Posts Tagged ‘London’

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

February 10, 2021

Lockdown London looks particularly beautiful in snow, and when it snows, the first thing I do is go out and get a snowball to use for painting it. Here above is our London street, and below, the February page of my artist’s book From Grass to Harvest, which sets lines from Virginia Woolf’s The Years, one page for each month, in a concertina book that allows the December page and the January page to be tied together, so that the year circles seamlessly round. I painted the snow here with Titanium white mixed with snowmelt, so that the snow itself has a material presence in the painting – and took as my subject the view from our window of a street that Virginia Woolf passed along many times on her way to visit her friend Roger Fry, who lived nearby.

This book, indeed this page, features in an online preview of my forthcoming exhibition The Prospect of Happiness at Hampstead’s Burgh House, which was postponed from last year due to the first lockdown, but will be on show before too long. Meanwhile, I keep adding extra works into the preview, so it’ll probably need the Albert Hall by the time it’s actually installed; you can have your own private view here.

I love everything about snow – walking in it, writing in it, eating it, painting it, painting with it. I love how it covers up all the black plastic and the rubbish bins and transforms them, along with everything else, into elements of a visionary landscape of the imagination. I love how it starts stealthily, casually, and then builds to a great crescendo, whirling round the lamp-posts and obliterating everything that is not snow, until our London street becomes a country lane, timeless, uninhabited, silent, except for the faint breath of the falling snow. Last night, hearing a crystalline scratching, I looked up at our skylight to see nothing but an icy white blanket, and realised I was listening to the cosmic song of the snow.

These pages are from Snow like thought, my artist’s book setting a poem of that name by Jeremy Hooker. 

You can find the poem in his wonderful recent Selected Poems 1965 – 2018, from Shearsman Books, who say of him: ‘Jeremy Hooker is a literary explorer, and a poet with a powerful sense of place, whose joy in the landscape and his surroundings shines through the entire body of his work.’ I find his poetry constantly inspiring, and I love the way he always writes with a sense of the individual in the landscape, fully engaging with an always changing world. His poems evoke what he calls ‘an ever-elusive reality’ not by definitive description, but rather by allusive images, and a visionary openness that draws the reader into a closer relationship with the living landscape and the ideas and memories it embodies, ‘the life flowing through the leaf’. 

Snow like thought

because it arrives

seemingly from nowhere

small flakes wandering

sideways

down & up & down

then faster, heavier

bringing up

deeper silence

from some place not dreamed of

that was always there.

Each poem ends with a sense of underlying silence; it is where questions continue, and I hope to find a new beginning.

Jeremy Hooker, Selected Poems 1965-2018 (the poem and his words quoted by kind permission of the poet)

Inspired, I’ve just started work on a new artist’s book, with today’s fresh, timeless snow.  

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Journeys of imagination

February 18, 2020

New from The Pottery Press

F4C7B535-6A9A-403D-BACC-5466C2EC7DEAWanderer by Maureen Duffy

New poetry by ‘one of Britain’s foremost writers’ (Guardian), and ‘a unique literary talent’ (Sarah Waters)

We travel with Maureen Duffy on the Wanderer’s terrifying voyage, on exploratory passages to India and Ravenna, on a very English train-ride, to concerts and galleries (and on the journeys of imagination they stimulate), through the gardens and street-markets of London, and to the junkshop of the remembered past. Maureen Duffy describes one of these poems as ‘a kind of elegy to life and love’, the ultimate theme of this brave and passionate collection.

Maureen Duffy’s published some 34 works of fiction – since her first novel That’s How it Was came out in 1962 to immediate acclaim – and at least 10 collections of inspiring poetry including her wonderful Collected Poems. Then there’s her non-fiction including biographies of Henry Purcell, Aphra Benn and Britain itself. And then she’s written some 16 plays for stage, screen and radio, including Rites at the National Theatre, and recently Hilde & Virginia at London’s Jermyn Street Theatre, with Sarah Crowden. Maureen’s play Sappho Singing has recently been adapted as a film, to be premiered on International Women’s Day (8th March) 2020 at the Coronet Theatre in Notting Hill. And Paper Wings, lettering artist Liz Mathews’ artist’s book setting Maureen Duffy’s love-poem cycle Songs for Sappho is currently on show in the British Library’s Treasures Gallery.

Wanderer, Maureen Duffy’s new collection, is as inspiring as ever. Brave, truth-telling, passionate and tough, these poems speak vividly of the cosmic and the local, and how the two are connected. Intimate, entertaining, yet characteristically engaged with the dark troubles of humanity, they are drawn from her London life, her East End roots, and her lifelong themes and empathies, confirming her local alliegiancies and her citizenship of Europe and the world in multi-coloured words.

’Tough poems, made of the rough substance of real lives… a beautiful answering back against the worst.’ (David Constantine)

Wanderer by Maureen Duffy

Pottery Press pamphlet 5, 48 pages with 31 full-colour images setting the poems by lettering artist Liz Mathews

ISBN 978-0-9930171-5-5

£9.99

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3B868791-9A27-4E1C-8DBD-077971230311London Panopticon by Frances Bingham

Today’s the day. Sometimes it seems that this day, today, whichever day it is, might be the last chance to – do what? – something essential, yet unnameable, before the deluge. Seize the moment…

Blue makes a London pilgrimage from the Thames up to Hampstead Heath, walking through time and the city, meeting Londoners past and present on the way. A litany of London voices – irascible Jeremy Bentham, Wose the tree-guardian, Virginia Woolf street-haunting, Fletcher the sacked banker and innumerable others – sing their city incantation: protest song, lament, celebration.

London Panopticon also draws on a Londoner’s perspective, on a visionary journey within this heartland. Frances Bingham, like Maureen Duffy, writes across the literary spectrum, and has published fiction, poetry, non-fiction and plays, most recently Comrade Ackland and I for BBC Radio 4. She has rediscovered the neglected poetry of Valentine Ackland in Journey from Winter (Carcanet 2008), her acclaimed critical edition, and her definitive biography of Ackland is forthcoming next year (2021). London Panopticon really defies categorisation, encompassing short-form fiction, lyrical prose-poetry and play-script; the narrator Blue makes a journey through the day and the city, and encounters places and people at the heart of the city. I’ll just call it an urban Under Milk Wood, inspired by London itself.

‘London Panopticon is more than a pamphlet. As sparkling and all-encompassing as the city itself, it is a vision, a love song, a pilgrimage, a perfect union of image and word. And it takes one’s breath away!’  Mimi Khalvati

London Panopticon  by Frances Bingham

Pottery Press pamphlet no 4, 80 pages with 28 b/w images by lettering artist Liz Mathews

ISBN 978-0-9930-171-4-8

£9.99

Both books available from The Pottery Press, or to order from your local bookshop.