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CORRESPONDENCE presents the previously unpublished correspondence of pioneering Scottish poet-playwright Joan Ure (1918-1978) with fellow writer John Cairns

A much admired and respected figure of the literary and theatrical landscape of the twentieth century, and a founder of the Scottish Society of Playwrights, Ure's early death 'at the height of her powers'* contributed to the unjust lack of recognition and attention her work suffered in later decades

The letters date from 1963 to 1971, a period when Ure's innovative contribution to Scottish Theatre was beginning to make its mark. Writing both under her literary pseudonym and her real name, Betty Clark, she sends John an intimate account of her literary and personal relationships, preoccupations, and commentaries on her creative output

CORRESPONDENCE will provide much-needed primary sources for Joan Ure scholarship, redress the lack of published material relating to her work, and provide readers with an intense and engrossing narrative of the relationship between two writers in 1960s Britain

CORRESPONDENCE was compiled by the archivist and author John Cairns and edited by Karen F. Smith

Betty Clark herself was a would-be published writer, who, under the pen-name Joan Ure, enlisted the help of John Cairns, a young Glasgow history teacher in the early 1960s.  He started a supportive  correspondence

Later this exchange of letters would come to contain many of  the poems Ure intended for eventual publication

That the book’s of a correspondence rather than merely an accumulation of letters is because Betty asked hers back, in an exchange, halfway through.  John continued corresponding until she returned the letters she couldn’t herself make use of without asking for  a  like  return  of  his.  That  transaction,  covered by a  late  letter  of  hers legitimising his use of everything in the correspondence, held the makings of a more interesting book than a book of her letters alone would be – in any case unlikely ever to be made.  The correspondence apparently ends on John leaving for London in the early 1970s.  It did continue but nothing of that continuance survives in his possession. That it didn’t also made for a better book, contained as it is within the bounds of a time when they shared life together in the same place.  The book doesn’t end with the apparent close of their correspondence but has a coda from his writing that takes their relationship to her death in the late 1970s

Since the correspondence consists of four hundred and eighty eight items and both wrote voluminously, any book from it had to be a selection once the correspondence itself was archived to restore chronology

John worked voluntarily at Kew Gardens to find out what would be required, dated a notebook that hadn’t been for a hundred and fifty years, and showed the archivist there how easy it was to restore the chronology of the contents of bequeathed files

As correspondent and archivist John was best placed to make any selection for a book from the archive. John has preserved the integrity of the language of the letters as far as is possible, after wholesale exclusion, by choosing fragments that when joined up make sentences in the words of each writer. He decided to omit more of his own letter writing to focus on hers. Any deficiency in vocal balance was corrected by his archival notes. He had made her in letters to him as truthful as possible. That makes for an unwontedly authentic book

The way the correspondence fell out in life also affected the book’s structure so that it can give the reader an aesthetic as well as intellectual charge


UK National Poetry Day is Thursday 2rd October, 2014

Scottish Libraries have free poetry postcards available

UK National Poetry Competition 2014

Karen Smith, MA, editor of Correspondence, was commended in the Sussex Poetry Competition in March 2014