Embedded in Biography
Welcome to the private view of my very own Tracey Emin! In England I have a lovely writing space up in the roof space, designed for me by Neil, but here in Italy I have to improvise.
It's not easy writing and researching a biography - you need a lot of space to spread out papers and books so that you can put your hand on a reference at a moment's notice, and - because you spend long hours poring over a book or the computer screen - it can be hard on your spine.
The solution for me here, has been to write in bed. They have huge beds in Italy - so wide are the 'Matrimoniale' that you are hard put to find the other person in the dark at all! Ours is more than six feet across. But it's ideal during the day. I can spread out my books and papers, prop myself up on pillows with the lap top in its proper place and work comfortably. At the moment I have about 7 books, four notebooks, and a file full of loose bits of paper strewn around the duvet. I have two word processing programmes open on the computer, with several tabs open so that I can flick to and fro through chapters and research notes. It's all chaos and at the moment only I (possibly not even I!) have the vaguest idea of how it all fits together.
Currently I'm reading Kathleen Raine's various autobiographies and biographies and working through the poetry she and Norman Nicholson wrote while Kathleen was in the Lake District at the beginning of the war. And I can't help remembering how fascinated I was as a young writer with the story of her tragic relationship with Gavin Maxwell and his beloved otter Mij. Now I find her poem again 'He has married me with a ring, a ring of bright water/ Whose ripples travel from the heart of the sea' - Gavin's book, the Ring of Bright Water, was one of my favourite books, at that time, and I still feel the magic of her poem, also written at Gavin's croft on the Scottish coast, which I knew by heart when I was sixteen; 'Reaching down arm deep into bright water/I gathered on white sand under waves/Shells, drifted up on beaches where I alone/Inhabit a finite world of years and days'. So I've been straying a bit from the Nicholson pathway - one of the temptations of research, to get side-tracked. But the back lanes are so attractive!