I’m pleased to write that The Poem with No Name from my pamphlet Loose Threads and Sacred Spaces is August’s Diamond Twig Poem of the Month. Poet and novelist Ellen Phethean curates Diamond Twig PotM and I’m chuffed to be included beside poets including Pippa Little. Incidently, I’ve just bought a signed copy of Pippa’s latest poetry book Time Begins to Hurt from her. Thanks, Pippa!
Anyway back to Ellen, who was a friend and creative collaborator of the late novelist, poet and dramatist Julia Darling. They wrote and performed together in The Poetry Virgins with actors Charlie Hardwick, Kay Hepplewhite and Fiona MacPherson. In 1992 Ellen and Julia co-founded Diamond Twig Press as they both passionately believed in encouraging new women writers.
All this creative work took place on Tyneside, where Julia chose to live. She’d been born in Winchester in August 1956 but her work and legacy are rooted in Newcastle. I got to know Julia in the late 1980s when I was hawking my teenage poetry about the city.
I have vague memories of attending a daytime event in Newcastle Central Library promoting Julia’s debut poetry pamphlet Small Beauties. The book was published in 1988 but I fancy the event was summer 1989, not long before I left Tyneside to study at Hull University.
I bought a copy and asked Julia to sign it. She wrote something and handed me the book with a smile. As I wandered to the metro station I read the following undated inscription: “To Elaine, Who is a far greater poet than any I’ve met so far! Love Julia”
I invited Julia to a party at my house. When I say my house, I mean my parents’ home when they were on holiday. I was only 19 years old and had no idea that a writer in her 30s probably wouldn’t want to come and watch me try and steer drunken friends away from puking in flower pots on the patio.
Julia phoned me up that night as the party was “getting going” and wished me well. Weeks later I left the North East and didn’t return to live there for 20 years. In that time Julia wrote novels, poetry and plays for stage, screen and radio. Sadly, Julia died of breast cancer in 2005 aged 48.
Looking back, I think she was generous and kind to the awkward teenage Elaine. Turns out we liked the same cafe in Whitley Bay, The Rendezvous. I wish I could have chatted with her over a Horlicks.
It seems fitting to be writing about Julia in what is her birth month. You can find out more about her life and work by clicking here and thank you to Ellen Phethean for sending me back down a poetic memory lane.