Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Outlook Positive

One question I keep being asked, by people who have seen the details of the forthcoming Alliance of Literary Societies conference, is "What is the Outlook Tower?" I admit I haven't been very forthcoming on that subject because I am not an expert. I've been to Edinburgh a couple of times but didn't know anything about this building until my colleagues from the Wilfred Owen Association filled me in on the subject.
The Outlook Tower contains what is known as a "camera obscura", which literally means a dark room, a name it gained from its origins in medieval times. Actually, while the Western world was experimenting with this phenomenon, it was already well known in other cultures, and may well have been used in prehistoric times as a drawing aid. Many believe that this was the secret of the Dutch Masters, such as Vermeer, enabling them to achieve the almost photographic realism of for which their paintings are noted.
Controversy arose early in the nineteenth century when an astronomer set up an observatory practically next door to Edinburgh Castle, by adding a couple of storeys to an existing house. The project was continued and improved on by Patrick Geddes (1854-1932), who turned it into a museum. This is how the building was organised during the First World War, when Wilfred Owen arrived in the city. Owen's psychiatrist, Dr Brock (not, as some mistakenly think, Dr Rivers, who treated Siegfried Sassoon), set him the task of writing a report about the building - a building which Owen describes as "an Allegory" and "a philosophical poem". He formed the impression that the building had a soul, which accompanied the visitor from room to room.
Brock encouraged Owen's interest in poetry, and among other things this resulted in the newcomer becoming editor of the Hydra, a magazine written by the patients, of which most copies are held in the War Poets Collection at Craiglockhart, which we will be able to see when we visit on 3rd June this year. It was to seek a contribution to the magazine that Owen tentatively approached an even newer patient, Siegfried Sassoon, a few months later.
Nowadays, the contents of the Outlook Tower have changed somewhat. Although the camera obscura is still in operation - Derren Brown has given it a testimonial, describing it as "the finest I've seen" - the building has become a modern visitor attraction, rigged out with "an amazing range of optical experiences", intended to appeal to all the family. The World of Illusions, as it is called, includes a display called "Edinburgh Vision", based on views of the city as it would have been in Victorian days, a picture that Owen and Sassoon might perhaps have found more familiar than the Edinburgh of today.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Apocalypse Now?

Some readers may be wondering what I've been up to recently, and why the blog posts have been so thin on the ground recently. The answer is that I've been busy putting together the arrangements for the ALS conference in Edinburgh, which we are this year jointly hosting with the Wilfred Owen Association. Although many others have contributed to the effort, I have inevitably been the central liaison point for most of the queries and complications that have arisen during this process, which has been going on for nearly two years now. Forget Brexit negotiations; can life possibly be that much more difficult for Theresa May than it is for someone organising a conference?
Well, yes, all right, maybe what I've been doing isn't quite as critical, or as taxing, as international diplomatic activities. I'm sure many of us are depressed about the political events of 2016 and apprehensive about the future of Europe and the rise of neo-Fascism throughout the western world. It must seem to many that Armageddon is on our doorstep.
        What did the people of Edinburgh think when, late on the evening of 2nd April 1916, a Zeppelin bomber arrived over the Forth estuary? It was one of four dispatched from Germany with the intention of attacking the naval base at Rosyth; the other three had gone off-course and presented no danger to the citizens of Edinburgh. Unable to locate the base on this dark, foggy night, the remaining airship headed for Leith, where it dropped a total of twenty bombs. As it crossed the city, people came out to see what was happening. Most families had only gas lighting in their houses; had they been equipped with electricity, they would have known that something was seriously wrong when their power went off. Out in the open, they could clearly make out the ghostly shape of the giant craft hovering above them. They would have been much safer if they had stayed indoors.
         Bombs were dropped close to Edinburgh Castle, where the panicking garrison is alleged to have fired blanks from the "One O'Clock Gun" as a deterrent. In the doorway of a tenement block, a crowd of people sheltering from the attack were killed when a high-explosive bomb landed nearby. The Royal Infirmary was hit, as were some schools, a whisky warehouse, and the Grassmarket, now an area popular with tourists for its hotels and restaurants. Thirteen people died altogether, among them 27-year-old David Robertson, who had recently been discharged from the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards for health reasons.
         Let us, at least temporarily, forget the distant spectre of Britain's isolation from Europe and the possibility of the suffering that might result from growing racial intolerance and imperialist aggression, and put ourselves in the places of those people who were in imminent danger of losing their lives. A private in the Highland Light Infantry who was on duty in the early hours of the morning came across three terrified small children in one of the city's parks and escorted them home.  In Leith Hospital, anxious VAD nurses had been ordered to carry all their patients downstairs. After turning off all lighting, they reported that the windows were red with the reflection of the flames from incendiary bombs. Robert Robb lost his one-year-old son, who was killed when hit by a fragment of a shell. A minister, a doctor and their families were among those who had miraculous escapes, losing their homes but emerging unhurt from the rubble.
         Just over a year later, a 24-year-old junior officer named Wilfred Owen would arrive in the city of Edinburgh to be, at least partially, healed of the personal suffering and psychological damage done to him by the First World War. He would find, in that damaged place, a certain amount of comfort and the inspiration to write his best-known poems. He would find a new friend and mentor in 29-year-old Siegfried Sassoon, who was struggling with his own demons. Between them, these two men would take English poetry to new levels.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Unexpected Connections

I had been looking for a snappy title for this blog post, something more meaningful than "unexpected connections", even though that was what it was going to be about. So I googled the phrase and found it unexpectedly popular. There have been quite a number of conferences with that title, although I admit that the first search result to catch my eye was "it seems men's underwear and champagne can tell you a lot about the economy". Perhaps it caught so many other people's eyes that it rapidly rose to the top of the search results.
However, I am not going to write about either men's underwear or champagne; if that disappoints you, you only have to google to find something more interesting to read. No, I am going to talk briefly about the biography of Ted Hughes I'm reading and how it has led me down many different paths of enquiry.
To be honest, I have never been a huge fan of Ted Hughes. In my teens, I read Al Alvarez's book, The Savage God, a study of suicide, which came out in 1972. I confess that the subject of suicide then fascinated me, although at that point I had not personally known anyone who had later killed themselves. (In time, I would.) Alvarez's book used the story of Sylvia Plath - a close friend of his - to illustrate certain facts about the phenomenon of suicide and the motivation that can bring it about. As a result of publishing it, he fell out, more or less permanently, with Ted Hughes, who blamed him for exposing the couple's private lives to the general public.
In a 2000 edition of Desert Island Discs, Alvarez told Sue Lawley that he still felt he had failed Sylvia Plath. He admitted that, despite having suffered from clinical depression himself, he "didn't know what it was when I was in it", and was therefore unable to make the right responses when he saw the danger signs in Plath's behaviour. There are several connections that lead from Sylvia Plath to Siegfried Sassoon - who himself suffered from depression on many occasions, particularly after his experiences in the First World War.
To return to Ted Hughes, however, the biography contains several mentions of The Lamb, a famous and historic public house in Bloomsbury which the SSF and WOA visit every spring (and will again on 11th March 2017) for an enjoyable joint meeting. I've written about it on many previous occasions, so I will say only that it was, at one time, a meeting-place for Hughes, Plath and their many literary friends. It is quite close to where the Poetry Bookshop, the establishment founded by Harold Monro in 1913, once stood - another place much frequented by names such as Wilfred Owen and Wilfrid Gibson. Also not far away is Queen Square, where the hospital once known as the "National Hospital for Diseases of the Nervous System" still stands. Founded in 1859, it was the location for Lewis Yealland's now notorious treatments of shell-shocked soldiers during the First World War; Yealland does not emerge well from the pages of Pat Barker's Regeneration - and quite right too.
Once again, connections are leading me away from my starting-point. Reading the biography of Hughes has not exactly endeared him to me, though I don't share the popular feminist view that he was directly responsible for the suicides of two women who had loved him. What startled me was the discovery that I had recently met one of Sylvia Plath's greatest friends, the American poet Ruth Fainlight, who had been described to me as "the wife of Alan Sillitoe". I should, of course, have known better. Fainlight and her late husband, in addition to being friends of Plath and Hughes, had lived for some years in Mallorca, where they became acquainted with - who else but Robert Graves? How these famous writers gravitate towards one another! And thus another Sassoon connection landed in my lap.
But the biography hadn't finished throwing surprises at me, oh no. It had not escaped my notice that the writer Emma Tennant died recently, but it was rather a surprise to learn that she had been one of Ted Hughes' many romantic partners; her 1999 account of their affair, Burnt Diaries, had passed me by. (Another one for the reading list!) I had also forgotten, until I read her obituary, that she was a niece of Stephen Tennant, the daughter of his eldest brother, Christopher, who inherited the title of Baron Glenconner in 1920, his eldest brother, "Bim", having been killed in action in 1916.
The trail of unexpected connections thus leads, for those who choose to follow that path, to a churchyard in Mells, Somerset, which many of you will have visited. The manor house next door was the home of Herbert Asquith, prime minister of the United Kingdom during the years 1908-1916. In 1894, Asquith married, as his second wife, Margot Tennant, the sister of the 1st Baron Glenconner and thus a great-aunt of Emma Tennant. This remarkable woman and her husband became friends of Sassoon's during the war and remained so for many years. Yet it was not they who introduced Siegfried to Margot's nephew Stephen, with whom he would have one of the most enduring relationships of his life. They met through the his literary friends, the Sitwells; and that is quite another story.

Saturday, 7 January 2017

Hello 2017

2016 was a funny old year. One of those years you don't really want to repeat itself - rather like 1916, I suppose. There must have been many families looking forward to 1917 with less than enthusiastic anticipation, having lost loved ones on the Western Front in the course of the previous year and knowing that there was more to come and no end in sight.
Since the countries where most of us live are not officially in the middle of a war at the moment, we have to be sanguine about the coming year and hope that international events will not be of the "disaster movie" variety that some years of the 21st century have been. As we look back on 2016, I thought it would be an idea, instead of talking about all the media personalities who have passed away, to consider the careers some of the poets and writers who died during the year. It is so often their words that give us hope for the future.
Sir Geoffrey Hill, who died in June aged 84, was perhaps better-known as an academic than as a poet, but he had begun to make a name for himself while still a student at Oxford, his first collection, For the Unfallen: Poems 1952-1958, coming out in 1959. Later collections, such as King Log and Mercian Hymns, used early Christian history as subject matter. He continued to write devotional poetry, and was seen by some critics as the natural successor of T S Eliot. Like Siegfried Sassoon, he was the winner of a Hawthornden Prize, and he ended his career in the much sought-after role of Oxford Professor of Poetry, in which he has been succeeded by Simon Armitage.
Other English-language poets who passed away during 2016 included 94-year-old Daniel Berrigan, an American Jesuit priest known for his involvement in the anti-Vietnam protest movement of the 1960s (which briefly put him on the FBI's "most wanted" list). His compatriot, Carolyn Wright (who wrote as C D Wright), often wrote with a "Southern" voice, and lived in many parts of the USA before becoming Poet Laureate of the tiny state of Rhode Island in 1994. "Jock Scot" (real name John Leslie) was a performance poet from Edinburgh, where he was well known for his appearances at the Fringe. Adam Small, a South African "Coloured" writer, produced both poetry and prose, in English and Afrikaans, much of it dealing with racial issues.
Perhaps most notable among the list of 2016's dead poets was Leonard Cohen, the Canadian who became better known as a singer-songwriter (though he admitted he couldn't sing), a career he took up during the 1960s in order to sell more of his poetry. Nicknamed "the poet laureate of pessimism", he produced verse that, when translated into song, was often dismissed as "music to slit your wrists by", but nevertheless gained a huge following. Cohen was a perfectionist: his song "Hallelujah", which achieved popularity about twenty years after he first recorded it, originally had eighty verses, of which only six appear in the final version. It seems to have struck a chord with the present generation, although interpretations of the lyric's true meaning vary considerably.
We seem to have lost a disproportionate number of dramatists during the year, including such giants as the UK's Arnold Wesker, who made his name in the late 1950s with Roots and Chicken Soup with Barley, the US's Edward Albee (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), and Italy's Nobel Laureate Dario Fo (Can't Pay? Won't Pay!). Sir Peter Shaffer, twin brother of another playwright, the late Anthony Shaffer, is known for numerous outstanding plays, including Equus, Amadeus) and The Royal Hunt of the Sun, all of which were successfully adapted for the big screen. Ireland's William Trevor was a dramatist, novelist and short-story writer who won three Whitbread Prizes and was nominated five times for the Booker, though he never won it.
Anita Brookner, who died in March aged 87, did win the Booker Prize, for her 1984 novel Hotel du Lac (not, in my opinion, her finest). Her Jewish father had brought the family out of Poland and changed their name from Bruckner to avoid anti-German harassment during the Second World War. This background is reflected in most of her novels, as is her interest in art history, which was Brookner's main occupation until she retired from academia.
Another successful English female novelist who died during the year was Margaret Forster, whose 1960s best-seller Georgy Girl was perhaps eclipsed by her work as a biographer; her subjects included Daphne du Maurier and Elizabeth Barrett Browning. And of course, on Christmas Eve, the literary world said goodbye to 96-year-old Richard Adams, author of the children's classic Watership Down and other novels based on the lives of animals, such as The Plague Dogs and Shardik.
There is nothing unusual about famous writers dying. Most have to wait until middle age to achieve success and, in view of their relatively stress-free lifestyle, can hope to live to a ripe old age. There are not many Keats, Shelleys and Byrons around nowadays, to die of tuberculosis, drowning or blood poisoning. And - perhaps fortunately - there are not many war poets either.



Saturday, 24 December 2016

A Letter from Wales


In the above title I am referring, not to this present post, but to a poem addressed to Siegfried Sassoon by Robert Graves after the First World War and published in his 1925 collection Welchman's Hose (a curious title which I initially misread as Welchman's House, a mistake I'm sure others will have made). It was one of several poems he wrote to Sassoon, and shows indisputably that - whatever their later relationship - he thought of the latter not only as a friend but as a kindred spirit, one who had been his comrade through the best and worst of times.
Graves had officially died during the war.  His condition was so bad after being wounded at the Battle of the Somme that it was thought impossible he would recover and he was left for dead in a dressing station until, many hours later, the medical staff noticed that he was still breathing. By the time he was well enough to contact his friends and family, his commanding officer had written a letter of sympathy to his mother and a notice of his death had appeared in The Times.
I confess that, had I not been fortunate enough to attend the launch, earlier this month, of Charles Mundye's new edition of Graves' War Poems, coincidentally published by my local publishing house Seren, I might not have paid such close attention to these poems, many of which I have never read previously. In fact, I don't think I had ever read "A Letter from Wales" right through, and a re-reading throws new light on the fellow-feeling between the two wartime friends. As Sassoon would later do in his prose works, Graves bestows pseudonyms on both - Sassoon becomes "Abel Wright", which sounds a rather backhanded compliment (especially when you consider Sassoon's earlier poem "Ancient History"), and Graves himself is "Richard Rolls". He refers to the wartime diaries in which Sassoon, firmly believing his friend to be dead, began work on a verse epitaph - before finding out that he had in fact survived.
The poem continues the fantasy that Graves did in fact die and was replaced by a doppelganger who resembles him outwardly but is different inside - not only that, but Sassoon also died, perhaps more than once, and was replaced by another lookalike. The two impostors holidayed in Wales "pretending a wild joy/That they had cheated Death..." The idea is an illusion, as they are both damaged beyond repair and, in attempting to blot out their war experiences, have become something different and unnatural. Worse still, the denial of what they remember has adversely affected their friendship: "there was a constraint in all our dealings," he laments.

This was before the great falling-out between Graves and Sassoon that resulted from the publication of Good-Bye to All That and was never really mended. Here, however, we seem to find Graves in apologetic and regretful mode, and Sassoon's response must have been one of recognition. Although fully aware of Graves’ tendency to upset his friends unintentionally, he had become less tolerant of him since the war, and Graves’ explanation for this rings very true.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Meet the Poet Laureate

Much as I would like to be able to say that “I met the Poet Laureate last weekend”, it would be a slight embroidering of the truth. Better to say that I was in the presence of the Poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy, at the Wilfred Owen Association’s Shrewsbury event. The only words she said to me were: “Are we having coffee here or in the other room?” Nevertheless, it was a privilege to hear her recite a sample of her work, and she certainly showed why she is a worthy winner of the 2016 Wilfred Owen Poetry Prize.
Carol Ann Duffy is, as I’m sure all readers know, the first woman to hold the position of Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom. Coincidentally, the “Makar” or National Poet of Scotland is also a woman, Jackie Kay, and the position of National Poet of Wales has just been vacated by another prominent female poet, Gillian Clarke. Wales perhaps has an alternative national poet, in the form of the Archdruid; the person who presides over the National Eisteddfod must be a former winner of the Chair or the Crown, the two premier Welsh-language poetry competitions. The Archdruid who vacated the position in 2016 is another woman, Christine James; she was also the first female to hold the title.
It was in fact not until 1953 that a woman won the Eisteddfod Crown, and - almost unbelievably - no woman had won the Chair before Mererid Hopwood’s victory in 2001. Since the eisteddfod competitors are known only by pseudonyms, there can be no suggestion of discrimination in the judging, and I am therefore forced to the conclusion that women were simply not entering these competitions in any numbers until the mid-twentieth century.
Looking back over the centuries, it is obvious that poetry, at least in the English-speaking world, has traditionally been a male occupation. Yes, there were female poets in ancient Greece, but it was men who wrote the epics and verse dramas that we think of as the masterpieces of early literature and it was men who roamed medieval Europe earning their living as poets at the courts of monarchs and nobles. Even in the nineteenth century, one would be hard pressed to name more than a handful of female poets who could rank alongside the Wordsworths, Brownings and Tennysons. It is hardly surprising that, for 400 years, the position of Poet Laureate was the exclusive preserve of the male gender.
Siegfried Sassoon was on friendly terms with two of the twentieth-century holders of the title. He was first introduced to Robert Bridges just after the First World War, when he visited the "Pantheon" of poets resident on Boar's Hill, just outside Oxford. At first they were not too keen on one another - Sassoon was displeased by Bridges' dismissive attitude to Thomas Hardy's poetry, while the elderly Bridges mistook him for a German and addressed him as "Siegfried Digweed". Bridges lived at Chilswell House, now a Carmelite priory and retreat centre, and the two men eventually reached a level of friendship where Sassoon was able to become an occasional lodger.
The role of the poet laureate in English and later British society is not one historically distinguished by great poetic talent. Early laureates did their duty by producing occasional odes and eulogies such as Thomas Shadwell's birthday odes to William and Mary.  Shadwell had unseated his rival John Dryden as poet because of the latter's association with the deposed King James II/VII.  Some of his successors took their roles more seriously than others. New depths of mediocrity were plumbed by Alfred Austin in his often-quoted 1871 poem "On the Illness of the Prince of Wales: "O'er the wires the electric message came/'He is no better; he is much the same."
On Bridges' death in 1930, his replacement was John Masefield, whose work Sassoon had parodied before the war but whom he had come to admire. Masefield was not the obvious candidate; Kipling was favoured by many, but the government favoured the younger Masefield. By the time Masefield vacated the position on his death in 1967, Siegfried Sassoon was eighty years old and seriously ill, only months from his own death.
Cecil Day-Lewis, editor of Wilfred Owen's poems and an aficionado of Thomas Hardy, was a choice of which Sassoon would have approved, although he held the position for only five years, succeeded on his death by Sir John Betjeman, a more conventional successor. One of Betjeman's first attempts at fulfilling the duties of the laureate's role was his poetic tribute on the occasion of Princess Anne's wedding in 1973. I recall my English teacher correctly predicting that "he'll come up with something", and I also remember the exact words with which she later described the offering: "A horrible bit of jingly-jangly nonsense".  Betjeman got an equally bad press a few years later when he tried to write something to mark the Queen's Silver Jubilee. Thereafter, the post of Poet Laureate began to seem like an anachronism.
But in the 21st century, poetry is back in a big way. We owe this in no small measure to the interest stoked up by the approaching centenary of the First World War, bringing writers such as Owen, Sassoon, Graves and Rosenberg to the fore again.  Poetry is once more becoming a pursuit for both genders, no longer regarded as something for cissies, and we have both male and female poets worthy of the name. Carol Ann Duffy, in her 2009 poem "Last Post", showed how a poet laureate can represent the feelings of a nation without being sycophantic or lowering her own creative standards. Now that she is more than halfway through her tenure of the post, we can only hope that her successor will prove equally deserving.



Thursday, 24 November 2016

Siegfried's Strangest Journey

The eyes of the world have been firmly focused on the United States in the past few weeks. Now it is all over bar the shouting, as they say – or maybe the real shouting is only just beginning. Whatever happens, I am not going to make any comment on the result of the presidential election. Anyone who knows me will be able to guess what I think and anyone who doesn’t should not care what I think.
Google on "Sassoon in America" and you will get the locations of all Vidal Sassoon's hairdressing salons in the USA, rather than the locations of the Siegfried Sassoon archives in places like Texas and New York. But American scholars value these literary treasures as much as we do, and Sassoon's work has received as many plaudits across the pond as it has in his homeland.
However hard I try, I find it difficult to imagine Siegfried Sassoon touring the USA – as of course he did for six months in 1920, on a tide of popularity resulting from the publication of his war poems there towards the end of hostilities. Americans had purchased over 2,000 copies and some of the reviews had been ecstatic. Siegfried recognised that he owed much of this to John Masefield and Robert Nichols, both of whom had gone before him and more than adequately prepared the way.
In Siegfried’s Journey, published in 1945, Sassoon writes extensively about his experiences but it always seems to me that he gives little away about his true feelings. George Simmers refers to it, in his understated way, as "an unsatisfactory book", and I fear I cannot really disagree with him on that. One can almost glean more by reading articles written about him by American journalists during the period, or the parody of an interview he produced. The hilarious "A Poet as He Really is" was published in Vanity Fair in 1920; he himself called it "deplorably facetious". Dr Mhairi Pooler focused on this article when she spoke to us about Siegfried's self-image at our 2010 conference.
Sassoon used his diaries as the source material for almost all the prose works published in his lifetime and it is not difficult to tell that he had one eye on eventual publication. Pages were sometimes torn out - we must assume because they contained indiscreet comments or possibly accounts of sexual activity. He stops short of pouring out his heart and soul. Instead we get a picture of a diffident, anxious man who at first found the idea of going on a lecture tour in the USA almost laughable. After participating in a reading at the Poetry Bookshop, he took elocution lessons to improve his delivery (at the Albert Hall, no less).
He arrived in New York in late January, to find the streets deep in snow and himself put up by the agency in budget accommodation (or what Siegfried always called "depressing"); newspaper journalists arrived before his luggage did. The interviewers were at least sympathetic about the toothache from which he'd been suffering. But he soon discovered that bookings were few and far between and he might not receive the remuneration he had been counting on. He was obliged to do most of his own marketing (an situation familiar to many authors, but self-promotion did not come naturally to Sassoon).
At Bryn Mawr College, an appreciative audience of young ladies listened to Sassoon read some of his best-known poems, but not everyone cared for his anti-war stance. The critic John Jay Chapman, an acquaintance of Robert Nichols, was initially summed up in Siegfried's diary entry as "rather a nice old thing", but this would prove less accurate when Chapman called him "brain-sick", and climbed onto the platform after an appearance at the Cosmopolitan Club at which Mrs Chapman had introduced Sassoon to the audience, to rail against his pacifist views in no uncertain fashion. This anxious moment was made worse by the fact that Chapman had lost a hand and instead wore a hook, which he proceeded to brandish threateningly at Sassoon. Understating the situation as usual, Siegfried writes "Poor Mrs Chapman and I sat there not knowing which way to look".
Chapman, a larger-than-life character, was old enough to be Siegfried's father, and had, in fact, lost a son to the war. Rather than turning him against military conflict, it made him an outspoken supporter of the war, who took Sassoon to task for his 1917 protest as well as for his poetry. By a weird coincidence, Chapman had earned the nickname of "Mad Jack" while at university, inviting comparison with the former officer who had been known for his daring trench raids in 1916. The day after the incident, Chapman wrote to Sassoon with a near-apology: "I suppose the universe will not be wrecked by you or by my trying to stop you", at the same time advising him to "get out of the way of people who want to exploit you", by which he meant anyone with pro-German sympathies.
Siegfried Sassoon returned to the UK in April  1920, moderately unimpressed, especially by what he called "high-class hospitalities", seen off only by his new friend Sam Behrman (author, among other things, of the screenplay for Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and Quo Vadis). Twenty-five years later, he wrote: "I find some difficulty in believing that it was really me who went to Chicago all by himself... I go nowhere now, from one year's end to another..."
In addition to Mhairi Pooler's article in the Winter 2010 edition of Siegfried's Journal, transcripts of some of the press articles covering Sassoon's appearances in America can be found in David Gray's on-line Sassoon bibliography here:
http://siegfried-sassoon.firstworldwarrelics.co.uk/html/america.html