At 18 years of age I got my driver's license (yes, I know that's late), began my first attempt at college, lost my innocence, had my first poem published by a magazine that wasn't created in a teenager's basement, and discovered the work of Edith Sitwell.
On June 1st 1991, I attended my first concert (1st of 9) for singer Morrissey - former lead singer of The Smiths. I was in row 20 in an outdoor arena in Costa Mesa, California, clad in my "The Queen is Dead" t-shirt, modest shorts and black and neon blue flip flops. The guy in the seat next to mine and I became fast friends before the show began and he told me the image of the woman on the backdrop on the stage was poet Edith Sitwell.
I had never heard of her and, when I returned to Las Vegas a few days later, I devoted an inquisitive Saturday to read a collection of her poems I had checked out from the library the day before.
My love affair with her work didn't begin that day (that came weeks later) - but her words caught my attention. As a non-conformist (even then), I initially didn't take to her traditional use of rhyme. But then I looked deeper. Her themes, her sometimes awkward, yet brilliant, word-choices, and the way in which she took a poem from Line 1 to the end as if it were an approaching tornado ready to touch land (with all the anticipation of a Hollywood production) was unique and exciting.
I still, occasionally, devote time to read my favorite verses written by Dame Edith Sitwell. Here is an excerpt from her poem, "Clown's Houses", from her first published book of poems.
I hope you enjoy it!
Beneath the flat and paper sky The sun, a demon's eye, Glowed through the air, that mask of glass; All wand'ring sounds that pass
Seemed out of tune, as if the light Were fiddle-strings pulled tight. The market-square with spire and bell Clanged out the hour in Hell
- Edith Sitwell