Family, Animals and Other Things – Zoom reading on June 24

For former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins, a poem is ‘a flashlight, an instrument of discovery’. I don’t think this can be surpassed as the most perfect concise definition of poetry.

Sarah Westcott, Gordon Meade, Gillie Robic and Neetha Kunaratnam confirmed this definition last night with verses that shone a light on and helped us discover many different ‘elsewheres’ – some painfully real, like the moment a cancer diagnosis is received; or when a parent is desperately worried about a child’s health; or when one witnesses a parent’s sickness or when caged animals are given a voice. Others almost mythical, where one flies again with an injured bird, watches hawks, listens to ‘the old man by the sea’ or floats out to the ocean without flipflops through a flooded London… And others again, where you’re taken for a literal ride with family members to times and a society so different that it feels like watching a Hollywood movie.

Beautiful voices and not only in the poetic sense. Sarah, Gordon, Gillie and Neetha have beautiful reading voices and I could have listened to them for a lot longer. Comments from the audience expressed the same. If you enjoyed the evening, or if you didn’t make it and would like to read their work, here are some links:

You can order Sarah’s books from the publisher https://liverpooluniversitypress.co.uk/books/

Gordon’s Zoospeak is published by Enthusiastic Press.

Gillie’s books are published by Live Canon https.//www.livecanon.co.uk/store

Neetha’s collection Just Because is published by Smokestack Books.

‘One Year On’

March 25th

If you wanted to look for a mirror of all the different emotions, the heartaches, fears, fury, disbelief, warmth, solidarity, nostalgia and love experienced these last twelve months, you needn’t have looked further than the words written and read so beautifully by Rosie Johnston, Alex Josephy, Colin Pink, Jacqueline Saphra and Rob Walton.

Voices and styles so different and so complementary, painting what we have gone through so far in the pandemic with an astonishingly varied palette – confirming that we would be so much worse off without poetry!

If anyone who was part of the large audience attending on the 25th is reading this and wishes to send me (irena@in-words.co.uk) comments on, even a short review of, all or part of the evening, please come forward, don’t be shy! I am so involved in the whole event that it takes me a while to put finger to keyboard and write anything sensible….

In the meanwhile, here are the short biographies of the readers, and information on how to get in touch with them and/or purchase their publications.

Rosie Johnston‘s four poetry books are published by Lapwing Publications in her native Belfast, most recently Six-Count Jive in 2019, a description in 17-syllable stanzas of the inner landscape of post-traumatic stress disorder. Last December top Irish poetry blogger Billy Mills chose it as one of his top three Irish poetry books of 2020.  Rosie’s poems have appeared or featured in the Mary Evans Picture Library’s Poems and Pictures blog, London Grip, Culture NI, FourxFour, The Honest Ulsterman, Ink, Sweat & Tears and Hedgerow. Anthologies include Live Canon’s ‘154 Project: In Response to Shakespeare’s Sonnets’ (2016), Her Other Language published by Arlen House in 2020 and the Northern Irish section of Places of Poetry (OneWorld, 2020). Before being distracted by poetry, Rosie had two novels published, in London and Dublin. For this event read the first fiction she has written in over ten years. You can find her and her books online at www.rosiejohnstonwrites.com

Alex Josephy lives in London and Italy. Her collection Naked Since Faversham was published by Pindrop Press in 2020 (http://www.pindroppress.com). Other work includes White Roads, poems set in Italy (Paekakariki Press, 2018, https://www.paekakarikipress.com), and Other Blackbirds (Cinnamon Press, 2016, https://www.cinnamonpress.com). Her poems have won the McLellan and Battered Moons prizes, and have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the UK and Italy. As part of the Poetry School Mixed Borders scheme, she has been poet-in-residence at Rainham Hall, Essex, and in Markham Square, London.  Find out more on her website: www.alexjosephy.net. Her books can be ordered from the publishers, or for signed copies email Alex on alex@alexjosephy.net.

Colin Pink’s poems and fiction have appeared in a wide range of literary magazines and anthologies. His first book of poems, Acrobats of Sound, was published in 2016 (by Poetry Salzburg Press) and The Ventriloquist Dummy’s Lament, a pamphlet of 21 villanelles, with woodcuts by Daniel Goodwin, was published in 2019 (by Against the Grain Press). He is having two new collections published this year: Wreck of the Jeanne Gougy another pamphlet published by Paekakariki with woodcut illustrations by Daniel Goodwin and Typicity, his second full-length collection, to be published by Dempsey and Windle in April. You can obtain copies of his books directly from Colin by emailing him on colinpinkconsulting@gmail.com or order them from the publisher’s websites. Visit Colin’s Facebook page to see announcements: https://www.facebook.com/colin.pink.37/

Jacqueline Saphra’s The Kitchen of Lovely Contraptions (flipped eye 2011) was shortlisted for the Aldeburgh First Collection Prize. If I Lay on my Back I Saw Nothing but Naked Women (The Emma Press 2014) won the Saboteur Award for Best Collaborative Work. All My Mad Mothers (Nine Arches Press 2017) was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot prize. Two of her sonnet sequences A Bargain with the Light: Poems after Lee Miller (2017) and Veritas: Poems After Artemisia (2020) are published by Hercules Editions. Her third collection, Dad, Remember You Are Dead was published by Nine Arches Press in 2019. She read from her latest book, One Hundred Lockdown Sonnets, published in February 2021 by Nine Arches Press. She is a founder member of Poets for the Planet, lives in London and teaches at The Poetry School.

Scunthorpe-born Rob Walton lives in Whitley Bay.  His poetry has been published by The Emma Press, Strix, The Interpreter’s House, Sidekick Books, Frances Lincoln, Macmillan and others.  His works of fiction have been published in the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada and New Zealand.  Arachne Press has just published his debut poetry collection, This Poem Here, with a launch the night before our reading! He collated the New Hartley Memorial Pathway text.  You can follow him on Twitter: @anicelad. 

‘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!

Night Watched

I told myself I must avoid using words such as ‘stellar’, ‘out of this world’ etc. when describing the readers at this zoom event on January 19th and their work. But there are other superlatives I could use for Graham High, NJ Hynes and Oliver Morton – members of the large audience suggested several in their complimentary emails following the readings…

Graham’s first reading was from a series of poems both disturbing and beautiful – about loss of direction, failure to preserve the planet we have and the (doomed?) search for personal and collective meaning and a route to a safe place. They mirrored, as someone pointed out, the plight of migrants on earth, turning dystopia topical.

Graham’s second set included three poems on 18c Astronomers Royal, Edmund Halley, James Bradley and Nathaniel Bliss. A very different mood – witty and irreverent. Unfortunately, neither collection is available in print, the first out of print and the second not yet published.

NJ Hynes’ poetry is word perfect, giving expression to every emotion with wit, irony and tenderness, always finding an unexpected but completely ‘spot-on’ way to describe both personal and collective experiences. So, as always when listening to or reading her poems, we were moved deepy, entertained greatly and impressed immensely! And she left us with questions about how the moon feels about its role, and about us…

Oliver Morton’s latest book The Moon: A History for the Future, which was serialised on R4 in 2019 shortly after its publication, contains not only scientific details and amazion photographs, but also Oliver’s original musings and statements linking science and art and culture in general. The images he chose to share with us were stunning and interesting, from the rather ‘retro’ picture of people waiting for the launch of Apollo 8, to images of the launch itself, to the views from the lunar module (with transcript of some of the conversations among the astronauts), culminating with the undoctored image of Earth Rising, in which the Earth, partly in shade, is reclining off centre and the moon surface is also at an angle. This image, more than the better-known symmetrical composition, showed the immediacy and awe of that sight.

At a time when we are shut indoors for so much of the time, and, when outside, we are often looking down, trying to avoid (as NJ said) discarded masks, or look straight ahead trying to decide whether we or others should step aside and keep out of the way, spending an evening thinking about the magical vast space around and above us, was, at least for me, like therapy!

All That Has Been

On Remembrance evening a large virtual audience was treated to moving, incisive, witty and evocative readings by Chrissie Gittins and Wendy French, and original ‘poem songs’ composed and performed by The Moonpennies (Steve Halliwell and Clare Harriot).

At his time of travel restrictions, we were transported to the Indian mountains, where Chrissie retraced her father’s footsteps during WW2, the the Welsh farm of Wendy’s family memories and the chilly markets of South East London.

We were there. We smelled the places, heard the sounds, felt the discomfort, fear, comfort and losses. We joined them on their journeys to discover, or perhaps own again, bits they were missing from their narratives – something we all feel the need to do at different stages of our lives. The resonances were vivid.

We also giggled at funny anecdotes and felt the strength of loyalty and gratitude to our NHS with Wendy’s reading from Born in the NHS (co-written with Jane Kirwan).

We listened to Emily Dickinson’s words as never before, one of the settings The Moonpennies performed, and, appropriately at the end, to their setting into music of Yeats’s ‘An Irish Airman Foresees His Death’. Wonderful.

Chrissie’s collection Sharp Hills is available from indigodreams.co.uk

Wendy’s Bread Without Butter is available from rockinghampress.co.uk and Born in the NHS from The Hippocrates Press

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.


A taste of what we missed…

…in March – Three poets from Cinnamon Press:

Heartbreak Hotel

You’re cold and tired and grubby
and struggling to know how to be
when you check into the Heartbreak lobby
to pick up the Heartbreak key.

It’s down on Lonely Street
inside a crowded quarter
your past is packed and folded neat
then handed to a porter.

The walls and carpets flash their logo,
sheets, and boxes of matches:
deeply its square tattoo
brands you with its H’s.

Straight away you are healing
when that pillow marks your head,
so where there was that feeling
there’s a corporate sign instead.

You broach the Heartbreak minibar
to chase away your distress,
peering through a glass of beer
at the Heartbreak trouser-press.

You check out but discover
it’s a chain,
you thought you’d erased your lover,
but now you’re checking in again:

the vistas diverge and climb
but you wear your brand on your sleeve,
where you can check out any time,
but you can never leave.

Ian Gregson


Heartbeat

Clutch and release, grasp, clinch and let-go
In a small part of this curving parcel of life,
Black and thorough in the frame of the machine

Needling an eye through the seamless pouring
Of love twined by two—I sing my first and my
Final song, a lyric I hear on a harp without strings.

All my nightmares have led to the dream of you;
All the lived, the viscid horrors, turn at the beauty
Of one who cannot be anything as yet, but true

As nightfall and sunrise, the light at its seam,
The bright corner where all things are enough, this choir
Of one violin, and a drum and a pea-small sound

Like the gabbling of gold from a golden halo. Half-
Moon, beloved nut—never was anything so round
As you, who walk down the leaf-strewn avenue of

The daft and singular cleverness of your mother
And I; the womb of your sturdiest ground, the bard
Quick to lose his tune, poor before the price of words.

Omar Sabbagh


Poem After Catullus

I live in luxury.
The water cooler vibrates cold.
Noodle-laced bowls

steam daily upon a table
I did not build. A bottle
of wine waits uncorked

whilst the clinic
obediently holds the line
as I consult

the colourful,
cascading blocks
of a digital calendar.

I live in luxury:
like a partially lit room
where anything could happen.

For a week I have lived
without poetry
and return to it now

with all the passion
of a lover begging
forgiveness finally.

So that one understands
not the misery of others
—none other understands—

but the luxury of the poem
inviting its way
into the daylight sun.

Where the word sunlight
matches the sunlight
upon the floor.

Where the word forgiveness
matches the forgiving
air of a partially lit room

where
any thing
could happen.

I am in the giving vein:
a choice among others,
having taken so much

from the world,
this world
I have not built.

Even the punctuation
has an impressed quality:
like moments of breathing.

And in that generosity
there has risen
a lungful of poetry.

And if we breathe,
carefully, may find
a heartful, a stomach even:

the strength of walking words
and the hips, thighs
and calves of the poem

whose kisses we have craved
not a hundred times
but a thousand more.

They may decry this poem
of poetry. They may.
Muddling the dissatisfaction

of a verse falling
from a ledge with any poem
of outward resemblance:

the surely remarkable
difference between suicide
and high climber.

But look to the last line
with its eyes staring like a tiger’s
blinking calmly in the daylight sun.

Edward Ragg


… in May… but rescheduled for a zoom reading on November 12!

The Unseen Life of Trees.

for Esther and Jess

When the fraying skeins of silver birch
sway in the wind they think of
lulling water in the floating harbour,

the dried out plants on a deck,
the bespoke barge door cut to close
on a trapezium.

A sparse beech globe of yellow
holds an afternoon with two young friends,
who will walk through their vivid lives

beyond the end of mine.
A ball of mistletoe hangs
way up in spindle branches balancing

a trowel, a ginger cake,
and a framed copy of Jessop’s 1802
‘Design for Improving the Harbour of Bristol’.

Umber banks of oak climb the hillside
dragging children by the hand.
‘There will be time,’ they whisper,

canopy to canopy.
‘There will be time, before
all our leaves stretch out across the frosted ground.’

Chrissie Gittins
The poem is from her new collection Sharp Hills (Indigo Dreams), available from the publisher and Amazon.


Keshite uchi wasurenai

I’d call you and you’d answer in grunts,
huh, uh, um,

and your step-father would despair
money wasted on French exchanges

our reward back home was huh, aw, gawn.
That was when landlines carried messages

but now on visits home you speak to colleagues
from a tiny phone in Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese,

And we have come to places to visit you.
We thought the door was closed on your past

but you left it ajar – on your bedroom walls
are photographs of haystacks, a farmhouse,

you in a rock pool with your brother,
the old oak that overlooks our house and

one of me with you, tiny, in my arms
taken with a polaroid and fading.

Keshite uchi wasurenai Japanese I’ll never forget home

Wendy French
To be published in ‘Bread Without Butter‘ from Rockingham Press later this year 2020.


WRITING DOWN DEEP – an Alchemy of the Writing Life

The talk on February 25 by Jan Fortune as she launched her book on writing was totally inspiring, and had the audience spellbound with its insights, suggestions and ideas – leading to a plethora of questions from the floor.

Jan’s son Rowan, himself an author and editor, interviewed Jan, giving a framework to the evening.

Digging deep, letting the story take you, becoming your story, not being bogged down by ‘end gaining’, writing with joy and freedom, being generous to (and curious about) yourself and your characters, using exercises and journalling…

I for one will definitely read the book and take Jan’s advice!

Jan and Rowan in full flow…

University Poetry Challenge

I couldn’t resist using this title, but what we had the evening of February 4 was not a competition between the University of Greenwich and Goldsmiths. It was an opportunity for us to appreciate the students’ skills with words and for the students to read in front of an audience – something which some had not experienced before. All showed great courage, writing confidence (and many were confident readers, too), a touching solidarity with each other and a wide range of interests and focus, from the very intimate and personal to the fate of whales (which felt equally intimate and personal…). The students had been asked by Cherry Smyth and Blake Morrison to submit a few short poems each, and poet extraordinaire Sascha Akhtar had kindly agreed to select three winner for each university. And to perform some of her poetry at the beginning, while Cherry and Blake did so at the end, after a lively students’ open mic session.

The prizes (book tokens) were presented by Sascha, who commented on the chosen poems. With infinite thanks to PnSEL (Poetry network South East London), who channelled a donation from an anonymous donor to in-words to make it all possible. A memorable evening with a large and very appreciative audience.

Some (rather poor) images of Sascha and some of the winners below. More to follow.

Header video

Nevada Street Poets 10th birthday

Nine distinct voices, ten years of writing, critiquing, growing and having fun – all demonstrated and celebrated during an evening at the lovely West Greenwich Library, made possible again by the generous presence of librarians Debra and Bear.

l-r: Richard Meier, Jocelyn Page, Dominic McLaughlin, Sarah Westcott, Kelley Swain, Lorraine Mariner and Mick Delap

Group members Malene Engelund and David Nash live mostly abroad now and their poems were read by Mick and Lorraine.

It was clear, listening to and looking at the poets, that there is a special trust and affection between them, which no doubt has contributed to the development of their voices. Intimate, revelatory, surprising, touching, funny, structurally free or formal, the lines read made us discover a 12-year-old’s disappointments and hopes, the meaning of owls in our hearts, how scientific tools can trigger poetic imagination, the deeply personal musings about growing older, almost-empty nests. With nature and human connections always present.

I am delighted that a large audience was there to help the celebrations. Thank you all for coming, and may 2020 bring you peace, serenity and health.

IN LINE October 12

As part of the Greenwich Performs festival, in-words and The Greenwich Gallery joined forces to organise a ‘meeting of words and images’. The Gallery’s open exhibition of photographs on the theme of ‘lines’, all taken within the SE10 area, were the inspiration for members of the public, poets and year 6 students from James Wolfe Primary School to write short poems, ditties and…anything really. All the writings were posted on a board and most were read by the four established poets who participated in the afternoon event. Mick Delap, Jane McLaughlin, NJ Hynes and Susannah Hart also read their own works that had a relevance to lines – some were very much about Greenwich and the Meridian, others were about bus lines, train lines, shipping lines, cable lines under the ocean…and most were found, in one way or another, to have a connection with Greenwich.

It was an informal event, with people visiting the exhibition and staying to listen, or deciding not to, or even writing impromptu pieces, all in the lovely, friendly atmosphere created by Tony and Helen Othen at the gallery. Hopefully the first of many collaborations.

With thanks to Joseph Armson from James Wolfe School and all those who contributed. The children’s poems were truly impressive, and may be collated in a booklet. Photos to follow.

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

Baudelaire with Graham Fawcett and Sue Aldred

What a treat it was to hear Graham and Sue give an eye-opening account of this often-misunderstood poet of Paris, yes, but also of the sky, of lust, pleasure, anger and disgust… Canonic translations, mostly by Edna St. Vincent Millay, offered the small select and very engaged audience a glimpse of the dreamer, the lover, the iconoclast, and someone with a definite, if not frequent, twinkle in his eye. We also heard how he became fascinated by Edgar Allan Poe, so much so that he translated many of the American’s works into French, and we discussed other influences on the French poet, Shakespeare’s in particular. As an art critic in his earlier years, visual arts also had a bearing on his view of the world and he in turn influenced later poets, T S Eliot in particular.

We admired Graham and Sue’s mastery of French in both poetry and prose, which highlighted the musicality of the texts with their crescendos, chiaroscuro and dynamic undulation of sounds and moods. Wonderful.

I in particular was delighted that with his Baudelaire Graham completed for me his Seven Olympians cycle (Ovid, Chaucer, Byron, Pushkin, Dickinson and Neruda). If you’ve missed any or indeed you wish to hear any lecture again, please look at grahamfawcett.co.uk

Cinnamon Press Book Launch, September 10

Jan Fortune and Carole Strachan treated us to a very different evening, as they ‘interviewed’ each other about their latest works of fiction, how they differ from, or fit in with, their previous ones, what inspired and inspires them, their editing process, their love for and empathy with the characters they invent and their ways of tackling that most difficult aspect of fiction-writing: endings.

Carole’s works gain strength and credibility from her familiarity with the world she portrays, that of opera – and with the geographical areas in which the plots unfold. And yet she adds dynamic devices like varying points of view, quite a bit of mystery and suspense and different time frames.

Jan’s latest work is the third of her trilogy, and she assured us that there won’t be a fourth in the ‘series’, although her next book will have as protagonist a very minor character from the trilogy. She also uses different points of you and her story fluctuates withing a span of a thousand years and hugely different places.

The Truth in Masquerade and A song of Thyme and Willow (Carole’s) and This is the End of the Story, A Remedy for All Things and For Hope is Always Born (Jan’s) are available from Cinnamon Press (cinnamonpress.com)

Photos by Adam Craig

Cinnamon Press Poetry Book Launch, June 25

Cinnamon Press should be proud to be nurturing, mentoring, editing, publishing and promoting such interesting and diverse poets as Hugh Dunkerley, Mark Fitzgerald, Lizzie Fincham and David Gilbert.

Unfortunately, Lizzie Fincham was unwell and unable to travel over from Wales, and was replaced, very generously, by David Gilbert. Jan Fortune of Cinnamon Press read one poem from Lizzie’s moving three-act collection Green Figs & Blue Jazz, which follows the seasons mapping loss, hope and resolution, so she wasn’t completely absent.

David’s poems made us laugh and touched us deeply, portraying as they did mental illness, family life and couple dynamics. His new collection, comprising these poems, will come out in the autumn.

Hugh Dunkerley’s book, Kin, is a series of poems and prose-poems on the theme of fatherhood from the first glimpse of the foetus in a scan to the unexpected birth of a premature son, and more via science, iconoclastic humour and domesticity, but always original and resonant in content and form.

Mark Fitzgerald read from his second collection for Cinnamon Press, Downburst, a very different voice and not just because Mark lives in Virginia and teaches in Maryland. ‘As rich in sound as in sense, the book is about finding magic in the ordinary, the afterglow of time, family inspirations and resurgences across seasons.’

Books available from Cinnamon Press’s own website and Amazon, or to order from bookshops.

Photos to follow, hopefully…

Four Voices – Dino Mahoney, Jane McLaughlin, Colin Pink and Cherry Smyth

Well, what can I say… On May 7 at the fabulous West Greenwich Library, aided and abetted by the most generous staff (Bear, Daniel and Emma), we were thrilled, moved and entertained by four poets whose inspiration, voices and styles are so different and yet melded beautifully to create a spellbinding evening. No apologies for the superlatives! If you were part of the capacity audience, I’m sure you will agree with me. I nearly forgot to take photographs, but thankfully I did remember, though the dimmed lights didn’t help their quality (see below).

Jane McLaughlin read from her book Lockdown (Cinnamon Press), a collections of poems both flowing and incisive. In Jane’s work these two terms are never in conflict. I don’t know how she does it! Glowing with deep humanity and empathy, her poems are often inspired by her work with students, migrants and refugees.

Dino Mahoney’s poems and his words of introduction to them, made us laugh out loud, but also think and empathise and reflect. His collection, Tutti Frutti (SPM Publications) is full of personal memories and a perfectly pitched sense of time and place, which can, and does, suddenly switch to things like now and Brexit…

Colin Pink’s Acrobats of Sound (Poetry Salzburg) comes from a deep knowledge of classical art and philosophy, which he translates into verses for today, always surprising and acute. Colin also read from his just-published collection, The Ventriloquist Dummy’s Lament (Against the Grain), a book of poems accompanied by woodcuts by Daniel Goodwin.

Cherry Smyth’s Famished (Pindrop Press) is a book-length poem about the Irish Famine – bleak, raw and shocking, but also deeply musical, with more than a hint of the ballad about it and clear parallels with the plight suffered by today’s migrants. Her tour launching the book normally involves reading the entire poem, with the accompaniment of musicians. Spellbinding.

Getting ready to start…

Cherry, Dino, Jane and Colin

The attentive audience…

Jane

Dino

Colin

Cherry

 

All the Way Home

On April 9 we had the pleasure of hosting (at West Greenwich Library) award-winning Irish poet Jane Clarke reading from All the Way Home, her sequence of twenty-one poems responding to one family’s experience of WW1, hot off the press (Smith Doorstop). And what a treat it was!

The backstory: Gill Stoker of the Mary Evans Picture Library (Blackheath), having received a vast archive of letters, drawings, documents and photographs relating to the Auerbach family from Patricia Aubrey (niece of the ‘protagonists’ of this pamphlet) had asked Jane if she could write something in response to it. Jane was awarded a literary bursary form the Arts Council of Ireland, which allowed her to spend eighteen months researching and writing. We were privileged to hear the result just days after publication and the Dublin launch, and before next week’s Manchester launch. Almost by chance, Jane had met Blake Morrison in Dublin late last year, and he agreed to introduce her works on the night, reading two beautiful poems from her previous book (River, Bloodaxe 2015) and from the one due out later in the year, also from Bloodaxe.

The emotional landscape of war for those at the Front and at home is illustrated by Jane’s sequence and the poignant photographs accompanying it. And ‘landscape’ is the key word here, because as Jane explained, the natural world offered her a way in, becoming a unique facilitator with its gift for metaphor and beauty, the everyday and the extraordinary, for echoing losses and the small joys one can experience even in the midst of a catastrophe.

For a ‘proper’ review, do read The Yorkshire Times

Photographs by Paul Brown (Mary Evans Picture Library)

Blake Morrison introducing Jane Clarke (left), with Patricia Aubrey

Gill Stoker and Patricia Aubrey giving the background to the book project

Jane Clarke introducing her pamphlet, in the background one of the photographs from the Auerbach archive

Jane and captive audience in the beautiful Library rotunda

 

As a Man Grows Younger

This new play for one voice by Howard Colyer, performed at the Jack Studio Theatre 19-23 February, was the fruit of an idea and subsequent conversations between myself and Howard a couple of years ago, when it transpired that he was one of the miniscule number of people I knew, who had knowledge of the Italian writer Italo Svevo. Thanks to the play, the number is no longer miniscule! Svevo, pen name of Ettore Schmitz, lived, mostly in Trieste (but also in Charlton…) across the 19th and 20th centuries and was greatly inspired by the Austro-Hungarian culture of the time, Freud included. He was ‘a mixture of things’, full of contradictions and self irony – the perfect basis for James Joyce (his English teacher and friend) to transform him into Leopold Bloom of Ulysses. Well, if you came to the play you’ll know all this. And if you’re intrigued enough to read Svevo’s works, I recommend his novel Confessions of Zeno.

Let me just add that feedback and reviews have been mostly complimentary and I want to thank Howard, Director Kate Bannister, Designer Karl Swinyard and their technical crew for a fantastic job. And of course David Bromley, who in his portrayal of Svevo and Joyce gripped us for 70 minutes with his energy and acting skills. A superb, faultless performance.

Stage photography by Tim Stubbs Hughes.

David Bromley as Svevo

David Bromley as Joyce

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

Events

Summer is finally here and being outside (even better if in good company, now it is possible…) on warmer, long evenings is much healthier than spending them on Zoom. So I’m putting poetry events on ‘pause’ for a little while. It doesn’t mean that thinking, planning and organising are also put on ‘pause’. In fact I’m in contact with the wonderful West Greenwich Library to see whether live events will be possible again in the autumn, even with social distancing still in place. I have no intention of abandoning Zoom, but alternating virtual and in-person readings will be good, and I hope many of you will continue to participate with the enthusiasm for the spoken word you have shown, and for which I thank you.

So, have a healthy, creative and happy summer, and do keep an eye on this website and on your inbox for news…

Monday 8 November at 7.30pm on Zoom

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.