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

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!