indoors looking out – out now!

9781527263192

Fanfare!! Here it is, the fruit of my collaboration with the artist Stephen Graham, an A5 booklet of haiku and tanka written under lockdown. The poems draw on observations from my second-floor window of minute changes and fleeting interactions.

Stephen has created a new script inspired by a book of St Cuthbert’s held in the British Library and the Nagari script used in parts of India. There are 28 full colour pages, one poem per page, and the booklet is decorated throughout. Our local printers, PowerPrint, have done a wonderful job. The booklet, in my totally biased opinion, is lush. The look, the feel – and the words, well, you can judge for yourself if you buy a copy.

I really love Stephen’s artwork. At one point during our exchange – mostly carried out by text message – Stephen texted me: ‘our styles fit – you push people to find your meaning, and my odd letters slow people down to thinking pace!’ That’s spot on. Collaborating on this project has given both of us a focus during difficult days. We hope what we’ve made together will resonate with other people.

I am donating £1 per sale to Refuge and Stephen’s proceeds will go to UNHCR for Syrian refugees.

indoors looking out

Recently I’ve been working on a collaboration, indoors looking out, with the artist Stephen Graham, and I’m delighted that some of our work has been selected for the online exhibition Covent-19 – Voicing Responses Under Lockdown. You’ll be able to view the exhibition on Instagram from 8th May to 5th June.

The collaboration began on the eve of lockdown, as an informal artistic exchange, with no idea as to where, if anywhere, it might lead. I know Stephen through our community garden. He’s a regular visitor to the garden and our artist-in-residence, creating a beautiful hand-designed pamphlet for the garden a couple of years ago. With the garden closed to the public during lockdown, I suggested to Stephen that I could try to write a short poem each day, and then text it to him to illustrate or interpret as he saw fit. Stephen was up for this, and so our collaboration began.

I haven’t written a poem every day, but more often than not when I’ve sat at my desk in the morning, I’ve managed to produce something. I’ve found the restrictions of the short Japanese forms of haiku and tanka a good frame to work within, and the subject matter is mostly drawn from observations from my second-floor window. Stephen’s pieces in response vary from abstract designs to loose illustrations; each one includes the poem in Stephen’s ‘odd letters’, as he describes them.

Covent19 E-invite-page-0

It’s just over a week ago that I saw the call out on Instagram for creative work in response to the lockdown, and suggested to Stephen that we submit several pieces. We’re grateful to the Covent-19 curators, Faryal Arif & Nadin Hassan, for this opportunity to share some of our work. And we’re now working towards publishing a booklet. Do check out the online exhibition if you can. I’m looking forward to seeing how people around the world have responded creatively to these current weird/difficult/strange/whatever-you-call-them times. I feel lucky to have this focus and creative outlet – I know many people are struggling. Hope you and your loved ones are keeping safe and well.

hippo haiku

Late yesterday afternoon we walked up towards Vauxhall, along the narrow and uneven pavements of Battersea Park Road and Nine Elms Lane, construction sites lining both sides of the road. Then tucked in to follow the river path and soon spotted up ahead, in the cloud-darkened waters, a large curved honey-coloured structure being towed towards the south bank at Nine Elms. The new floating sculpture from Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman, commissioned for the Totally Thames festival, the marvellously named HippopoThames. We joined the crowd gathering to greet London’s latest interloper, and before long the sun came out to bathe her (I think this hippo is female) in golden September rays. There were a few stands set up with activities for kids, some free refreshments, and a river archeologist showing some of the objects, both ancient and more recent, found along the length of the Thames. London’s writer development agency Spread the Word were there, encouraging people to write haiku or other pieces inspired by Hofman’s installation. We picked up an exercise sheet each and found a bench slightly away from the hobnobbing hubbub, and set about our homework. That’s what it felt like. And then this is what I love about writing: despite the doubting voices in my head – I’ve never written a haiku. I feel exposed. All my ideas are trite and obvious. – a phrase formed, I groped around at the outer edges of my brain and dredged up another, I wandered over to gaze at the river and the friendly hippo; and finally, there in my notebook, a haiku took shape.

tethered river horse
smirking from tidal massage.
a sunburst of wows.

 

HippopoThames, Nine Elms, 2 September 2014
HippopoThames, Nine Elms, 2 September 2014
Sunlit rear view
Sunlit rear view