…for light in darkness, and inspiration in simple things
“We’re on Tom Tiddler’s Ground, picking up gold and silver” comes from an old children’s game – they run and help themselves to riches left lying unattended…
Joan’s poems can be found in a collection called The Skin Spinners
more about the book here
and see more pastel drawings here
Practical poetry was always an Aiken staple – charms and rhymes, jingles and odes flew from her pen, as here when she was office dogsbody for Argosy magazine and used her skills (under the nom de plume John Silver!) with cartoonist Graham to sell their copies…
Another recently discovered treasure was a letter of complaint to The New Yorker about a gadget purchased from their pages which promised to rid her garden of moles. Sadly the amazingly named ‘GopherIt’ failed to fulfil its promises, and after a few weeks of frustration the only possible riposte was a burst of doggerel…
The response from their perfectly prepared personnel (apparently under another nom de plume to protect the personality of the poet?) came from ‘Owen Ketherry’ who handled many of the more tricky correspondents to the journal from the 1980’s on – it is of course an anagram of The New Yorker – invented by a gal after Joan’s own heart, Lindsley Cameron who gleefully fulfilled a similar role to the one Joan held at Argosy.
…and here also perfectly preserved with a rather familiar signature – and gothic reputation – can this be the real Charles Addams? is that actual 4th of July cartoon:
Which all goes to show that anyone is free to celebrate National Poetry Day – as we are currently doing in the UK today – and also the freedom for all to practise their penchant for poetry – Long Live Poetic Licence!
Joan Aiken was also busy honing her story writing skills while at Argosy and thanks to Small Beer Press an entertaining collection of her strangely surreal early stories
( and a few mad verses!) can be found in this collection –
The Monkey’s Wedding & Other Stories
Many thanks to all of you who have visited and shared your thoughts here throughout the year!
I do hope you will come again – and bring your friends… Here is a poem and drawing by Joan to celebrate the passing of Winter and the return of Spring.
Visit the website to see more of Joan’s Art
This is one of very few complete family photos that shows Joan Aiken, husband Ron Brown, son and daughter, John and Elizabeth, and cat – in this case Taffy – all together in 1952, and necessarily rather cosy too – as we were living in a bus! Housing was hard to find after World War II for impecunious young couples, so Joan came up with this idea, and managed to sell the story to Housewife magazine, who sent a photographer and thereby preserved these pictures for posterity!
Having a garden was just as important as a roof over their heads, as food was still rationed, so Joan spent a good deal of time growing vegetables, and writing, while Ron still travelled up to ‘Town’ by train, working for the Reuters New Agency.Even in this tiny space, Joan’s creativity found full expression; endlessly inventive, she used her painting, sewing and practical skills of every kind to make this little home entirely her own; many of her hand painted furnishings lasted for decades.
The bus was immortalised in many of Joan’s stories in later years, not least in “A Necklace of Raindrops” where even the cat turns out to have magical properties when he sits on the mat. Meanwhile she put it into a Christmas card for her mother and step-father, with a thank-you poem for a delivery of warm winter wear, made by her equally practical mother:
Joan was also working on a collection of magical short stories which would form her first collection, to be published in 1953, and rather suitably entitled:
“All You’ve Ever Wanted”
Read more about Joan’s early life and first book on the
Picture Timeline on the Website