‘Look! We have come through!’

‘Wish You Were Here’ – is here!

Yesterday, a parcel of books was delivered to Sonya Hundal, the shadow writer working with me on the Boston creative writing project, and she posted two videos of her opening the box. I can’t add them directly, but do follow the links to share the moment. There’s nothing quite like seeing your book for the first time in its physical form as the words acquire a reality that nothing quite prepares you for.

In this case, it’s especially appropriate that Sonya used Twitter to share this moment with everyone who’s been together on this journey, since most of us have never met except on the internet. This physical book is the result, if not of virtual reality – that’s in the minds of its readers – then of remote working. It seems even more than usually miraculous that this has come about during and through lockdown. The book and the texts it holds embody the distance that has separated us from one another for so long.

There’s still work to do, on banners, a public reading and being at the Boston Book Festival in September, and I’ll write about it all as we draw the project to its close. For now, I just want to mark the moment and the achievement of the writers, Michael Cartwright, Jane Kay, Frances Sabey, Tess Sanderson, Brian Skinner and Sonya herself, as well as the beautiful drawings of Rosie Redzia. This is special.

‘Look! We Have Come Through!’ is the title of a book of poems by D. H. Lawrence, published in 1917 when, with the First World War still raging, it was surely a statement of personal hope more than reality. We cannot say that we are yet through the pandemic that shaped so much of writing and making of this book, but, like Lawrence, we can imagine better times. The final poem in the collection ends with these words:

If you catch a whiff of violets from the darkness of the shadow of man

it will be spring in the world,

it will be spring in the world of the living;

wonderment organising itself, heralding itself with the violets,

stirring of new seasons.

Ah, do not let me die on the brink of such anticipation!

Worse, let me not deceive myself.

‘Craving for Spring’ D. H. Lawrence

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