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SPOTLIGHT: Christina Rossetti 'In the Bleak Midwinter"

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

    I have loved the poetry of Christina Rossetti since I was in my teens, and bought a volume of her poetry at a church fete. 

I had wanted her to be a major character in BEAUTY IN THORNS, my novel about the Pre-Raphaelites, but eventually decided that I could not do her poetry and life justice in the small amount of space I could have devoted to her. 



I removed all the chapters I had written about her, and put them into a separate file. 

Since then I have been thinking and wondering and playing with ideas for a book about her. Not a novel. A kind of imaginative biography.  

Then I realised that Christina Rossetti was born on the 5th December 1830, a week before another one of my favourite poets Emily Dicksinson (who was born on the 10th December 1830). 



And so now I'm thinking of writing a double biography ... though perhaps the term bibliomemoir would be more accurate. A book that looks at the lives and works of two extraordinary 19th century women, and their shaping force upon my own life. Yet it is not the type of thing I usually write. Would anyone want to publish it? I wondered. Would anyone want to read it?

Then last night I went to hear my daughter sing at her school Christmas concert. And one of the songs the choir sang was 'In the Bleak Midwinter', a poem written by Christina Rossetti which I have always loved. It was so beautiful, I had shivers all over my body. It seemed like a sign. Maybe I should write about her and Emily Dicksinson, I thought. Even if no-one would want to publish it. Just for my own pleasure. And so I've begun to put a few ideas together - it'll be something I'll play with in quiet moments and hope one day will be born and have a life beyond me.

And I've thought of a title (always a sign for me that a book has real possibilities). I'm thinking of calling it 'Hope is the Thing with Feathers', from one of my favourite poems by Emily Dickinson.       




It has uncanny echoes with a poem by Christina Rossetti:

And here, for your pleasure, is Christina Rossetti's poem 'In the Bleak Midwinter':



And another favourite poem about winter by Emily Dickinson:

What do you think? Would any of you like to read a book about Christina Rossetti & Emily Dickinson?


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