(The Rialto 2007)
Author biog and Editor’s comment
Julia Casterton was very active in the poetry world, particularly in London – she worked for Ambit, she taught creative writing, she wrote books on writing poetry, she went to readings and events, and her poems appeared in many magazines. I was astonished to discover that, although there’d been pamphlets, she’d not had a full collection published. The Doves of Finisterre won the Jerwood Aldeburgh First Collection Prize and her reading at the next year’s festival was a triumph. This book is now out of print.
Julia died in 2007 after a markedly long and courageous battle with ill health. Her friends Martina Evans and Judy Gahagan have made a book, Night Lightning, out of the poems that Julia was working on at the time of her death and a selection of earlier poems, many of them rescued from old issues of magazines. In the Forward Martin Bax and Judy write of the “freedom and risk” in the new poems and Night Lightning is a book to learn from – for a writer from the sheer confidence of her technique, for a human being from Julia’s expertise on life. Although there’s a lot about love and loss in this book, subjects that she knew well, it is above all else a celebration.
‘How will we live in our bird-selves, our flower-selves?
Quickly, easily, every mistake the next becoming.’
The Day Hides
It’s true that when the day comes out in her full glory
she’s too much for me.
Something hurts inside. I want to respond
to all that fiery kindness, and I can’t.
When I watched the moon set
early this morning, red-gold and full of herself,
I paled, up in my high kitchen.
How could I compete, or even be there alongside
a day like this one coming?
So when she hid herself a little
behind long flowing clouds,
I thought Now I Can Cope
and stepped out bravely into her
to buy bread.
‘Casterton stands on the precipice, looking boldly out into various unknowns. Her poems demand close re-reading.’
Kate Keogan, The North
‘It is rare to find poetry of such spiritual commitment and intensity.’
Judy Gahagan, Ambit