‘STILL EUROPEAN’

I’m always humbled by so many things at my events: the poets’ or authors’ generosity, their depth of knowledge and skill. Few times have I felt more humbled than at this event, held on Zoom on the evening of February 25, when a large audience heard the words of seven poets reading their own works and those of a European poet of their choice.

I would like to quote a comment received from a member of the audience, which puts my thoughts in a much better way than I ever could: “I cannot explain how I feel when I hear pieces where the writer shares a deep experience of a place or of a piece of art, which isn’t directly part of their life, but they have extended their world to encompass it.”

The idea for the event came while perusing the fabulous ‘Poems and Pictures’ Blog, edited by Gill Stoker on the Mary Evans Picture Library website www.maryevans.com. Over 130 poets have been inspired by images held by the Library to write original works, and the Blog shows this pairing. Many images were of European artworks or of other subjects with a European connection – and I decided I wanted to devote a whole evening to Europe in images and verse.

The poets who agreed to participate were also asked to choose a European poet from any period, and to bring one work by them in translation, and if possible in the original. Images and texts were displayed throughout thanks to Gill Stoker’s mastery of Powerpoint (and her patience during the run-up to the event while dealing with a plethora of tweaks).

So, what can I say about this special evening? First a big thank you to Sarah Lawson, Fiona Moore, Gabriel Moreno, John McCullough (unfortunately unwell, but some of his work was read by others), Emma Page, Jacqueline Saphra and Richard Westcott and of course to Gill Stoker. Thanks also to audience member Alex Chronis, who read in Greek for us.

The poets brought us vastly diverse aspects of Europe – many unexpected ones, and many showing the darker heritage that still resonates, or still exists in its heart and at its periphery.

These were complex, profound works with uncomfortable angles. If we expected pretty vistas and nostalgia for the Grand Tour, we were in for a surprise. Even the Piazza della Signoria in Florence had, in Richard Westcott’s hands, a sinister side of murderous persecution of dissenters. We heard, and saw, the proud survivors of abuse in Jacqueline Saphra’s series of ekphrastic poems based on the paintings of Artemisia Gentileschi; the brave demonstrators protesting en masse in Belarus right now in the poems by their compatriots, chosen and read by Fiona Moore together with one of her own poems on the same theme; the grey sky falling on the poet’s head in John McCullough’s poem on Notre Dame (sadly, John was unwell and unable to join us in person) and the almost surreal image of a Polish bodybuilder in John’s choice, a poem by Szymborska; the bloodstained words of Lorca and about Lorca, performed by Gabriel Moreno; the short and tormented life of Therese de Lisieux, the young Carmelite nun brought into poetic focus for us by Emma Page. There were lighter moments, notable among them the guffaws provoked by Sarah Lawson’s clever pun at the end of her short P G Woodehouse spoof: Watteau, Jeeves! And Sarah’s choice of Jacques Prevert in the original and in her own translation; and in Emma Page’s ‘Three Kisses’ celebrating 1960s French cinema. And then one of the great favourites: the universal words of Cavafy’s ‘Ithaca’; and much, much more…

If you were there, feel free to email me your comments about the event at irena(at)in-words.co.uk and I shall post them here (anonymously if you prefer).

And if you wish to find out more about the poets and/or purchase their books and pamphlets, here are some links for you. Thank you!

Events

Monday 8 November at 7.30pm on Zoom

Private Memorial Event: ‘A Celebration of the Life and Work of Richard Stoker (1938-2021), British composer’

Many of you will have attended past in-words events held in cooperation with Gill Stoker. I am deeply touched that she has asked me to host a memorial event to remember and celebrate her husband Richard on what would have been his next birthday.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Richard_Stoker

This event is by invitation only.
If you knew Richard, or know his music, and would like to attend, please email gillstoker@btinternet.com for further details.

Thursday 25 November at 7.30 on Zoom

WINDOWS‘ – An evening of poetry with Isabel Bermudez, Maggie Butt, David Cooke and Dino Mahoney.

Why ‘Windows’? Because for an hour or so, we will have the privilege of looking through different windows at views and images, places and atmospheres presented to us by four very different voices. But also to honour The High Window, the online poetry magazine edited by David Cooke.

This is a free event by invitation. Please email irena@in-words.co.uk to receive a zoom link nearer the time.

ISABEL BERMUDEZ is a poet and textile artist living in Orpington, Kent. Her most recent publication is Serenade (Paekakariki Press, 2020), poems evoking Spain and the New World,  with illustrations by Simon Turvey. She performs her poetry widely at readings and festivals and was recently hosted by the Colombian Embassy and the Instituto Cervantes, Manchester in conversation with Welsh poet and translator, Richard Gwyn. In a previous life she lived and worked as a producer/director in television in Sri Lanka and as a documentary filmmaker in Colombia. She has held many jobs, including grape picker in France, shop assistant and special correspondent, and for the past fifteen years has taught French and Spanish privately. More at www.isabel-bermudez.com.

MAGGIE BUTT is a journalist and BBC documentary producer, turned poet and novelist. Her sixth full collection everlove was published by The London Magazine Editions in April 2021 and her novel The Prisoner’s Wife was published around the world in 2020 by Penguin Random House under her maiden name Maggie Brookes. Her poetry appears widely in international magazines and anthologies, and has escaped the page into a mobile phone app, choreography, BBC Radio 4, readings, film-poems and festivals. She has judged a number of international poetry competitions and taught creative writing at Middlesex University for 30 years.

DAVID COOKE was born in Wokingham, although his family comes from the West of Ireland. While still an undergraduate, he won a Gregory Award and since then his poems and reviews have appeared in many journals in the UK, Ireland and beyond: Agenda, Ambit, The Cortland Review, The Interpreter’s House, The Irish Times, The London Magazine, Magma, The Manhattan Review, The Morning Star, The North, Poetry Ireland Review, Poetry Salzburg Review and Stand. He has also published eight collections, the latest of which is Sicilian Elephants (Two Rivers Press. 2021).He is the founder and editor of the online poetry journal The High Window.

KONSTANDINOS (DINO) MAHONEY is a London based poet of Greek-Irish-English heritage. He won the 2017 Poetry Society Stanza Competition with his poem, ‘Dr Mirabilis and the Brass Wall That Will Save England,’ which is included in Tutti Frutti, his debut SPM collection.  He has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize and has poems published in: The High Window, London GripButcher’s Dog, Perverse, Tentacular, Live Canon Anthologies, New European. He performs his poems as songs with Dino & the Diamonds, and teaches creative writing at Hong Kong University.  More info at dinomahoney.co.uk