A collaboration between Colchester’s Poetry Society Stanza Group, Mosaic, and local artists, resulted in a book called Stone’s Throw. The project was co-ordinated and organised by Sheena Clover, Mosaic’s chair, and I had the pleasure of designing and putting the book together. The book contains the work of nineteen partnerships – a poet and an artist were paired up and each responded to the other’s work resulting in a rich and varied selection of poems and artworks. It was launched as part of Essex Book Festival on Saturday 11th March at Colchester’s Minories art gallery to a packed room, together with an exhibition of the poems and artworks. The exhibition continues until Sunday 19th March and is well worth a visit.
The Swell, a pamphlet of fifteen poems, by Jessica Mookherjee is published by Telltale Press and beautifully produced with a stunning cover illustration by Hannah Clare. Bengali by heritage, Jessica was brought up in South Wales and many of the poems reflect on a life between two cultures.
This collection begins with Snapshot where the speaker grapples with a childhood in which her parents are disappointed at not having had a boy. Whilst trying to console them in ways only a child can she also hides her own conflicting emotions – ‘no evidence that I tried not to slip and break my neck’.
Red explores the speaker growing up, questioning convention, cleverly weaving the colour red through the poem, including the red tikka on her mother’s forehead that ‘looked like someone had shot her’ and evoking images of blood. By the end of the poem she’s in a failing…
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Loss sleeps on the lawn, curls
on the wicker chair, creeps
across sunlit grass,
scatters a buttercup path,
chain of thoughts;
leads to a place
where memories are filtered
as if through glass.
White clematis drowse, droop
like handkerchiefs. Heat
sedates grief, drips
on the agave leaves
silvers the patio with trails,
sinks in moss. Sky swims,
aches with loss.
Published in Poetry Salzburg Review, No.29
ornith-ology – the poetry of birds is a celebratory anthology produced by Poetry Wivenhoe in association with Mosaic and I was delighted to be asked to design the cover and put the book together. It was a pleasure working with Pam Job (Poetry Wivenhoe) and Judith Wolton (Mosaic).
It was edited by Tim Cunningham, a poet who divides his time between Essex and Ireland and who has published six poetry collections. Tim selected thirty poems submitted by poets from the two groups. Also included are several illustrations from artists practising locally (Richard Allen, Charlotte Bernays, Sheena Clover, Karen Dennison and Janie Grote).
“This delightful anthology has something for everyone who loves birds and language. Not deliberately thematic, it looks at identifying features, habitats, feeding habits, migration, birds free and ‘pets’, environment, folklore and anecdotes, even romance. Essentially, it is a celebration of how ubiquitous birds enhance our lives. Open any page and you will hear birdsong and a flutter of feathers.” Tim Cunningham
Copies will be available at £7 at the official launch at Poetry Wivenhoe on Thursday 24th November 2016 when the editor will be talking about the process of editing the anthology and will be reading some of his own poems. Also available from Pam Job firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the third time that Elly Nobbs and I have given each other images to respond to. It’s a great way to inspire new writing.
Scene Noir — The Protector
The shadow by my elbow
says, Never mind. A gun hides
under wrapping paper.
It’s up to me to use,
all the other party goers.
They have no clue.
I grip the thing, contemplate
its heaviness; hide
it behind, in the waistband
of my jeans like the FBI
agents do on Netflix.
Resigned that the plot calls
for this protagonist
to shoot her mouth off, roaring
— Let’s be done with it!
I asked Elly about the story behind this photo. In the 1960s her parents bought the adjoining small farm which had belonged to an ancient brother and sister. The barn was full of stuff of all sorts – old magazines etc…nothing ever thrown out. As it was gradually falling down it became dangerous so in 1978 Elly’s parents had the Fire Department come and burn down the barn.
He piled up her letters to him,
together with photographs, favourite novels,
diaries he’d penned, poured on lighter fluid.
How she and he melted in Rome and Paris,
fluttered like moths into the night, flames twisting
into ghosts, exorcised as smoke; words re-written as ash,
while the crackling edifice collapsed.
Years later, loss hits him like sunlight
through magnifying glass
onto the crumpled sheets of paper
where he’s written his heart.
What he would give to go back,
unstrike the match, save one photo,
frame the face he can no longer picture.