Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A book a week in 2010: Alice by Jane Weir

'Much better read out loud.'

That's what this collection of poetry should have emblazoned on the front cover. I started reading, but kept losing track. But as soon as I started to speak, it all fell into place.

Alice is a collection of poems inspired by the story of Alice Wheeldon, the suffragette and anti-war campaigner who ran a clothes shop in Derbyshire. Jane Weir weaves the clothing among the words: from a scarf to knitting and skeins, trouser suit to coat. It makes it all feel comfortable, like the words fit. (This is a particular focus of her work: she has subsequently gone on to write in more detail around textiles and textile designers.)

Aside from the joy of hearing the sound of my own voice when reading out loud, I felt admiration for the woman that inspired them, and there's a distant yearning and passion you can't quite put your finger, that's very compelling.

This slim volume comes with a CD of Weir reading. I won't bother listening. I doubt she'll be better than me. But I think I'll come back to this again and again: it feels like a classic collection in the making.

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