‘It was the night before Christmas, and not surprisingly, Kelly Jane Davidson was wide awake. It wasn’t that she wanted to be. It wasn’t as if she believed in Santa and expected to catch him coming down the chimney onto the coal-effect gas fire in the living-room. After all, she was nearly eight now…’
Front cover of Stranded (Flambard Press, 823.914 MCD)
So goes the opening of the short story ‘The Girl Who Killed Santa Claus’ by renowned crime writer, Val McDermid. The story can be found in her collection Stranded which was published by Flambard Press in 2005.
Flambard Press was a North East-based independent press which published a range of poetry and fiction, as well as some non-fiction and visual-art books. It was particularly focused on publishing new and neglected writers in the North of England, as well as promoting live literature.
Pages from Peter Bennet’s notebook containing draft poems of ‘Moons at Cleethorpes’ (Bennet (Peter) Archive, PB/1/5/2)
On the 20th July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were the first people to walk on the moon after the successful landing of spacecraft ‘Eagle’ on the surface of the moon a few hours earlier. The landing ended the ‘Space Race’ between the USSR and the USA, and was a breakthrough moment in space exploration.
To celebrate, this month’s treasure is part of poet Peter Bennet’s notebooks containing a draft of his poem ‘Moons at Cleethorpes’ from 1985. Whilst the moon landing of 1969 was a significant moment in the history of space exploration and the development of scientific understanding of outer space, the moon has long held a significant place in culture, particularly in works of art and literature such as Bennet’s poem.
Bennet initially studied Art and Design with ambitions to be a painter but turned to poetry when he began working as a teacher of redundant steelworkers in Consett. The connection to visual imagery can be seen in this poem through the language used to evoke the real moon and the pleasure park rides, and the sense of interplay between the natural dark and artificial lights of the park. The notebook provides a fascinating insight into the working processes behind Bennet’s poetry. It is possible to see where he has amended lines, scribbling over phrases, and rewritten over the poem in coloured pen to try out alternative words and phrases. Comparison with the published version of the poem can show which part of the poem Bennet chose to use as the ‘finished’ version, but these drafts can also demonstrate the development of ideas. In this case, the red annotations to the poem suggest Bennet was interested in how to convey a sense of light and movement as he tries out alternative phrases of ‘garish’ and ‘brashly lit-up’, ‘floats high’ and ‘soars back’.
You can hear more about Bennet’s life and work and his hopes for the future of his notebooks held here in Special Collections through our Collected Voices resource. More of his drafts and pages from the notebooks are also available to view online through the Collections Captured resource.
Stored in the Bloodaxe archive in the Robinson Library there is a note written in the margins of the manuscript of Ken Smith’s poetry collection, ‘The Poet Reclining’ from 1977, one of Bloodaxe Book’s first publications:
‘pity Janet, you’ve done it again!’
References to ‘Janet’ continue to appear frequently in the editorial marginalia, minutes and notes. As part of her practice-based PhD research, Kate Sweeney has decided to build a ‘Janet’ – from traces of administration ephemera found in the archive. An amalgamated, chimerical idea of a ‘Janet’ from paper. From the margins, notes and minutes, but mainly from the post-its – a part of the archive and Apart from the archive – much like Janet herself…
‘Treasure of the Month’
This month’s treasure is Janet. Janet seeps through on post-its pressed upon other people. A part and apart, her stickiness is temporary, her yellow glow fleets over faces. She is deeply disposable unless undetected – then, she slips off her sheet, off her box and into the archive…
Image: Post-it note attached to material in The Bloodaxe Archive, contained in BXB/4/5/1 and stored in Special Collections at The Robinson Library.