This is one of a series of paintings by Australian painter Gary Shead about D.H. Lawrence's time in Australia. He's communing here with a
magpie, a cockatoo? and a kangaroo, who all seem up on dinner party etiquette (see previous post). Although this painting, in contrast to Sue Orr's book cover, has a distinctly 'Last Supper' feel to it, with Lawrence the Christ-figure.
In fact, I took the image from Australian writer Gondal-girl's blog where she talks about a crush she had on Lawrence - exacerbated by the fact of his having visited Australia once. She asks about other people's literary crushes.
So I had a think about mine and came up with: Byron (his desire to fight on behalf of the Greeks - my father's people - vs. the Turks and his feverish death in Messolonghi added to his mystique), Samuel Taylor Coleridge (that feverish imagination of his captivated me and my friend Sandra, we poured over his poetry in my dark flat in Aro Valley) and Yeats (his political activism, his poetry, his connection with the Theosophists were a compelling mixture - I remember discussing gyres for hours). These were my romantic teenage crushes, and I quoted them, read them, tried to write like them.
Sylvia Plath was more serious than that. I really thought poetry had to be dark and confessional to be worth anything, and I used her poems as models for the dark, confessional stuff I wanted to write with lines like 'I am in the bird-tree and my throat aches'. Her struggle as a writer who was a woman and mother meshed well with my uncompromising 70s/early 80s feminism . I didn't like Ted much then (this changed with The Birthday Letters and his Collected Letters). I read everything I could about Sylvia and by her, especially her letters. When I went to London I wandered around Primrose Hill where she lived and died ... wrote anguished poems about it ...
I recently saw a one-woman show about Plath at Circa in Wellington. Spookily the Olympia typewriter the actress used as Plath was identical to one I had used in London to type up those anguished Plathian poems. None, thankfully, published. I still 'notice' Plath but I don't feel moved to read everything about her anymore, let alone write like her. Although I still envy her enormous talent and detest the way she died.
Interestingly, in the recently published Letters of Ted Hughes selected by Christopher Reid (Faber), Hughes suggests she wanted to be saved, and blames himself for not getting to her in time. Or that's my recollection - must go back and read those particular letters again.