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

Events

‘Proper’ summer is finally here and, while I’m reluctant to start thinking about autumn, I am inevitably and joyfully beginning to plan the first event of the ‘new term’. The first thing I did was to look back at all the in-words events from the very first one in January 2017, and I realised that over five years I hosted 49 readings, including a number of lectures by Graham Fawcett. 49! What shall I do for the 50th? I’m thinking that, although it would limit the numbers in the audience, I would really love to have an in-person event at the West Greenwich Library, like ‘in the old days’. And you never know, I may even be able to get to grips with ‘hybrid’…. Of course, it will depend of many factors, and as soon as I can, I shall post a date if not a full programme.

I love the new animation at the top of my homepage. Thanks to Paul Kley for creating it. The words on the flying page are not a quotation but a whole poem, a favourite of mine, by the Italian hermetic poet Giuseppe Ungaretti. It is impossible to translate, though countless attempts have been made. I am sure you can guess its meaning and I leave you to create your own ‘translation’ of it. Ungaretti fought in the trenches and those two lines represent a moment one morning – pared down to a sense of the absolute, maybe also of possibilities?

As we emerge from a not-yet-over pandemic and wake up every morning feeling the dread of conflict but also aware of the beauty of spring and the blessing of nature and community, Ungaretti’s words are more than ever appropriate.

I am taking a break from organising things over the summer. Whether I will be as dynamic as the train above, or I’ll take time on a siding, I’m not yet sure.

Either way, I am always happy to hear from you with thoughts and ideas, and wish to thank you for your support so far.

Be well!