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

 

Events

Thursday 23 September at 7.30 on Zoom

Launch of Afterlives by John Barnie, in collaboration with Cinnamon Press

Afterlives sees John Barnie engaging with images once again, as he did in his book A Year of Flowers. Here, Barnie deploys his skills of perception to respond to a group of paintings in Peter Lord’s art collection. These are images that have been familiar to Barnie for years, yet he approaches them with characteristic freshness and humanity. There are no mere descriptions here. Rather, Barnie inhabits the images, speaking from within or engaging with their subjects as a persona just outside the frame. And as he does so, we are taken on a narrative journey, gaining insight into not only how poetry and art interrogate one another, but how each image, peered at ‘through thick cracking varnish’, reveals layers of history and the mores that accrete into hierarchies, prejudices, injustices and the inability to read one another across cultural gaps. The poems in Afterlives reverberate with the ghosts from the pictures, whose roles are still being played out in the divisive echo-chambers of today’s insiders and outsiders. Rich with social commentary, delivered with wit, and sometimes a hint of mischief, there is a serious intent at work here: the voice of those who know ‘whose tragedy they are in’ — ‘their own’. And who know also that they: ‘will defy anything / that gets in their way’.

John will read from Afterlives (accompanied by illustrations) and A Report from Alpha Centauri.

Author biography

John Barnie is a poet and essayist from Abergavenny, Gwent. John lived in Denmark from 1969-1982 and was the editor of Planet, The Welsh Internationalist from 1990-2006. He has published several collections of poems, mixed poems and fiction, and two collections of essays, one of which, The King of Ashes, won a Welsh Arts Council Prize for Literature in 1990. His collection Trouble in Heaven (Gomer, 2007) was on the Wales Book of the Year 2008 Long List. Cinnamon Press has published several previous collections: The Forest Under the Sea, The Roaring Boys, Wind Playing with a Man’s Hat, Departure Lounge, and Sunglasses as well as his latest collections, the richly illustrated Afterlives and A Report to Alpha Centauri. Cinnamon also published the memoir, Footfalls in the Silence and an anthology of poetry and prose in honour of John Barnie, Wired to the Dynamo, edited by Matt Jarvis.

John plays guitar in the blues and poetry group Hollow Log.

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.

Thursday 25 November at 7.30 on Zoom

An evening with Isabel Bermudez, Maggie Butt, David Cooke and Dino Mahoney. More details nearer the time, but I already know it’s going to be unmissable!