Poetry in motion as author pens follow-up to his favourite classic
Published at 09:11, Monday, 14 May 2012
AMAZINGLY, given he went on to hold the post of Poet Laureate, literature didn’t figure a great deal in Andrew Motion’s childhood.
It was only when an inspirational teacher introduced him to the likes of Thomas Hardy that he became a voracious reader, he told Hexham Book Festival last Thursday night.
Among Motion’s favourite novel was Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, which has a famously open-ended climax.
To fill in the blanks of what happens next then, is Motion’s latest novel, Silver.
Call it a sequel, though, and you’ll likely see the author squirm, as, like he told his audience, there’s always a danger of producing a pale imitation of the original.
One way Motion has got round that problem is by skipping a generation in the story-telling.
Jim Hawkins is back in England, equipped with a string of nostalgic tales, but the new work focuses more on his son, who prefers a quiet life on the river.
All that changes when Natty, the teenage daughter of Long John Silver, appears in search of the famous treasure map Jim Sr has locked away.
Motion’s depiction of how the pair meet, which he read to the Hexham audience at the final event of the festival, is rich, evocative and gripping; it’s little wonder that in the Q and A session that followed, one woman raised the suggestion that, being a poet, Motion had an advantage when it came to vivid description.
Another passage, dwelling in grotesque detail on Silver’s appearance, would certainly support that idea.
Other questioners, naturally, turned their attention away from the novel and on to Motion’s views on laureateship, which he has held for 10 years.
On the downside, he said, the requirements of the role tended to prevent the unconscious from coming up with the goods.
Private life was also suddenly made public thanks to the likes of the Daily Mail.
On the positive side, however, the laureateship meant a chance to further the cause of poetry; in particular, Motion created The Poetry Archive, through which numerous poets have been recorded reading their own creations.
Indeed, Motion’s passion for the work – albeit quietly, calmly expressed – was evident in every word he uttered last Thursday.
His thanks to that inspirational teacher, for example, was expressed as gratitude for giving him his “life” rather than merely his job.
When audience members praised a particular aspect of his work, Motion, rather than basking in the compliment, engaged in discussion warmly, with a genuine desire to hear readers’ thoughts.
And, as those same readers left the Queen’s Hall, the discussion continued – which is surely as good a sign as any that the night was a soaring success.
Published by http://www.hexhamcourant.co.uk
This week in... 1949Friday, December 9, 1949...
A workman was buried alive while digging a drain in the Prudhoe Urban Council's housing estate at Oaklands.
Workmates rushed to the aid of 50-year-old Richard Barclay, of Stocksfield, when the wall of the trench he was digging collapsed.
They managed to dig his head and shoulders free before finally pulling him from the earth. He was found to be suffering from shock and bruising.