The Pulse of a Perfect Heart
Published on our website on Wednesday 14 June.
There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. Such fools we are, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh.
The Royal Society of Literature, in partnership with Peninsula Press, have commissioned three writers to respond to the combined might, maps and meaning of two distinctively London-based novels: Mrs Dalloway by Viriginia Woolf and Love, Leda by Mark Hyatt.
Three writers – Ashleigh Nugent, Oluwaseun Olayiwola and Tice Cin — received copies of Mrs Dalloway and Love, Leda, as well as a map created by artist Ian Giles: A Guide to Leda’s London. They were tasked with creating responses which nodded to both books – their points of connections and divergence – whilst creating something new, further populating and complicating, not to mention enriching, London’s literary landscape. Creating every moment afresh.
Both novels take us on journeys around the capital, with locations such as Hyde Park and Oxford Street popping up in each. Both employ a stream of consciousness narrative, even while slipping in and out of consciousness. Both novels are named for their protagonists, both present us with class structures, both look at different kinds of love. Whereas Virginia Woolf is one of the most famous writers of the last century, Mark Hyatt’s modest renown as a poet has faded in the years since his death in 1972, and the manuscript for Love, Leda was only discovered in 2019 by Luke Roberts and Sam Ladkin, after they made contact with Mark’s friend Lucy O’Shea, and published beautifully by Peninsula Press soon after. Written around 1965, Love, Leda pre-dates the Sexual Offences Act of 1967. It is a portrait of a lost Soho, as well as an important document of queer, working-class life, from a voice long overlooked.
Mark Hyatt was born in South London in 1940, and died by suicide outside Blackburn in 1972. His selected poems, So Much For Life, edited by Sam Ladkin and Luke Roberts, is forthcoming with Nightboat Books (2023). Hyatt received little or no formal education, and learned to read and write as an adult. Love, Leda (c. 1965) is his only known novel.
It’s mid morning. Cool. Not many coffee bars open. I, the brave one, god of any telephone kiosk, walk down Dean Street, see the man of the day; raincoat, shoulders round, hair black, falling out; heavenly blue eyes cast down into his own hell. Bold as brass I cross the road stopping dead in front of him. He raises his eyes, so sadly that I love him for it.
Oluwaseun Olayiwola is a poet, critic, and choreographer living in London. His poems have been published in the Guardian, The Poetry Review, Oxford Poetry, 14poems and elsewhere. In 2023, he placed second in the Ledbury Poetry Competition. He became a Ledbury Poetry Critic in 2021 and since then his criticism has been published in Telegraph, TLS, the Poetry School, and Magma. Oluwaseun was an inaugural member of the Southbank Poetry Collective. He also has an MFA in Choreography from the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, where he was a Fulbright Scholar. His debut collection is forthcoming from Granta.
Ashleigh Nugent was Liverpool City Region’s Artist of the Year in 2022. He has been published in academic journals, poetry anthologies and magazines. Nugent has written for the Everyman Theatre, Liverpool and Live Theatre, Newcastle. He is now a special advisor at the Shakespeare North Playhouse, a theatre built on the site where he had his first pint aged fourteen, opposite the place he was first locked up by racist police, built on the car park where he was once threatened with an axe. Nugent is also a director at RiseUp CiC, where he uses his own life experience to support prisoners and inspire change.
Tice Cin is an interdisciplinary artist from north London. Tice has acted and performed at venues such as Battersea Arts Centre and the Barbican’s Pit Theatre, and has been commissioned by organisations including St. Paul’s Cathedral, Cartier and Edinburgh International Book Festival. She was named one of Complex magazine’s best music journalists of 2021 and 2022, and has written for places such as DJ Mag and Mixmag. Her debut novel, Keeping the House (And Other Stories, 2021) was named one of the Guardian’s Best Books of 2021, and has been featured in The Scotsman, The New York Times and The Washington Post. A DJ and music producer, Tice is preparing to release an accompanying album for Keeping the House with a host of talented features, including members of her creative house/ collective fwrdmtn*, Latekid, Kemanci and Kareem Parkins-Brown. A filmmaker, she is currently writing and co-directing three short films. With her collective Design Yourself, she explores what it means to be human when technology is changing everything.