Recently Read – Two from Full Circle Editions
Full Circle Editions is a small publisher based in East Anglia that has produced sixteen books since it began operations in 2008. I’ve written about two of their books before: Audio Obscura by poet Lavinia Greenlaw and photographer Julian Abrams and After Sebald: Essays and Illuminations. I’ve recently finished two more of Full Circle’s handsome, well-designed books: Body of Work: 40 Years of Creative Writing at UEA (2009) edited by Giles Foden and The Burning of the Books (2014), a poem sequence by George Szirtes with photocollages by Ronald King.
Going to a university to “study” creative writing is a vexed topic lately. Can writing even be taught? Maybe not. But almost uniformly, the contributors to Body of Work agree that something important happened to them during their time at the University of East Anglia’s writing program. Body of Work is a rich testament to the creative writing program at the University of East Anglia, where W.G. Sebald taught for most of his professional career. The fifty or so essays each address in one way or another the experience of attending the UEA as a writing student or serving as a faculty member – or, in numerous cases, doing both. While the bulk of attention is paid to the department’s long-term head Malcom Bradbury and the influential teacher Angela Carter, there are several essays on Sebald: Rebecca Stott’s “Dust, Like Pollen,” Luke Williams’ “A Watch on each Wrist, Twelve Seminars with W. G. Sebald,” and Andrew Motion’s “After Nature and So On (W.G. Sebald).” A partial list of some of the other contributors gives an idea of the importance of the UEA writing program: Mohammed Hanif, Amit Chaudhuri, Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro, David Lodge, Marina Warner, Adam Mars-Jones, George Szirtes, Richard Holmes, and Rose Tremain. Body of Work ought to be required reading for any writer thinking of heading off to a graduate writing program.
Full Circle Editions is an outgrowth of Circle Press, founded in 1967 by artist Richard King as a way for artists to publish limited edition prints and books. In 2008, Circle Press published The Burning of the Books, a limited edition with fifteen original etchings of photocollages by King and a poem sequence by Szirtes, inspired by Elias Canetti’s 1935 novel Die Blendung (Auto-da-Fe, in English). A trade edition of this became the first title issued by Full Circle. King’s images consist mostly of faces, body parts, and texts, jumbled together in combinations that often recall classic Surrealist photocollages, although the opening double-spread is a clear homage to Picasso’s Guernica. Szirtes describes his poems “as a kind of marginalia” written around Canetti’s book. In fourteen poems, Szirtes beautifully addresses some of the complex topics found in Canetti’s story of a book-obsessed scholar who marries his ignorant housekeeper with tragic results.