Meet Dame Edith Sitwell

The gardener and I went to a lovely Halloween costume party. I wanted to go as Edgar Allen Poe with a raven on my shoulder. That would have been soooo cool. The gardener would have been my editor, which would have fit him just fine hahaha. But after looking at all the photos of Poe with that high tight collar I knew this hot-blooded person could not wear an outfit like that in Arizona.

I wanted another poet, but it needed to be somebody who lived to be as old as me, so Sylvia Plath was out. A friend suggested Edith Sitwell because she dressed eccentrically in turbans and caftans. She was a well-known British poet active in the 1910s to 1960s. She was an aristocrat and her two brothers were also poets. So I put together a costume as Dame Edith Sitwell, and the gardener dressed as Sir Osbert Sitwell.

Of course, the gardener won’t let me post his photo on here ;). But here is an image of the vintage purse I carried (that belonged to his aunt) and the calling cards I had made! Just so you know how color-coordinated I was, the pattern of my caftan has lots of yellow from the waist down.

On the back side of the calling card it says: I will be working on my American accent this evening. [I don’t do accents.]

Here is a Sitwell poem from 1919:

At the Fair


     I. Springing Jack

Green wooden leaves clap light away,

Severely practical, as they

Shelter the children candy-pale,

The chestnut-candles flicker, fail . . .

The showman’s face is cubed clear as

The shapes reflected in a glass

Of water—(glog, glut, a ghost’s speech

Fumbling for space from each to each).

The fusty showman fumbles, must

Fit in a particle of dust

The universe, for fear it gain

Its freedom from my cube of brain.

Yet dust bears seeds that grow to grace

Behind my crude-striped wooden face

As I, a puppet tinsel-pink

Leap on my springs, learn how to think—

Till like the trembling golden stalk

Of some long-petalled star, I walk

Through the dark heavens, and the dew

Falls on my eyes and sense thrills through.

     II. The Ape Watches “Aunt Sally”

The apples are an angel’s meat;

The shining dark leaves make clear sweet

The juice; green wooden fruits alway

Fall on these flowers as white as day—

(Clear angel-face on hairy stalk:

Soul grown from flesh, an ape’s young talk!)

And in this green and lovely ground

The Fair, world-like, turns round and round

And bumpkins throw their pence to shed

Aunt Sally’s wooden clear-striped head.—

I do not care if men should throw

Round sun and moon to make me go—

As bright as gold and silver pence . . .

They cannot drive their black shade hence!


Filed under Inspiration, Poetry, Writing

40 responses to “Meet Dame Edith Sitwell

  1. What fun, Luanne. I love your creativity. 💜

  2. Dame Edith the perfect costume for you – loved it!!!
    Loved her poem, too.
    Glad to see you and the gardener flitting around.

  3. Your costume is fantastic! I haven’t encountered Sitwell’s poetry before.

    • Thank you, Liz! She was really important in that WWI period especially. In the US we really don’t read many British poets past Houseman. Maybe a couple of WWI poets like Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon.

      • You’re welcome, Luanne! I have so many gaps in my reading education, particularly in poetry.

        • I had a wonderful professor who taught a very strict poetry course. When I went to UC Riverside I had to take an exam to see if I had gaps to be filled by extra courses. He did such a good job on me, I was able to fool them into not giving me any extra courses at all :). Of course, I have all kinds of gaps through the eighties, but not poets, more like specific poems that I ought to know. After the 80s I was on my own.

  4. Ellen

    Delightful costume!

  5. I admire your creativity. I freeze whenever anyone mentions dress up party.

    • I love costumes! I hadn’t dressed up in years though. In the old days a couple of my favorite costumes were Theda Bara and Carmen Miranda, so I was always choosing somebody from years before.

  6. I love it! Dressing in costume is such fun. I love Edgar Allan Poe!!! That would have been so cool. Kudoos to you both. Great costume.

  7. You did justice to a true eccentric

  8. Great costume, Luanne!

  9. Perfect costume for you!

  10. I loved all the details of your and M’s identities for the costume party, including attire and calling cards. The Dame Edith poems were so touching, especially the first — a springing Jack speaker with a radiant soul.

  11. Wonderful costume!!! It sounds like a lot of fun! Your creativity is a marvelous thing…

  12. Marie A Bailey

    You and the Gardener look great! (You know I saw that photo of the two of you on Facebook :-)) As others have noted, your creativity knows no bounds. xo

  13. Amy

    How creative! I’ve never heard of her and at first thought she was a still living person until I read the post. We are non-costume people—too inhibited, I think. But it looks like you had fun!

    • Hah, I like costumes because I can hide!!! It seems as if Edith lived forever again, dying in the 60s. But the reality is that she was born after one of my grandfathers by several years!

      • Amy

        So funny—I feel too “on display” in a costume. I guess it’s the same reason I couldn’t have been on the stage. 🙂

        • I can understand feeling on display but for some reason costumes don’t do that to me. Now, the stage, on the other hand. I do like acting, but I get horrific stage fright.

  14. Your custom as Edith Sitwell truly suits you, Luanne. It’s so fitting that you should dress as a poet!

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