Three Cinnamon Poets: Kay Syrad, Maria Jastrzebska and Patricia Helen Wooldridge

West Greenwich Library was the venue for this lively and lovely wordsmithing display on December 4th. Jan Fortune and Adam Craig of Cinnamon Press introduced three very different poets, who entertained and moved us. Deliberate or not, a theme emerged – and as it often is, it was water – ocean, sea, river.

And so another year is coming to an end. Inherent in all endings there are beginnings.

in-words hopes to continue to renew itself, thanks to your presence, support and ideas.

Stay well, everyone, and see you in 2019.

RIVERINE – Poetry with Fiona Moore, Oona Chantrell, Mick Delap, Kate Miller and Stephen Elves

On 27 of November at the lovely Greenwich Tavern the many who were brave enough to come out on a cold and wet evening were treated to readings by five poets, headed by Fiona Moore, who chose and invited the others to participate. The theme was water, rivers in particular, while Fiona (all-year swimmer extraordinaire and passionate about rivers and the sea) read from The Distal Point, her collection published by Happenstance, which has been shortlisted for the 2019 TS Eliot Poetry Prize (readings by all shortlisted poets Jan 13 at Royal Festival Hall, winner announced the next day).

Fiona and the others delighted, amused and moved us with their beautifully crafted words and images as diverse as their personalities – contemplative, feisty, erudite, ironic (in no particular order…) with so many powerful resonances for us all.

 

Anna Akhmatova – lecture/performance by Graham Fawcett and Sue Aldred

The Treehouse hosted another stimulating and fascinating event and we were treated as always to Graham’s erudition and wit, and Sue’s beautiful reading voice.

Anna Akhmatova lived through two world wars, two revolutions and Stalin’s purges, and never stopped writing, suffering, loving. Her output is extraordinary. Despite being intensely personal, her published work was deemed anti-revolutionary and she, her family, many of her friends and fellow writers were persecuted (and some killed) because of it. And in the 1940s her poems came under attack because ‘decadent’ and ‘vulgar’ and therefore against Soviet culture and literature. Akhmatova wrote much more than what was published at the time. She fought to have her son released from prison and out of fear of further danger to him – as well as herself – everything she created was committed to memory (her own and others’) until danger finally passed. She died in 1966, recognised the world over as ‘the one who kept the Russian word alive.’

Bright Scarf Poets at Poetry Cafe’ (October 6)

“Peter Pegnall’s Bright Scarf poets harmonise and clash, paint with their voices, dance with their words

Unfortunately, Peter himself was unable to be there because of a chest infection. Colin Pink stood in for him and delighted us all with his mixture of very funny and more serious verses, and joined Rosie’s 17-syllable non-haiku sequences (funny, sensual), Dominic’s more intimate poems and Quentin’s erudite and witty ones.

A very special evening indeed, rewarding the audience for braving a horribly wet night.

Captive audience at packed Poetry Cafe’
Rosie Johnston, Colin Pink, Quentin Cowdry and Dominic James

Hopkins 100 with Graham Fawcett and Susan Aldred (on September 11)

“And for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs—
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.”

(‘God’s Grandeur’)

A big thank you to Graham and Sue, and also to Fiona Moore and Mick Delap for an evening I sadly had to miss. Wonderful feedback from all those who attended.

At First Sight: floating islands, floating lands

in-words’ first-ever event at the British Library played in front a full room on the evening when people could easily have dropped out to watch football or tennis… And we were all treated to an evening of storytelling, poetry and music from voices and sounds from England and Oceania, highlighting issues raised by the voyages of James Cook (the subject of an excellent exhibition at the British Library)

Vanessa Lee Miller – poet, journalist, playwright from Hawaii was the force behind the project, and her enthusiasm, grace and perseverance ensured the participation and support of many diverse creatives. Her own beautiful poem, recited in English and then read in Hawaiian, and her evocative short end-poem focused appropriately on water: fresh water as source of life and death and the ocean penetrating a bay haunted, according to local legend, by Cook’s spirit in the shape of a great white shark. I am truly grateful to her for involving me in this exciting project. I learnt so much working on it!

We had live music played on many instruments collected, and in some cases constructed by Giles Leaman, from a didgeridoo to percussion to the smallest whistle, providing the mood for the readings – eerie, martial, gentle and always evocative.

Rich Sylvester’s story followed the young James Cook getting his sealegs and fulfilling his passion for mapping and cartography, and had us spellbound as it recounted his encounters with Oceanic peoples and the blunders and heavy handed attitudes and responses that led to the killing of many indigenous men, the abuse of many women and ultimately to his own demise in Hawaii.

Rich was also the voice of Cook in the reading of the final pages of Cook in the Underworld, a long poem/libretto by Maori poet Robert Sullivan (b.1967). The part of Orpheus was read by Crystal Te Moananui-Squares, photographer and member of the Interisland Collective of Maori/New Zealand descent, and the ‘judge’ was Jo Walsh, a London-based artist and Pacific Arts Producer of Maori/Scottish ancestry.

Sara Taukolonga, a freelance journalist and performance artist of Tongan/Latvian Jewish descent, read a poem written by the longest-reigning queen of Tonga, Queen Salote Tupou III (1918-1965), translated into English by Sara herself, who then sang it in Tongan, accompanied on guitar by her brother David.

Australian Rhys Feeney gave a sharp and painfully accurate potted history of the Aboriginal People and of the contemptuous disregard for their status as human beings by the colonial powers since 1770, and ended his performance with a cutting poem by Australian poet Steven Oliver.

I know I’m biased, but I feel really happy to have been part of this. My thanks to all the participants, the audience and to Jonah Albert and Steven Gale of the Cultural Events Department at the British Library for giving Vanessa and me the space and time to produce this wonderful and moving evening.

Sadly, no one was available to record it in video or photographs…

Cinnamon Press Book Launch

Jan and Adam of Cinnamon Press, fresh from their travels to research material for their own books (we’ll have to wait till October 30th to hear more about this) came to scorching, buzzing central Greenwich to introduce the work of two very different but equally intriguing fiction writers: Hazel Manuel and Jean Harrison.

The heat, the football and the lure of Greenwich Park next to the lovely Greenwich Tavern didn’t keep supporters and friends from joining Jan, Adam and Hazel (Jean was sadly unable to come) for an evening with a distinctive party atmosphere.

Jan (below) read the final pages of Jean’s moving The Fern Hedge. Written partly in stream-of-consciousness style, it deals with the tension, loving and caring surfacing in three generations of women of the same family as illness and old age take hold.

Hazel spoke beautifully about what made her turn to fiction-writing after a career in psychology and teaching, and how her own move to Paris and rural France inspired her to write Undressing Stone, her third published novel. Her enthusiasm and love for her heroine Sian was infectious, as she read two passages to illustrate the multifaceted character of the protagonist. What she didn’t reveal was the secret that follows Sian to France. For that, one has to read the book. Quite a number of people will do that straight away – the books (Jean’s too) sold out on the night and are now available on Amazon and from Cinnamon Press itself.

 

4 Poets

Another thoughtful and varied offering from Cinnamon Press. The voices of Robin Thomas, Neil Elder, Frank Dullaghan and Daphne Gloag were so distinctive and yet a theme emerged through the evening. I bet it wasn’t coincidental – Jan Fortune KNEW… The theme was ‘time’ and ‘love’. You may say that in poetry these are ‘normal’. But the way they were treated and delivered was so different – touching, funny, full of unexpected images which were so perfect that they didn’t feel unexpected but just right.

Unfortunately Daphne couldn’t join us in person but her intimate, moving and original words were beautifully read by Jan.


Frank Dullaghan


Jan Fortune reading Daphne Gloag’s poems


Robin Thomas


Neil Elder

Do support cinnamonpress.com. In the increasingly complex world of publishing they continue to operate with great generosity.

Walt Whitman with Graham Fawcett and Susan Aldred

I’m embarrassed to admit it again: no photos of this superb event… Listening to Graham and Susan reading from Whitman’s copious, generous and expansive writings, and also hearing about his life , about what influenced him and about those who were so deeply influenced by him was like listening to musical chiaroscuro, a dialogue between fine-tuned instruments bringing to life this poet whose capacity to love (nature, men and women) was so absolute. No wonder I forgot to take pictures!

And if you wish to read something quite surprising, have a look at this… A Whitman ‘society’ in Bolton, Lancashire! http://www.paulsalveson.org.uk/whitmania/

We said a (temporary?) farewell to the Crypt – with many thanks to Cilla, Guy and Liz for making it easier to set up my events there – as Graham is returning to Greenwich for his next two lectures (September 11 and November 13), also with Susan Aldred. See bottom of ‘Events’ column.

World’s Words – Civilisations Festival

It was a privilege for me to be asked by the Library to organise an event during this week-long, nation-wide celebration of human creativity in all its forms. Thanks to the generous suggestions by my now extensive network of poets and authors, and the even more generous participation of eight supremely talented poets, I and the large audience enjoyed a terrific and moving evening. Although the event was all about ‘words’, it is hard to convey in words the emotions elicited by the music, rhythms and meanings of the many poems read in Arabic, Bangla, Greek and English. There may be a recording of it and shall post it if I’m able to… The theme of ‘words’ stretched to migration, war, asylum, identity. But it is words that people take with them as they move from place to place, and their translation allow us entry into their lives and experiences. As someone said, translation is the essence of hospitality. And as we all know, hospitality is the essence of civilisation.

Adnan Al-Sayegh reading with (l-r) Milton, Stephen, Farah and Mick


Me getting the session started, with (l-r) Fiona, Kostya, Mick and Lorraine


Mick Delap reading, with Milton, Stephen, Adnan and Farah

Stephen reading. As well as a fantastic poet in his own right, Stephen performed his translations of Adnan’s poems. He also compiled, and read from, a bilingual anthology of Bangladeshi poetry.
Milton


Left to right: Lorraine Mariner, Kostya Tsolakis, Milton Rahman, Stephen Watts, Adnan Al-Sayegh, Farah Naz, Fiona Moore and Mick Delap

And, as part of the same project, on Wednesday March 7, storytellers Farah Naz and Rich Sylvester http://richstories.mayfirst.org/ ran three sessions with year 4 pupils of James Wolfe Primary School in Royal Hill. I sat in on one of the sessions and learnt all about the origin of sunlight, the first sandals ever made and how to make a lazy young man into one with a decent work ethic… Here are a couple of images from the session. Thank you Rich and Farah, and the Head and Deputy head of the school (Steve Harris and Taniya Ahmed) for being so enthusiastic about this project.

Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere

It was standing room only for the talks by Ann Dingsdale and Jane Grant on the birth of the women’s suffrage movement in Greenwich and Blackheath. A fascinating account from Ann of how ‘ordinary’ women (admittedly mostly middle class) living in the area were instrumental in creating the critical mass necessary for a change of such magnitude and the passing of the 1918 Act. Ann, a textile artist as well as historian, displayed her magnificent silk-embroidered hanging featuring all the names of the 1499 women who signed the 1866 petition. Millicent Fawcett, whose statue will be unveiled near Parliament in April, was the main focus of Jane’s talk on the struggle led by Suffragists and Suffragettes that led to the 1928 Act. Anecdotes and slides added to the interest and kept us all spellbound. To top it all, Halstow Community Choir sang three rousing Suffragette songs with audience participation and Claire Eustance of Greenwich University brought in, on their very first outing, some very informative banners “Celebrating women and men’s contribution to gender equality in Royal Greenwich from the 1860’s to the present”. The consensus, after a Q&A session, from both men and women in the audience was that there’s still some way to go to achieve true equality. So, onwards….

Bright Scarf Poets

Last night a small but very appreciative audience delighted in the readings (and musings and a bit of coughing…) by Rosie Johnston, Quentin Cowdry (l) and Dominic James (r), three members of Bright Scarf Poets. Sadly, health reasons prevented Peter Pegnall, one of its founders, from joining them. His quirky and profound work, taken from his published collections, was read by the others, but we did miss him and we wish him well. Perhaps the words ‘quirky’ and ‘profound’ apply to all three poets despite their very distinctive voices, their choices of form and focus. They had decided to make ‘love’ (yes, why not?) the theme of the second set, and what surprising, different takes on it we were treated to!

If you wish to read their work, Dominic’s collection is published by Sentinel Poetry Group. Rosie’s and Peter’s by Lapwing (Belfast). Quentin is working up his first collection, definitely something to look forward to.

Chrissie Gittins

Chrissie reading from one of her collections of poetry for children

With her gentle but economical, unsentimental and often surprising language, her humour, irony and acute power of observation (and memorable titles) Chrissie has rightly gained a high profile in the literary world, especially for her poems for children. The audience at West Greenwich Library were enchanted and entertained – and also moved when in the second half Chrissie read from her semi-autobiographical short-story collection Between Here and Knitwear about her father’s dementia. Her books were snatched up by the parents and grandparents in the audience. And if you missed out, they are available in bookshops and, of course, on Amazon. www.chrissiegittins.co.uk

A big thank you to Chrissie, the audience and, as always, to Debra and staff at the Library for making us so welcome and comfortable.

Cinnamon Press Book Launch

On Tuesday evening Jan Fortune of Cinnamon Press introduced two talented and original authors and their newly published works of fiction.

Stephanie Percival (and husband Adrian) read from The Kim’s Game. The non-linear narrative follows Hal’s life, marked by many losses – and the reading left us in suspense about his fate: will all those losses lead to some gains? How will all the ‘minor’ characters fare in later life (we got to know them so well as children…)? The Kim’s game is a memory game, where objects laid out on a tray are taken away one by one. Dark, tense, and beautifully written.

Jennifer Young read from her Cold War thriller Cold Crash in which Max, the female heroine, a marine archaeologist, becomes embroiled in a complex and dangerous espionage ‘adventure’. Even a theatre outing with her genteel parents is tinged with intrigue and suspense… Moving between London and Mull, this is a real page turner, with rigorously researched period elements giving it an authentic 1950s feel.

Jan introducing Stephanie and Jennifer.

 

WH Auden with Graham Fawcett

Oh I did it again… Or rather I didn’t do it again! No photos of this exciting, stimulating and illuminating event at St Margaret’s crypt in Blackheath.

And, of course, Graham Fawcett did it again… I mean he had the large audience spellbound from beginning to end with his wit and erudition, weaving together all the facets of this twinkling, chain-smoking, complex, wordsmithing and, above all, loving poet. He conveyed the joy of hearing Auden live five times, and being so awestruck once when in a small crowd gathered Auden in a pub that later he couldn’t even remember being there, let alone what had been said.

I wish I could remember everything Graham said. After his talks I am always left with a desire to learn more. If you want to see Graham’s programme of lectures and events, go to www.grahamfawcett.co.uk

Many thanks to Guy, Jenny and Cilla from St Margaret’s church for all their help.

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…

Graham Fawcett’s lecture/performance on Byron

At the Prince of Greenwich, January 10

Here’s to 2017

Well, the Winter Holidays are officially coming to an end today, the sun is sort of shining and the snowdrops and crocuses will soon be out. Having given up the ‘get fitter, lose weight, enrol in some amazing course’ resolutions years ago, my one resolution is realistic: to make 2017 a creatively fulfilling year, working with amazing people (you!) and honing my own writing before perhaps going public with it..

If you have ideas or even a space you’d like to use through in-words.co.uk try me! And above all, please continue to support the writers and poets who come in front of us with so much skill, creativity, humanity and courage.

One door closes and another one opens….

Sad as I am to say goodbye to Made in Greenwich, I’m looking forward to new events, different venues and initiatives, and a continuing relationship with all the wonderful people I met at the gallery.

Please keep in touch via irena@in-words.co.uk
Invitations will continue to come from my personal email address, at least for the time being, in case they end up in trash!

I’m always happy to hear about and discuss possible themes, ideas etc.

In the meantime, I wish everyone a happy holiday time and a serene, creative and healthy 2017.

Irena Hill