'Unfortunately you have left out all the love poems': Spark in love

Maley, W. and Power, D. (2022) 'Unfortunately you have left out all the love poems': Spark in love. In: Carruthers, G. and Stoddart, H. (eds.) The Crooked Dividend: Essays on Muriel Spark. Series: Occasional Papers (24). Association for Scottish Literary Studies: Glasgow, pp. 88-102. ISBN 9781908980335

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This essay takes as its starting-point a little-known uncollected poem of Spark’s entitled ‘Anniversary’, published in autumn 1948 in a pioneering ‘free verse’ poetry quarterly, Variegation, launched in Los Angeles in 1946, the first journal to publish Kerouac and Ginsberg. This verse can instructively be placed among Spark’s other poems of the period, as one of a sequence she published in 1948 in the wake of her love affair with poet and editor Howard Sergeant. ‘Standing in Dusk’, in an earlier issue of Variegation, is a more accessible, more obvious love poem. Spark dedicated a copy of this to Sergeant on November 10, 1947, as part of a complex call and response in ‘personalist poetry’. When we look at her other poems of ’48, at least two are intense, almost obsessive, love poems: ‘A Letter to Howard’, published in Poetry Quarterly, Autumn 1948, the same season as ‘Anniversary’, invokes a kind of religious fervour with its biblical phrasing, repetition and imagery, while ‘He is Like Africa’ – later revised, retitled and reprinted as ‘Like Africa’ – is a celebration of masculine strength and sensuality. Sergeant was the inspiration for other poems of from that year, including ‘Song of the Divided Lover’, in Poetry Commonwealth, and ‘Lost Lover’ and ‘She Wore His Luck on Her Breast’, both in Outposts, edited by Sergeant. If ‘Anniversary’ addresses Spark’s short-lived relationship with Sergeant, the poem begins to make sense. Together with ‘He is Like Africa’ it draws on imagery from Spark’s African experiences. Their courtship was conducted in the language of that continent. Although Spark and Sergeant briefly collaborated, her next lover, kindred spirit Derek Stanford, proved a more long-term and more problematic writing partner. This essay explores the links between love, poetry and collaboration in Spark’s early work, before she emerged as a novelist.

Item Type:Book Sections
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Maley, Professor Willy
Authors: Maley, W., and Power, D.
College/School:College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Publisher:Association for Scottish Literary Studies
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