Living with the Truth Stranger than Fiction This Is Not About What You Think Milligan and Murphy Making Sense

Sunday, 21 August 2016


The Actress

I have to "die" tomorrow.
I've never "died" before.
Well there's always got to be a first time.

The script doesn't call for much:
just a death – in long shot.

I bet I'll have to do it a dozen times:
but that's life.

25 July 1989
I’m not sure about this one. Feels forced. It’s structured a bit like a joke and there’s a punch line only it’s not very funny or pithy. Still, I’ve written worse.

When I wrote my poem ‘The Poetess’ (#835) Carrie objected to the title at first. Why not ‘The Poet’? And it’s something a lot of people take issue with these days. For a while I’ve noticed certain thespians of the female persuasion being referred to as “actors” and, of course, they’re perfectly within their rights but it’s always felt a bit unnecessary to me, a step too far. I’m all for equality—it’s a lovely idea, an ideal to strive for—but diversity’s not a bad thing either. Why did I call my poems ‘The Actress’ and ‘The Poetess’? Quite simply because how would you know the narrator’s female otherwise? Could a male say those lines? Absolutely. But in my head it was a female. No particular female. Simply not a man.

When the Observer and the Guardian published their new joint style guide in 2010 this clause appeared: "Use for both male and female actors; do not use actress except when in name of award, e.g. Oscar for best actress" but added:
As always, use common sense: a piece about the late film director Carlo Ponti was edited to say that in his early career he was ‘already a man with a good eye for pretty actors...’ As the Guardian's readers' editor pointed out in the subsequent clarification: ‘This was one of those occasions when the word “actresses” might have been used.’

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