HEAD LINES October 8

To mark Mental health Awareness Week and to honour everyone who has suffered or is still suffering mental anguish – and indeed those who care or have cared for them, in-words invited four superb and very different poets to read at the lovely West Greenwich Library.

Mick Delap started us off with readings from Gerard Manley Hopkins, mapping his descent into the gloomiest of depressions, and brought the evening to a close with his latest poem – a moving, heartfelt reaching out to those who think differently about certain issues (I let you guess which ones) – and the sadness at being spurned, at the unwillingness to bridge the gap.

Tessa Foley read from her published collection, Chalet Between Thick Ears (Live Canon) and from her more recent poems and her ‘work in progress’. Raw, funny and moving, Tessa’s words go way beyond ‘standard’ feminist poetry. They are a mirror of the dilemmas and struggles that young women face, bold statements alternating with lines of disappointment, confusion, anger and great courage.

Peter Wallis is a twin. As his twin brother, a young man at the time, underwent a long series of brain operations, Peter started undergoing a process of ‘untwinning’ as he witnessed his brother’s physical illness and analysed his own parallel mental turmoil caused by it. His verses, with their almost obsessive rhythm and medical connotations, perfectly portrayed the brothers’ closeness, their despair and hope and the sense of loss that was never far away. Peter’s experience of hospital waiting rooms led him to start and edit the free pamphlets ‘Poetry in the Waiting Room’.

Sally Festing is the daughter of Derek Richter, the founder of the Mental Health Foundation. Derek’s two siblings, very artistic young people, and his own mother suffered from serious depression – something they could only express, in those days, as ‘being unwell’. Treatment was brutal and Derek had the courage and the drive to work towards a better awareness of mental ill health and better treatment for it. Sally worked on the vast archive of letters and documents inherited from her father, some of which she put into verse, coupled with her own words, put at times into her ancestors’ mouths, creating her latest published collection, Darling Derry.

The whole evening was riveting and I know it will stay with me for a long time. If you wish to donate to the two chosen charities, please go to www.mentalhealth.org.uk and www.thecalmzone.net (or in particular www.justgiving.com/fundraising/daniel-hill52

Thank you

Events

Wednesday November 11 at 7.30 (Please note change of date. ZOOM check-in at 7.15)

‘All that has been’ a virtual evening with poets Chrissie Gittins and Wendy French and music by The Moonpennies.

Chrissie Gittins and Wendy French will read from their latest published collections, Sharp Hills and Bread Without Butter respectively. Juxtaposing past and present, family and nature, the personal and the universal, these readings are perfect for a Remembrance Day evening: filled not with nostalgia but with empathy, reflection and curiosity.

The Moonpennies are a duo who compose and perform poem songs, and will provide a few interludes. I’ll say no more about this – let it be a surprise!

This is a FREE event. Please email irena@in-words.co.uk as soon as you can to receive a zoom invitation the day before the event.

If you’d like to follow the readings with the books in front of you, you can order copies from the publishers indigodreams.co.uk (for Sharp Hills) and rockinghampress.co.uk (for Bread Without Butter).

NIGHT WATCHED has been postponed until 2021.

Let’s hope we can celebrate the 2021 summer Solstice (or, if we are lucky, the spring Equinox) with Graham High‘s poetic look at the Astronomers Royal, the inimitable voice of NJ Hynes and music by Alexis Bennett.