Patricia Lockwood at Bristol Festival of Ideas

This is a guest post on behalf of Bristol Festival of Ideas

Patricia Lockwood


Wed 26 April, 19:00-20:00



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The childhood of poet Patricia Lockwood was unusual in many respects. There was the location: an impoverished, nuclear waste-riddled area of the American Midwest. There was her mother, a woman who speaks almost entirely in strange koans and warnings of impending danger. Above all, there was her gun-toting, guitar-riffing, frequently semi-naked father, who underwent a religious conversion on a submarine and discovered a loophole which saw him approved for the Catholic priesthood by the man who would later become Pope Benedict – despite already having a wife and children.

When the expense of a medical procedure forced the 30-year-old Patricia to move back in with her parents, husband in tow, she had to learn to live again with her family’s simmering madness, and to reckon with the dark side of a childhood spent in the bosom of the Catholic Church.

Patricia Lockwood’s poems have appeared widely, including in The New Yorker, the London Review of Books, Tin House and Poetry. In 2013, her poem ‘Rape Joke’ was published on The Awl and went viral. She is the author of two poetry collections, Balloon Pop Outlaw Black and Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, New York Times Notable Book. Follow her on Twitter @TriciaLockwood

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Online modernist women reading group: Kay Boyle

Kay Boyle is a writer I am eager to read more of and learn more about.

She wrote poems, short stories and novels.

So I am starting to discover her this poem, sourced from PoemHunter

Monody To The Sound Of Zithers – Poem by Kay Boyle

I have wanted other things more than lovers …
I have desired peace, intimately to know
The secret curves of deep-bosomed contentment,
To learn by heart things beautiful and slow.
Cities at night, and cloudful skies, I’ve wanted;
And open cottage doors, old colors and smells a part;
All dim things, layers of river-mist on river—
To capture Beauty’s hands and lay them on my heart.
I have wanted clean rain to kiss my eyelids,
Sea-spray and silver foam to kiss my mouth.
I have wanted strong winds to flay me with passion;
And, to soothe me, tired winds from the south.
These things have I wanted more than lovers …
Jewels in my hands, and dew on morning grass—
Familiar things, while lovers have been strangers.
Friended thus, I have let nothing pass.

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Online modernist women reading group: Mina Loy

I don’t know a huge amount about Mina Loy and what I do know is very much through a Stein prism.

I know for example that her husband once suggested Stein put more commas in a piece of work, and she agreed but later deleted them.

And I know that at Natalie Barney’s salon in celebration of Stein, which took place in January 1927, Mina Loy read some of Gertrude’s work.

I need to do better, in other words!

Here’s a poem by Mina Loy. I hope you enjoy it and please share your thoughts in the comments.

Nightingale singing—gale of Nanking
of Ming-dynasty
in Ming
sing long


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Modernist women reading group: Colette

It all started with Colette for me. Discovering an orange and cream Penguin ed. of The Vagabond in Alnwick’s Barter Books aged 14 got me hooked. Soon I was reading every Colette novel I could get my hands on, as well as her short stories and the superb biography by Judith Thurman.

The more Colette I read, the more I wanted to discover about the women living in Paris during her period. And so from Colette I learnt about Stein, and Djuna Barnes, and Bryher, and H.D, and all the women I’ve been talking about in this series.

Colette’s short-story The Hand is something I read as a teenager and it has always haunted me. It pops into my head all the time, the intense description of the hand, the move from joy to revulsion to submission.

When you read it, think on:

  • How does Colette communicate sensuality?
  • What do you think of her use of description?
  • How does she manage the transition from lust to disgust?
  • What is the significance of the young wife’s feelings at the end of the story?


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Modernist reading group: Bryher

After H.D last time, it makes sense to talk Bryher this week – her long-term partner. She’s really fascinating but very little known. If you have a chance to read her memoir The Heart to Artemis then I’d really recommend it. A great piece of travel writing, as well as a good history of the first few decades of the 20th century and exploration of Freud and psychoanalysis.

I found this poem in a Transition anthology in Shakespeare & Company when I went to Paris in 2014 and I absolutely love it.


If I am a needle on a disk,

got to play the record out,

got to go on,

whatever voices break across me

or what shadows,

knees or shoulders,

silverpoint the blackness;

got to play the record out

til I break or am lifted,

I don’t choose the sound I make,

you don’t choose the groove.


No good saying,

take a knife and cut me from the past.

If I am a needle on a disk,

I’m not the new record

nor the old silence.

There is nowhere that we join together


And it’s not your job to lift me at the finish.


Isn’t it lush?

Have a think about the use of the body, new technology, and who the poetic voice is addressing.

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Online modernist reading group: H.D

This fortnight we’ll be looking at H.D or Hilda Doolittle.

H.D was one of the original ‘imagist’ poems, as well as the author of the extraordinary novel Hermione. She called her daughter Perdita, fittingly.

Her memoir of Freud, A Tribute to Freud, is also well worth your time.

But today we’re looking at her poems, a selection of which are available online. I’d encourage you to browse around although would add that Apollo at Delphi is a favourite of mine.

Things to think about? H.D is an imagiste. That means trying to eschew techniques like metaphor or simile, to write the image of the thing. How does this affect the poetry? What do you think of it? Does she succeed?


You can read about the modernist women of Paris in my new book, available for Kindle.

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New book: …and Paris is my hometown

Exciting news!

As part of Sian’s Spike Island residency, she has published an eBook of biographical essays about the women of 1920s Paris.

It’s called …and Paris is my hometown

which is a Gertrude Stein quote.


The majority of the essays were published by The Heroine Collective throughout 2016 and Sian is very grateful to their lovely editor Kate Kerrow for contributing the Foreword to the collection. There are some extra exciting tidbits in the anthology though so it’s worth your time!

…and Paris is my hometown includes essays celebrating the life and work of Gertrude Stein, Colette, Sylvia Beach, Josephine Baker, Kiki de Montparnasse and many, many more.

Please purchase the book today.

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