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July 2002

Nomination: Broadcast [6 November 1961. From The Whitsun Weddings]

This poem was first published in The Listener in January 1962. On my copy Philip wrote: ‘To Maeve who wd. sooner listen to music than listen to me’ and drew this sketch of himself enveloped in gloom beside his wireless, and of me, rapt in the more formal atmosphere of the concert hall.

One Sunday afternoon the previous November, the BBC Simphony Orchestra gave a concert in the City Hall, Hull which was simultaneously broadcast on the radio. Knowing I was at the live performance, Philip listened to it at home. The following day he handed me a typescript of the poem, initially called ‘Broadcast Concert’, but later shortened to ‘Broadcast’.

Elated and deeply moved, I was amused by the description of my shoes which had been the object of a shared, private joke that autumn. Elegant, with stiletto heels and pointed toes, popularly known as winkle pickers, they had been in vogue several months. Philip loved them.

Never one to be ahead of fashion, rather just lagging behind it, I said in mock exasperation one day: ‘I don’t know why you make such a fuss of these shoes. They’ve been in fashion for the last six months otherwise I wouldn’t be wearing them.’ He laughed and said: ‘Well, I still adore them even if they are slightly-outmoded’ which is how they came to be described in the poem.

I have attended countless concerts at the City Hall since 5 November 1961 and on each occasion I recite ‘Broadcast’ in my mind’s eye with mingled pride and delight.

Maeve Brennan

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