The Writer’s Eye: Poets who Paint

This event took place on April 26 on Zoom and was the first collaboration between in-words and Pindrop Press (pindroppress.com). Pindrop is run single-handedly by Sharon Black – publisher, editor, mentor, designer… Her interest in the visual (book covers in particular) and my own interest in pairing (in a very loose sense) images and verse led to this choice of theme. The result was a challenging mix, as far from ekphrastic poetry, if that’s what one expected, as one can get. Sharon introduced Mike Barlow, Pam Thompson and Ole Hagen.

The word ‘consolation’ is one that resonates in many fields at these difficult times. Poetry provides consolation in various, very personal ways. But as the poet laureate recently said, ‘there’s consolation in concentration’ and for our attentive international audience, concentrating on, and later discussing, the poems and visual artworks by the three poets provided consolation as well as stimulation.

Mike Barlow’s poems and paintings (and one sculpture) did not shock but provoked a pang of recognition that grew as each verse, each choice of words reached a depth all of their own. Themes like ‘elsewhere’ and ‘lost and found’ challenged us while we were allured in by the seemingly ‘conventional’ form.

Pam Thompson’s work bounced us between the immediately recognisable and the experimental. I for one found it comforting that it is possible to play with written words, even those by our ‘heroes’. Her paintings expanded on this, with ‘elsewhere’ being a repeated theme.

This crescendo of playfulness reached its apex with Ole Hagen’s set, which brought a non-English absurdist turn to the evening, with surreal images, gestures, chanting and use of repetition.

I feel delighted that such a different event, a true end-of-term-extravaganza, marked the beginning of in-words summer break.

Do contact pindroppress.com to buy collections by these amazing poets, and others!

Growing Well

Last night Zoom allowed us to connect with two poets from Norfolk, Peter Wallis and Jenny Pagdin, and it was a moving and memorable evening. The title united the main themes – illness, recovery and… allotments. And for me there was a further meaning: the word ‘well’ as a noun, signifying something dug deep, from which life emerges as pure water. There was so much sense of love and consolation as well as deep pain, sorrow, raw honesty and plain hard work in the very different but somehow parallel sequences of poems. And yet no self pity or self indulgence. As Phil Hawtin, a member of the audience, commented, Peter and Jenny “demonstrated the craft of dealing with near impossible subjects, and seeking the positive.” And another one, Caroline, said, “Such inspiring and thought-provoking works: where the poets also gave us a window into their lives, which made it all the more relatable.”

Jenny’s experience of post-natal psychosis and her subsequent recovery were mapped in raw, immediate language, her reading accompanied by some original images. Peter’s reading unfolded in seven ‘episodes’, which included verses inspired by his twin brother’s illness, by his family’s involvement in an allotment and by his own involvement in different and unique projects – assisting Ida Affleck Graves in getting her poems ‘sorted’ (http://www.peterwallis.co.uk/ida-affleck-graves/), becoming Submissions Editor for ‘Poems in the Waiting Room’ (http://www.poemsinthewaitingroom.org) and using poetry with people in care homes.

I feel so grateful for such an uplifting experience provided by Jenny and Peter at this difficult time.

Peter’s signed collection of poems about being an identical twin, Articles of Twinship, is available from the Contact Page at peterwallis.co.uk

Jenny’s pamphlet Caldbeck can be bought following this link https://blackspringpressgroup.com/products/caldbeck

A deeply relaxing, moving tonic of an evening listening to some beautiful poetry being read where the poets shared their life stories with us in both words and in their works (Nadia Ostacchini, Artistic Director, Tricolore Theatre Company)

A beautiful, brave, and graceful reading (Wendy Klein, poet)

Events

‘Proper’ summer is finally here and, while I’m reluctant to start thinking about autumn, I am inevitably and joyfully beginning to plan the first event of the ‘new term’. The first thing I did was to look back at all the in-words events from the very first one in January 2017, and I realised that over five years I hosted 49 readings, including a number of lectures by Graham Fawcett. 49! What shall I do for the 50th? I’m thinking that, although it would limit the numbers in the audience, I would really love to have an in-person event at the West Greenwich Library, like ‘in the old days’. And you never know, I may even be able to get to grips with ‘hybrid’…. Of course, it will depend of many factors, and as soon as I can, I shall post a date if not a full programme.

I love the new animation at the top of my homepage. Thanks to Paul Kley for creating it. The words on the flying page are not a quotation but a whole poem, a favourite of mine, by the Italian hermetic poet Giuseppe Ungaretti. It is impossible to translate, though countless attempts have been made. I am sure you can guess its meaning and I leave you to create your own ‘translation’ of it. Ungaretti fought in the trenches and those two lines represent a moment one morning – pared down to a sense of the absolute, maybe also of possibilities?

As we emerge from a not-yet-over pandemic and wake up every morning feeling the dread of conflict but also aware of the beauty of spring and the blessing of nature and community, Ungaretti’s words are more than ever appropriate.

I am taking a break from organising things over the summer. Whether I will be as dynamic as the train above, or I’ll take time on a siding, I’m not yet sure.

Either way, I am always happy to hear from you with thoughts and ideas, and wish to thank you for your support so far.

Be well!