the writer is a lonely hunter

writing by Gail Aldwin and other Dorset writers

Good news: it’s all happening at the minute

Firstly, my interview ‘a conversation…’ is on the Greenacre Writers’ site now. Why not pop over and have a read?

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Secondly, I have a poem in the fabulous print publication Words for the Wild. You can read more about the project here.

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And lastly, I’m off to the Thomas Hardy Society‘s fiftieth conference this evening to hear Paul Henry read from his acclaimed poetry collections The Brittle Sea and Boy Running. It will be good to touch base with Paul again (we were both lecturers at the University in South Wales in 2015).

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Max Gate, Thomas Hardy’s home

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Thomas Hardy designed and lived in Max Gate, situated on the outskirts of Dorchester, from 1885 until his death in 1928. When we first moved to the county town, the house was occupied by tenants and you could only access two of the ground floor rooms. Over time, the National Trust have opened more of the rooms including the attic rooms where Emma, Hardy’s first wife withdrew to.

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Emma’s boudoir in the attic at Max Gate

Emma started to use the rooms as a daytime retreat, but by 1899 she decided to move her bedroom up there, too. She described her space as a ‘sweet refuge and solace’. It’s strange to think of Hardy working at this desk directly beneath Emma’s rooms.

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Thomas Hardy’s first floor study

In his study at the house, Hardy wrote Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure and The Mayor of Casterbridge and much of his poetry.

Very little of the furniture in the house belonged to Hardy because his second wife, Florence, sold everything upon his death. Therefore, the contents of each room is there to recreate the atmosphere that might have existed. As such, this is one of the few National Trust properties I’ve been to where visitors are encouraged to take a seat and enjoy the warmth of the fire in the lounge.

Use of the toilet, however, is not allowed (although there are loos for public use).

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Max Gate is well worth visiting for anyone staying in or passing through Dorchester.

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Writing places: a new project

Thomas Hardy's Cottage

Thomas Hardy’s Cottage

The National Trust, Literature Works and the Poetry Archive have formed a new partnership to offer to offer a programme of events celebrating the literary heritage of the South West. The launch of the programme was held on 2 July (the birth date of Thomas Hardy) at Max Gate. As an invited guests, I toured the house, listened to Andrew Motion read from a forthcoming collection of poetry and found out more about the project. Five National Trust properties with strong literary connections, including Max Gate and Hardy’s Cottage,  will have professional writers appointed to act as writers-in-residence. The purpose is to explore ‘the domestic lives of some of the country’s greatest writers, revealing how the houses and landscape that they loved inspired them to create their masterpieces, and how these places continue to be relevant today’.  A programme of workshops and events will be developed so that writers and visitors can contribute to the project. Find out about developments as the programmes progress by visiting the Writing Places blog.

As a result of the launch, I’ve discovered it’s well worth visiting the Poetry Archive.  I spent a delightful couple of hours listening to poets read from their work. By following  a tour of the archive with Mark Grist and David Almond (there are many tours to choose from), I was introduced to new poetry, which I loved. The experience encouraged me to try my hand a writing a poem – the first one since school days!

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