The books that have inspired me are many and varied. I think a lot of the inspiring happens when you’re little, and not looking for it yet. When I was little I was given a book by the poet Edna St Vincent Millay, and loved it – for her joie de vivre, her openness to experience, and what I now know is her technical skill. Her poems are often like little stories, and I love that. Vanity Fair, by WM Thackeray, is a book I’ve reread every few years since I was about 20. I love his capacious understanding of people and their folly, the way he can be satirical and generous at the same time, and, frankly, how funny he is. He’s like a far more subtle Dickens and, I think, underrated. And for my third choice, there are so many hundreds that I will choose Orlando, by Virginia Woolf (I know it”s a capricious choice!). These are all books I read very young; in this case, 17. It seemed to me that if you could write this book, you could write anything, and I still wish I could command the centuries like Orlando. And the book has such a wonderful prose style.
Lately I’ve been reading Hilary Mantel. I love her ability to get inside another human being – this amazing ability to get right in there. I loved how Wolf Hall made Tudor London almost more real, for several months after, than the London I live in now. And her prose is to die for. I’m also reading the letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, and although they were written in the 18th century they are incredibly fresh and lively. And I’m very excited about a poet called Hannah Silva, whose first collection, Forms of Protest, is just out now, published by Penned in the Margins press. Her work – much of it originally written for performance – is all about language and sound and meaning, and the poems written for the page make innovative use of textspeak and symbols. Not story, so much, but how we express it, and struggle to express it. I find her incredibly exciting.
Katy at Word Factory:
Katy Evans-Bush was born in New York City, and moved to London in her late teens. She is the author of two poetry collections, Me and the Dead and Egg Printing Explained (both published by Salt Publishing) and a pamphlet, Oscar & Henry, based on a strange love-hate symbiosis between Henry James and Oscar Wilde (Rack Press). Her blog, Baroque in Hackney [baroqueinhackney.com], has been featured in Time Out, The Guardian and other places, and was shortlisted for the George Orwell Prize for political writing in 2012. She works as a freelance writer and poetry mentor.