Two Girls and a Beehive

Since our launch of the book of poems by Rosie Jackson and Graham Burchell had to be cancelled, I thought I’d give you a taste with a poem by each, accompanied by the images of the paintings that inspired them. One is the title poem (by Graham) with accompanying painting by Stanley Spencer, and the other is Lady in Green (by Rosie), accompanied by the portrait by Hilda Carline Spencer of Patricia Preece, the woman for whom Stanley left Hilda. Complicated lives, interesting paintings and beautiful poems… The book of the poems was published earlier this year by Two Rivers Press and it’s available from and Amazon. It’s a real treat.

Two Girls and a Beehive
after ‘Two Girls and a Beehive’, 1910

He has these butcher’s daughters
(both ginger-haired as honeycomb and sunset),
smelling roses, just that, as if oblivious
to the hovering of the holy ghost behind
and that box of whispering bees.

He loved them both, those Wooster girls,
dressed them in shades of privet green,
gave them an evening glow and posed them
on puddles of light; the last gold lily-pads
of the day.
    At times they would sit, Dot
and Emmie, on his garden wall, chatter
and giggle, backs against black railings,
and hedge of that same viridian hue.

Perhaps he felt himself to be
supernatural, as he watched
from the nursery window, thinking,
I can look and linger on you my two loves,
but you cannot see me.

But what of the bees, the honey-makers
in their Mill Lane hive? He paints them at rest,
contained, still as evening, a potential
for both sweetness and pain.
Just that.

Lady in Green
after Hilda Carline Spencer’s ‘Portrait of Patricia Preece’, 1933.  

She must like butter, Hilda thinks,
for her skin has that buttercup glow
as if she’s rolled all morning in a meadow
of wild flowers and is covered in pollen.

Hilda’s palette is limited,
she doesn’t like the muddy browns
of mistrust, but paints people as if light
were spread equally inside them,

as if it were possible to capture the soul
in its invisible perfection, as clear
as water, able to run into any shape.
But she knows how yellow turns to green

in the shadow and has to push away
the thought of what Patricia has
that she doesn’t – her husband’s longing,
a certain knack with necklaces and hats.

She mixes canal green for Patricia’s blouse,
starts on the string of glass beads
Stanley probably bought.
If her canvas were a mirror, she thinks,

she might catch sight of her own tall soul
standing behind her,
watching over her shoulder,
solemnly wringing its hands.


Sadly, all the events below have been cancelled and my hope is that it will be possible to reschedule them to new dates in the autumn and winter. I am leaving them where they are for the moment to whet your appetite… and I will post a few of the poems we will have missed for you to enjoy, starting with two poems from Two Girls and a Beehive by Rosie Jackson and Graham Burchell.

All the very best to you all. Stay safe and sane!

April 28

West Greenwich Library
146 Greenwich High Rd
London SE10 8NN

Rosie Jackson and Graham Burchell will launch Two Girls and a Beehive, their collaborative collection of poems, due to be published by Two Rivers Press (Reading) earlier that month. The poems follow the life and explore much of the work of visionary artist Stanley Spencer, as well as giving voice to his complex personal life and the relative invisibility of artist Hilda Carline, his first wife. With projected images of the artist’s works.

Door opens at 7 for a 7.30 start. All welcome

May 12

West Greenwich Library
146 Greenwich High Rd
London SE10 8NN

Readings by the wonderful Chrissie Gittins and Wendy French

Door opens at 7 for a 7.30 start. All welcome

June 23

West Greenwich Library
146 Greenwich High Rd
London SE10 8NN

Celebrating the Solstice with Graham High‘s poetic look at the Astronomers Royal, the inimitable voices of NJ Hynes and Simon Barraclough plus music by Alexis Bennett.

Door opens at 7 for a 7.30 start. All welcome