Sally invites us into her life on the boat, a life lived in close connection to nature, powered by sunlight from her solar panels. We hear how a water pump works, and witness a daddy long legs making its slow way across a rainy porthole. Sally is reading the diaries and journals of Virgina Woolf, a modernist “stream-of-consciousness” writer, who intensively recorded her own thoughts and observations, transforming them into enduring art. Sally responds to the events of the day by writing her own piece of poetic prose, on how we think, and who we really are.
Sally talks about a classic short story by Virginia Woolf, The Death of a Moth. In this story, Woolf’s narrator watches the world outside through her window, fascinated by the energy that comes to her from the natural world, “rolling in from the fields and the down beyond … in at the open window and driving its way through so many narrow and intricate corridors in my own brain and in those of other human beings”. She watches a moth crawling across the window, impelled by the same natural energy; but she also realises that the moth is dying.
The story was published posthumously, in 1942, the year after Woolf’s death:
Sally also quotes from an essay by Woolf, called On Being Ill, in which Woolf meditates on her changed consciousness and perceptions during her frequent bouts of illness. Woolf thinks about Hamlet, Shakespeare’s most famous tragic protagonist, who has inspired thousands of books of criticism and analysis which take contradictory positions on what is known as “The Hamlet Problem”: who is Hamlet, and what compels him to act and feel the way he does? It’s one of the most elusive and important questions in all of literature; and it’s a question we can ask about ourselves and others.
You can read Woolf's essay, published in 1926, here:
When Sally quotes "To be or not to be", this is of course a reference to Hamlet's third soliloquy, in Act 3, Scene 2, perhaps the most famous line in all of English literature, as Hamlet debates the biggest questions of all; life or death, thinking or acting, becoming or "letting be".
Sally also quotes the phrase, "The heart of light, the silence." This is from T.S. Eliot's modernist masterpiece The Waste Land; a spot in time when, in a famously complex poem, Eliot's narrator meets "the hyacinth girl". It's a quintessentially modernist moment, sometimes called an epiphany, when the narrator is transported, transfigured or changed by the vision, which in The Waste Land takes place in the natural world of the "Hyacinth garden".
You can read the full poem here: https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/47311/the-waste-land
To find out more about Sally and her work, please visit: https://sallybayley.com/
The producer is Andrew Smith: https://www.fleetingyearfilms.com
The extra voice in this episode is Emma Fielding.
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An excellent first installment from someone who thinks deeply, and dares to go beneath the surface! Thank you for welcoming us to your reading & writing life, Sally! X
Tuesday Dec 06, 2022
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