The literary community on the Isle of Wight is set to be enhanced, enlarged and enlivened by the arrival on the island of critically-acclaimed poet Len Blatt, winner of the 2002 Cromer Prize for his silent play A Lancashire Muslim in Harry Ramsden's, writes Petra Kiansonette, Aniseed, Politics, Environment, Whelks, Dairy Farming, Egyptology, Light Engineering, Ornithology, Weather & Literature Correspondent.
The island's literary heritage is of course second to none:
Arthur Lord Dennison lived at Farflung House, overlooking Freshwater Bay for nearly 40 years, and wrote Come Into The Condemned Greenhouse, Mary and King Perkin and His Bedraggled Gentlemen at Arms there. He also finished The Mysterious Floating Medieval Lady on the island and often welcomed famous photographers of nude children to Farflung House, including Juliet May Carmion and Charles Lewis, who also wrote the famous children's book Agnes in Dreamland.
Famous writer of sensual odes, John Bleates, also stayed on the island twice, between 1817 and 1819. He escaped to the island with his friend, Tom Browne, in an effort to cure himself of the contemporary disease of opium-exacerbated narcissistic sensuality. He was able to rid himself of this blight, but, sadly, fell victim to consumption, which eventually killed him. But not before he had produced some of the English language's greatest poetry. While staying at Shanklin and later at Mottistone, he worked on his celebrated Ode to a Sea-Plover, which explores the parameters of life and death as symbolised by the shifting boundaries of land and sea.
Charles David Dickinson wrote a large part of his novel Pipkin Peterfield while staying at what is now the Wroxall Donkey Sanctuary in 1849.
The medieval lighthouse of St Catherine's Oratory on St Catherine's Down features in the 18th century swashbuckling adventure novel Midnight Squadron, written in 1898 by Frank Mead Longeur.
The writer and broadcaster J P Beastley lived at Toad House, Brook for what seemed to his neighbours like fifty years but was in fact twenty-five. In a famous radio address he bemoaned the loss of a ferry service from Rottingdean to Cowes ("I knew well the little chugging puffer that took us, churning like billy-o, from lovely old Rottingdean: sprogs, milkmaids, curmudgeons and all aboard for Carisbrooke.").
The poet Percival Charles Swidenbanke grew up at Chale, where his reputation was one of a "wild, scintillant boy-nymph-at-play". He later returned to the island after he had lost all his money at skittles, and he is buried at Shorwell. His tombstone bears a quotation from his best-known work, The Queen of Faeries -"And never shall the clay prevail again." Thomas Hardy wrote The Trampled Butterfly while staying on Swidenbanke's tomb on holiday.
And in Joe Windup's novel The Day of the Ovines, survivors of a nuclear disaster flee to the Isle of Wight for sanctuary from a mainland terrorised by giant killer sheep.
And now this richest of literary heritages is to be enhanced by the addition of one of the literary avant garde's most singular talents.
Ever since his first volume of poetry, Nascent Ellipse, a corruscating account of his childhood on a North Yorkshire farm delivered in 36 sapphic hendecasyllabic sonnets, which was published by Eurydice Press in 1981, Blatt has worked at the cutting-edge of the literary coal-face, 'teetering above the singularities of everyday discourse', 'burrowing beneath the citadels of oligarchical thought-control'.
His poetry has always explored the frontiers of literary expression. Volumes such as Ambulant Despairs (1983), Thomas Tollemache (1985), The Haiku of Prolixity (1986), Fenland Miasmas (1990), The Dorset Tzaddikim (1996) and Diesel-Electric Dreams (1999) take the reader and critic on a journey forward and backward through cultural time.
His novels, too, are beginning to be recognised for what they are - the novels of a writer that are beginning to be recognised for what they are. Books like Lodestone and Quern (1992), Sundered Hopes (1995) and Kitty Blenkinsop (2002) are now beginning to be seen as books that are beginning to be seen. They take the reader to places only the author can have imagined.
Len Blatt will arrive on the island in September, to take up his new position as writer in residence at the Bembridge Windmill. Great things are anticipated. Already, a collabaration is planned, between Blatt and Shanklin playwright Josie Dyke, who has sketched in the foundations of a drama about the ill-fated 1884 millwife's strike, and keenly awaits the arrival of Len Blatt, who, it is planned, will provide the dialogue and character detail. Great things are anticipated, since Len Blatt is the man who wrote the 2001 TV drama The Maids of Downham Market, about maids who lived in the Norfolk town of Downham Market in 2001.
These are exciting times for the Isle of Wight literary scene, though, in view of our literary heritage, it is surely a case of plus ca change!