Poems and Pictures

Two years ago almost to the day, Gill Stoker of the Mary Evans Picture Library in Blackheath had the brilliant idea of combining her love of the spoken word with the fascinating collection of images stored at the Library. With the help of local poets Mick Delap and Lorraine Mariner she began to invite other local poets to submit poems inspired by or seeming to illustrate one or more images from the Library. The ‘Poems and Pictures’ blog was born, and in two years it has attracted poets from all over the world and more and more poems are being posted on it, all of fantastic quality. Its second birthday was definitely something worth celebrating.

The evening was a wonderful mixture of voices and styles and the projected images were intriguing, funny, surprising… and so much more. The central rotunda of West Greenwich Library was full beyond capacity, with many extra chairs being carted in by the ever-helpful staff to accommodate everyone. Those who took part were: Mick Delap (who also MCd), Harvey Duke (read by Gill Stoker), Ken Evans (read by Mick Delap), Robin Houghton, Sarah Lawson, Lorraine Mariner, Gabriel Moreno (with and without guitar..), Emma Simon, Fiona Sinclair (read by Gill Stoker), Peter Wallis, Richard Westcott and Sarah Westcott. Poets also chose and read works by others, which they selected out of the hundred plus poems on the blog.

I think the blog’s third birthday will call for another celebration, so watch this space!

Gill Stoker introducing the work of the Mary Evans Picture Library to the packed audience

Below: Mick Delap reading ‘Lady with an Ermine’ by Maja Trochimczyk, Gabriel Moreno reading his own ‘Ode to Hull’, Sarah Lawson reading Rowland Hill’s ‘Gin Slings in Singapore’ and Gill Stoker reading ‘If I was Not’ by Jeni Braund. All photographs © Paul Brown.

Visit http://www.maryevans.com/poetryblog.php for the entire collection of poems and related pictures.

Cinnamon Toast!

What better way to celebrate National Poetry day (September 28) than to listen to five talented, amazing and entertaining poets published by Cinnamon Press (cinnamonpress.com). Alex Josephy, Louise Warren, Jeremy Worman, Tamsin Hopkins and Jane McLaughlin (left to right in the photographs) read from their books and pamphlets, taking us to real, surreal and often unexpected worlds and bringing people, creatures and memories to life through their unique voices. THANK YOU poets, publishers, audience and West Greenwich Library staff, as always.

Tiger and Clay – book launch from Istanbul

Last night was a first for in-words, the audience and the wonderful West Greenwich Library and its staff: on a clear skype connection, author Rana Abdulfattah read four extracts form her book of memoir and poetry as her London launch. Her publisher, Camilla Reeve from Palewell Press, co-hosted the event in the central rotunda filled to capacity. There was also a small photographic exhibition by Rayan Azhari and a great meze spread by the Damascus Chef, as well as a presentation by the Chief Executive of the Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network.

Rana lives in Istanbul after leaving her native Syria. Her writing is a moving mixture of nostalgia, sorrow, hope and positive determination. The book is available on Amazon and from Palewell Press http://palewellpress.co.uk/Palewell-Publications.html

Central rotunda filling up…. Other photographs from top: listening to Rana; Alaa the techie man smiling at the camera, Camilla the publisher and myself before the start of this amazing evening. At the back, Jane getting the bookstall organised and Abdullah the Damascus Chef setting up the meze spread.

DH Lawrence, Poet – with Graham Fawcett

I was so lost in the beauty of Graham’s and Lawrence’s words (it’s often hard to spot the boundary between Graham’s own words and the poems he reads…) and the lovely stillness of St Margaret’s Crypt, that I forgot all about modern technology and didn’t take any pictures… I’ll try to remember next time, on November 1st when the mood will change with the poetry of WH Auden.

I will also try to make online booking easier – apologies to those who found it difficult and unsatisfactory (irritating? infuriating?)

If you’re not yet on my mailing list and would like to be, or you would like to unsubscribe, please drop me an email at irena@in-words.co.uk

4 x 4 Poetry Group

What do you do when you find a stash of old photos showing your long-gone parents? Or when you think about the allure of the opposite sex? Or when you look at a double-headed knave of hearts on a playing card? Well, you sit down and start writing poetry of course! The double-headed knave inspired Peter Wallis to think and write about his relationship with his twin brother; Graham High was inspired by his own charcoal life drawings and the graphic patterns found in physics and…fishnet stockings; Wendy Klein and Sally Festing wrote about their fathers, memory and the complex relationships of earlier generations – sometimes known and sometimes guessed.

Wendy’s husband Stephen provided the technical support to project on a screen the photographs and images connected with each poem and sometimes accompanied by music and singing (by Sally). The audience was totally involved, and part of the second set was devoted to questions and discussions, so lively because the poems, while intimate and personal, touched on themes we all share.

4 x 4 + 1! From right: poets Wendy Klein, Peter Wallis, Graham High and Sally Festing and Stephen the invaluable technical support. At West Greenwich Library, July 11.

Not the General Election

A.E.Houseman said “The business of poetry is to harmonise the sadness of the universe”. Particularly poignant at this moment in London, we had a fabulous, varied evening of poetry and some prose at West Greenwich Library on the theme of politics, democracy etc.. It didn’t only harmonise the sadness of the universe, but also the joy, humour and humanity of the universe.

We were treated by Mick Delap, Fiona Moore (reading in the photograph), Jazzman John Clarke, Lorraine Mariner, Sarah Westcott and NJ Hynes to serious and satirical works – their own and by other poets and writers from all over the world and eras (Amichai, Frost, Hardy, Angelou…). Two poems by Kate Foley and one by Carl Griffin were read by Mick. There were contributions through open mic, including extracts from the diary of suffragette Marion Wallace Dunlop, who went on hunger strike and refused force-feeding, and was eventually released; we heard how Plato predicted that we would eventually be ruled by bullies and many other thought-/laughter-/tears-provoking pieces of writing.

Thank you to all those who read and all those who attended and who continue to support in-words and local talent.

 

Graham Fawcett on Edward Thomas

May 11th at The Prince of Greenwich pub.

As always, Graham delivered something that is so much more than a lecture. The audience was spellbound listening to how Thomas’ tormented life unfolded, and how he blossomed out of ‘melancholia’ once he allowed himself to be uncompromisingly a poet. So sad and such a terrible waste then that he should be killed in April 1917 just before the ‘real action’ started on the battlefield…

Another unforgettable evening. Watch this space for an autumn lecture/performance!

 

 

Launch of Anjana Chowdhury’s debut novel

It was full house at West Greenwich Library on March 28th for the launch of Under the Pipal Tree by Anjana Chowdhury.
Evocative is the first word that springs to mind to describe this remarkable debut novel, published by the independent, ever-innovative Cinnamon Press. Jan Fortune of Cinnamon Press introduced Anjana and the book, and then the author introduced and read three extracts, and explained how the book grew almost of its own accord, lead by its characters. The interlinking stories of the three women protagonists, narrated along different timelines, is intense and psychologically complex, so ‘evocative’ is a rather reductionist description of the book. Buy it (from Cinnamon Press or Amazon), read it and you will find many more adjectives to add to it.

Anjana’s presentation was full of humour. Fabulous.

Four Poets at West Greenwich Library

On Tuesday, March 7th, we were delighted, moved and entertained by Frances Spurrier, James Flynn, Mel Pryor and Michael Loveday (left to right in the photograph), who read from their published collections and their latest, as yet unpublished, writings. As a group they were beautifully balanced with their different voices complementing one another giving us humour, pathos, politics, memories and strong images. All even more evident in their final salvo, when they read one poem each, without introduction, on the theme of ‘chaos’.
Many thanks to them and to everyone who attended.

Cinnamon Press Book Launch

Jan Fortune and Adam Craig of Cinnamon Press launched their latest works of fiction at the wonderful West Greenwich Library. Jan’s This is the End of the Story is about friendship, identity, power and the search for resolution (the end of the story?) in a book constructed in a non-linear way and yet totally easy to get into and follow, and in fact a real page turner – I can vouch for that! Jan read two excerpts beautifully and had everyone on the edge of their seats, because there is also a dark element to the story.

Adam read one of the short stories from his collection High City Walk. It is about art as alchemy, and it is steeped in European literary tradition. Other stories are much more rooted in Britain and the British tradition, but never pedestrian and always surprising and exquisitely crafted.

The Library is now stocking both books, or you can buy them via the Cinnamon Press website.

And here I am, gesticulating as always, as I introduce Jan and Adam…