The Writer’s Eye: Poets who Paint

This event took place on April 26 on Zoom and was the first collaboration between in-words and Pindrop Press (pindroppress.com). Pindrop is run single-handedly by Sharon Black – publisher, editor, mentor, designer… Her interest in the visual (book covers in particular) and my own interest in pairing (in a very loose sense) images and verse led to this choice of theme. The result was a challenging mix, as far from ekphrastic poetry, if that’s what one expected, as one can get. Sharon introduced Mike Barlow, Pam Thompson and Ole Hagen.

The word ‘consolation’ is one that resonates in many fields at these difficult times. Poetry provides consolation in various, very personal ways. But as the poet laureate recently said, ‘there’s consolation in concentration’ and for our attentive international audience, concentrating on, and later discussing, the poems and visual artworks by the three poets provided consolation as well as stimulation.

Mike Barlow’s poems and paintings (and one sculpture) did not shock but provoked a pang of recognition that grew as each verse, each choice of words reached a depth all of their own. Themes like ‘elsewhere’ and ‘lost and found’ challenged us while we were allured in by the seemingly ‘conventional’ form.

Pam Thompson’s work bounced us between the immediately recognisable and the experimental. I for one found it comforting that it is possible to play with written words, even those by our ‘heroes’. Her paintings expanded on this, with ‘elsewhere’ being a repeated theme.

This crescendo of playfulness reached its apex with Ole Hagen’s set, which brought a non-English absurdist turn to the evening, with surreal images, gestures, chanting and use of repetition.

I feel delighted that such a different event, a true end-of-term-extravaganza, marked the beginning of in-words summer break.

Do contact pindroppress.com to buy collections by these amazing poets, and others!

Growing Well

Last night Zoom allowed us to connect with two poets from Norfolk, Peter Wallis and Jenny Pagdin, and it was a moving and memorable evening. The title united the main themes – illness, recovery and… allotments. And for me there was a further meaning: the word ‘well’ as a noun, signifying something dug deep, from which life emerges as pure water. There was so much sense of love and consolation as well as deep pain, sorrow, raw honesty and plain hard work in the very different but somehow parallel sequences of poems. And yet no self pity or self indulgence. As Phil Hawtin, a member of the audience, commented, Peter and Jenny “demonstrated the craft of dealing with near impossible subjects, and seeking the positive.” And another one, Caroline, said, “Such inspiring and thought-provoking works: where the poets also gave us a window into their lives, which made it all the more relatable.”

Jenny’s experience of post-natal psychosis and her subsequent recovery were mapped in raw, immediate language, her reading accompanied by some original images. Peter’s reading unfolded in seven ‘episodes’, which included verses inspired by his twin brother’s illness, by his family’s involvement in an allotment and by his own involvement in different and unique projects – assisting Ida Affleck Graves in getting her poems ‘sorted’ (http://www.peterwallis.co.uk/ida-affleck-graves/), becoming Submissions Editor for ‘Poems in the Waiting Room’ (http://www.poemsinthewaitingroom.org) and using poetry with people in care homes.

I feel so grateful for such an uplifting experience provided by Jenny and Peter at this difficult time.

Peter’s signed collection of poems about being an identical twin, Articles of Twinship, is available from the Contact Page at peterwallis.co.uk

Jenny’s pamphlet Caldbeck can be bought following this link https://blackspringpressgroup.com/products/caldbeck

A deeply relaxing, moving tonic of an evening listening to some beautiful poetry being read where the poets shared their life stories with us in both words and in their works (Nadia Ostacchini, Artistic Director, Tricolore Theatre Company)

A beautiful, brave, and graceful reading (Wendy Klein, poet)

Events

Tuesday September 13 in-person at West Greenwich Library – 7 to 9pm (and possibly streamed)

50!

To celebrate the 50th in-words event (not counting all pre-2017 readings and launches), I have invited some of the poets who have been with me from the beginning – I wish I could have invited more… – to read from their latest collections.

You will recognise many of the names: Graham High, NJ Hynes, Rosie Johnston, Alex Josephy, Lorraine Mariner, Fiona Moore, Jane McLaughlin, Colin Pink and Sarah Westcott.

Nine diverse and distinctive voices, no particular theme but one or two will no doubt emerge as we listen.

I wish to thank Mick Delap, who will be unable to participate, for encouraging me to set off on this wonderful journey years ago. Thanks Mick!

If you can attend in person, there’s no need for tickets as it is as always a free event, but it would be good to have an idea of numbers, since I’m providing refreshments, so please drop me an email (irena@in-words.co.uk or irena.mh50@gmail.com) any time between now and September 10.

If you can only attend virtually, please email me your interest and I will send you any streaming details and info (assuming it’s possible to stream). Zoom will resume when the weather turns, later in the year….

I look forward to seeing many of you on this special occasion. And pass it on!

West Greenwich Library, 146 Greenwich High Road, London SE10 8NN