My week alone in a mess of morphine foils

After commuting to Marseille for nine days of radiotherapy, I spent the week alone in the cave, in bed, in a mess of morphine foils and empty coffee cups. Sister Catriona was in the UK overseeing the birth of her first granddaughter. Friends and neighbours kindly kept me supplied with staples. Every day the sun shone. The astounding insolence of the mosquitos and flies in this Indian summer has to be seen to be believed. Maybe I ought to change the sheets. The martins who live up here on the cliff are enjoying the unseasonal airborne feast, circling and swooping just outside my permanently open bedroom windows. Far below, the

The sad fate of Edna St Vincent Millay – America’s once celebrated poet

In June 1957, Robert Lowell attended a poetry reading by E.E. Cummings. Sitting dutifully and deferentially alongside him were Allen Tate, W.S. Merwin and his wife Dido and the classical scholar William Alfred, ‘while Cummings read outrageous and sentimental poems, good and bad of both kinds’. They were not alone: ‘About eight thousand people listened.’ But you can tell from Lowell’s adjectives – ‘outrageous and sentimental’ – that Cummings’s reputation is already on the slide. Edna St Vincent Millay’s diaries record a reading in Waco on 10 January 1930: ‘In spite of icy streets, really dangerous & cold weather, abt. 1500 people present.’ In 1934, Millay took Laurence Olivier and