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

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