Two Girls and a Beehive

In-words’ first Zoom event took place on Tuesday, October 13 at 7.30. Rosie Jackson and Graham Burchell read from Two Girls and a Beehive, their joint collection of poems inspired by the lives and works of Stanley Spencer and his first wife, Hilda Carline. It was much more than a reading. Paintings and photographs illustrated the context of each poem, as details of the complex relationship Spencer had with both his wives (he divorced Hilda to marry Patricia Preece, but remained – or became again – very attached to, almost obsessed with Hilda) was explained. As was his much easier relationship with Cookham, where he was born and lived for most of his life.

Each poet had found, in the writing, a preference for focusing on particular aspects of Spencer’s life and a distinct style. Graham’s poems are ekphrastic, with a more obvious connection between verses and images, while Rosie’s start from the image and expand into a more emotional universe.

Here is a taste of Two Girls and a Beehive. I’m sure you will enjoy it. The title poem, with the accompanying early painting by Stanley Spencer – also the book cover – is by Graham. The other is Lady in Green by Rosie, accompanied here by the portrait Hilda painted of her rival, Patricia Preece, the woman for whom Stanley left her. The book was published in April 2020 by Two Rivers Press, after the collection won first prize at the Stanley Spencer Collection Competition in 2017. It is available to order from rosie@rosiejackson.org.uk as well as from from tworiverspress.com 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.


Events

Thursday 20 January at 7.30 on Zoom

tall-lighthouse redux

tall-lighthouse celebrates its return to publishing poetry pamphlets by introducing poets Christopher Horton, Joshua Calladine-Jones, Mark Wynne and Sarah Shapiro.

After the High Window, it’s the turn of tall-lighthouse, in its own words ‘still publishing bloody good poetry‘. Here is some initial information about the publisher and the event:
tall-lighthouse is a Lewisham based poetry press and its current list includes poets from the UK, Ireland, Northern Ireland, the USA Canada and Europe.
The reading will have an international flavour as Sarah is based in Boston (USA) and Joshua in Prague.

tall-lighthouse has a reputation for publishing new talent, being the first in the UK to publish Helen Mort, Sarah Howe, Liz Berry, Adam O’Riordan, Rhian Edwards, Emily Berry, Kate Potts and many others. Many poets published by tall-lighthouse have gone on to full collections with
major poetry publishers in the UK. These include Sarah Howe, winner of the TSEliot prize in 2015 with her Chatto&Windus collection Loop of Jade; Helen Mort whose debut full collection Division Street (Chatto&Windus) was shortlisted for the TSEliot prize as was Ailbhe Darcy with her collection Insistence (Bloodaxe). Similarly Jay Bernard and Vidyan Ravinthiran
were both shortlisted for the 2020 TSEliot prize. Other tall-lighthouse poets have also been awarded important prizes.

I hope you can join us for this reading, which, as usual, is free by invitation. For a zoom link, please email irena@in-words.co.uk

And here are the detail about the poets who will read on the night:

Joshua Calladine-Jones was born in Greater Manchester, England. He is the literary-critic-in-residence for Prague Writers’ Festival, and his work has appeared in a number of journals, including Freedom, The Stinging Fly, 3:AM, The Gravity of The Thing and Literární.cz. Constructions [Konstrukce] is Joshua’s debut pamphlet.
Discarding the dirty undergarments of English, Joshua Calladine-Jones offers a new taste: “Continuous like stars falling, flies in a glass of milk.” A slippery diving board for the undercurrents of language in a New Stone Age. Michael March

Christopher Horton studied English Literature and American Studies at University of Wales, Swansea, and subsequently taught in China before working as a Housing Officer and then as a Town Planner. His poems have appeared in Poetry London, Poetry Wales, Ambit, Iota, Magma . He has been a prize-winner in the National Poetry Competition, the South Downs Poetry Festival Poetry Prize and The Bridport Prize. Observing an urban world, human and animal – these poems pleasingly mark in word-music the juncture between the said and the unsaid. Gillian Clarke

Sarah Shapiro lives and works in Boston USA. Her poetry is widely published in magazines and on-line, and her debut pamphlet The Bullshit Cosmos was published by ignitionpress.
In this compelling pamphlet, Shapiro speaks back to the impersonal language of diagnostic evaluations as a ‘girl [once] silenced’ – by juxtaposing text taken from her own medical report with creative responses she illustrates the brilliance of her own mind. Mary Jean Chan

Mark Wynne lives in Bath. His poetry has been published in Magma, South Bank Poetry, The Moth and Ambit. Frank & Stella is his debut pamphlet.
Compassionate, humane, and austerely generous Mark Wynne’s poems are finely tuned machines. John Clegg
Reading these poems has been an emotional and intriguing experience […. ]. Frank & Stella is a wonderful addition to my shelves. Congratulations to Mark for such powerful and moving work. Angela Williams