‘Windows’

On Thanksgiving evening, we had the pleasure of listening to the four very different voices of Konstandinos Mahoney, Maggie Butt, David Cooke and Isabel Bermudez. The title was a kind of unifier, but as often happens, a theme or two emerged from the reading and the introductions to each poem, which were powerful and moving and totally topical: one was the plight of the people who flee the horrors of war in their countries, only to find horrors of other kinds in the countries where they are hoping to find refuge. Even the lighter touch in the sketch of Konstandinos’ eccentric Aunt Alice and her thesp-like antics was tinged with sadness and the memory of the flight from a burning Smyrna. Maggie’s everlove was inspired by heartbreaking photographs of migrants by American photographer Mary Behrens (we watched a brief video of some of them, with voiceover by Behrens herself). The construction of her poems and words, sometimes amalgams of words, themselves mirroring doubt, fear, urgency. Maggie manages to be tender and brutally unsentimental at the same time. David took us on a journey in which we had to adjust to different scales, from ants to elephants, and then led us back to the most familiar of landscapes, a back garden. Isabel gave us glimpses of Colombia (but also of England) – powerfully evoking situations, places and people with the precision of her words, never in excess, always exact and essential. Again, a strong theme was that of being ‘foreign’, of belonging and yet not belonging. The second theme was nature, and the threat to it through climate change, present in the poems by all the wonderful readers.

But don’t just rely on my words…do buy the books and see for yourselves!

If you want to buy signed copies, it’s probably easier if you email me irena@in-words.co.uk and I can pass the request on to the poet/s in question, who can then get in touch with you.

For unsigned copies:

For Konstandinos Mahoney’s Tutti Frutti https://spmpublications.com/shop/tutti-frutti-konstandinos-mahoney.html

For Maggie Butt’s everlove https://www.maggiebutt.co.uk

For David Cooke’s Sicilian Elephants https://tworiverspress.com

For Isabel Bermudez’s Serenade www.paekakarikipress.com

Some comments from poet Jane McLaughlin: […] the excellent quality of the readings – these poets understood so well how to engage their audience and read with sensitivity, clarity and drama. […] Another theme is that of love, especially in the first section.  With Bermudez and Mahoney the love of a country, culture, family shines through.

‘Grasp what it is that makes of love

a weed so ordinary and rare’ (Bermudez in “Cow Parsley”)

David Cooke’s sharp and precisely honed poems convey a love for the strangeness and diversity of the world and its history. Maggie Butt captures the love of the refugee woman for her child.

While Zoom loses some of the personal connection of an in-person event it also has some features that the ‘in real life’ does not provide so easily: we could see examples of Isabel Bermudez’ exquisite textile art and the poignant images of exile and displacement preceding Maggie Butt’s poems on refugees.

Thank you Jane.

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!