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The Thursday Post: Celebrate Muriel Spark with the SPL in February

Rome c 1970 Copyright ©Jerry Bauer
Rome c 1970 Copyright ©Jerry Bauer

Muriel Spark is best known as a novelist, the author of 22 works of fiction that includes classics such as The Girls of Slender Means, The Driver’s Seat and, of course, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. She was born on 1 February, 1918, and so next year her hometown Edinburgh, and everywhere great writing is recognised, will celebrate her life and work.

The Scottish Poetry Library is especially keen to celebrate Spark’s legacy, because, as is often overlooked, she began her writing career as a poet and poetry critic. She certainly saw herself primarily as a poet. In her youth, she read poetry and little else, and, a precocious child, wrote poems for her school magazine ‘for I was destined to poetry by all my mentors’. Before writing her first novel, she wrote a study of John Masefield and Wordsworth, and published The Fanfarlo and Other Verse. Her gravestone, settled in the graveyard of the Tuscan village Civitella della Chiana, her adopted home during the final decades of her life, describes her as a ‘poeta’.

The Scottish Poetry Library couldn’t let this centenary pass without a celebration. On Thursday, February 22, we invite you to join us in the Library for a special event, a conversation about Spark between journalist Alan Taylor and poet Elaine Feinstein. Taylor is the author of a new memoir, Appointment in Arezzo: a friendship with Muriel Spark (Birlinn, £12.99). Feinstein has written an introduction to a new edition of Spark's memoir Curriculum Vitae (Carcanet, £12.99). After the conversation, Feinstein will read her own poetry.

Elaine Feinstein is a distinguished poet, novelist, short-story writer, playwright, biographer and translator. Her most recent collection of poetry, The Clinic Memory: New and Selected Poems is published by Carcanet Press earlier this year. She has written biographies of Bessie Smith, Marina Tsvetaeva, Ted Hughes, Pushkin, Anna Akhmatova, and D.H. Lawrence.

Alan Taylor is a journalist, editor, and broadcaster. He has written for a diverse selection of newspapers and magazines, from Life and Work to the New Yorker. He has interviewed practically every British and American writer worth interviewing over the past three decades, including John Updike, Philip Roth, and Gore Vidal. He was a Booker judge the year James Kelman won with How Late It Was, How Late, and he is the founding editor of the Scottish Review of Books. In 1990, he was sent to Italy to interview Muriel Spark, which marked the beginning of a friendship that endured until her death in 2006. Appointment in Arezzo is a warm, often humorous, always insightful account of their relationship.

Tickets are on sale now, priced £10 (£8 concessions). The event will begin at 7pm on Thursday, 22 February and will consist in its first half of a conversation between Feinstein and Taylor about Spark and Curriculum Vitae; after a short break, the event will resume with Feinstein reading her own poetry. It promises to be a great evening remembering Spark’s life and her poetry.

Click here if you’d like to buy a ticket to Edinburgh Villanelle: A Celebration of Muriel Spark with Elaine Feinstein and Alan Taylor, click here.

Carcanet’s edition of Spark’s memoir Curriculum Vitae, with Elaine Feinstein’s preface, is available to purchase now, priced £12.99. It can, however, be purchased directly from the Carcanet website with 10 percent off at £11.69. Click here to purchase Curriculum Vitae from Carcanet.

Category: events