I’ve posted on here before about my unease when a poet’s work is interpreted as being wholly autobiographical. I can’t imagine that’s ever the case, even with ‘confessional’ poets. Poetry is, after all, art, and as such contains imagination and fictions.
With that in mind I meant to link to this piece in The Guardian a few weeks back, which seemed to me to carry that autobiographical notion to absurd extremes. I didn’t, because I was too lazy, but I opened today’s Guardian to find that Sheffield poet Geraldine Monk had done my work for me (and done it far better than I could).
Her letter reads:
“I read Elizabeth Lowry’s article about Robert Browning (“Portrait of a lady”, July 19) with mounting incredulity. To adduce murder from a poet’s writings is as serious as it is shallow. My last volume of poetry contains monologues and imaginary letters by Mary Queen of Scots. I have never once harboured any desire to murder either my husband or the Queen.”
Says it all, really. I bet it won’t deter the next would-be literary detective, though.