I am hurtling from event to event at the moment. Last Sunday we had an evening at Live Theatre when writers read from their work about the North, and picked extracts that explored ‘Northern-ness.’ It was a really interesting evening, with David Almond, Andrea Badenoch, Margaret Wilkinson and Sean O’Brien. Much of the work looked at our heritage of coal mining and industry, and hardly anyone talked about more recent changes in the Northern landscape. The question which was raised, but not answered, was what it meant to be a ‘Northern writer.’ All of us were very influenced by the landscape, even if we weren’t native to the North East. I have been living here for years, and just about everything I write is based in Newcastle. The Taxi Driver’s Daughter is set right in the city, naming particular streets and areas. I have never found that being specific about where something is based stops it becoming relevant to readers who live elsewhere. Andrea Badenoch said an intersting thing; that when you come from a place it is always much more complicated to describe than if you talk about somewhere as an outsider. I often think that my relationship to this city is a very emotional one, like a relationship with a person. Anyway, when we got to the discussion part of the evening the audience were unusually quiet. I wonder what they went away with?

There’s been other events too…a reading of the poetry MA students from the university at the Literary and Philosophical Society. It was packed with people. It seems to me that poetry audiences are getting bigger at last. Next week the writers from the university are reading together at the Gulbenkian studio for Valentine’s night. This event has involved much talking and rehearsing. We are trying to present poetry in a more inventive way than the usual lectern and shuffling papers method. I think it will be a really good night, with the poems creating a dialogue between writers, all on the wide subject of ‘love.’ I am going to lie on a sofa!

This Sunday Kathleen Jamie is reading at Live Theatre with Sean O Brien….Jamie is really one of my heroines as a poet. Her work is rich and direct and fiery and full of fearsome women. These events at Live Theatre are Free…what a gift!

I have finished reading ‘Cold Mountain.’ I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s a book that is full of hunger and food, and everytime I open a can of something I think about Inman eating a bear over a fire, or nibbling walnuts to stop himself from starving.Now I’m reading Michael Faber’s latest book…a great heavy Victorian epic that is impossible to read in the bath as it’s so heavy. The title has the words Crimson and White in, but I can’t think of the order they go in.

I feel very lucky sometimes, to be able to live in this nest of words, and not have to do a boring job that I would like to leave but can’t.

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