I’ve been tagged by Rebecca Gethin, poet and novelist to answer set questions relating to my new collection, Eva and George – Sketches in Pen and Brush. I’ve tagged three people – their details are at the end of this post…
The Hayward Gallery’s Touring Exhibition – George Grosz: The Big No. When I first saw the harsh lines – what Grosz termed, “knife-hard lines” – fascinated me, as did the way he dragged people and streets from his pencil. I knew more of Grosz’s paintings than his drawings, so after the exhibition I researched further, discovering the wide range of his work, from the early beginnings as a young man until his death in 1959. Most of the subject matter is tough to look at, and this is how it should be; his paintings are full of cripples, prostitutes, warmongers and the bourgeoisie. Grosz’s summary of war is that “People are pigs”. I wanted to capture Grosz’s world through poetry and have focussed on his life between 1916, when he met his wife, Eva Peter, until they left Germany for America in 1933. The historical information in this collection is accurate and true. The rest is an imagined account of Eva Peter’s life with George Grosz, one of the twentieth century’s great satirical artists. It is Eva’s voice that speaks these poems.
Watch a Youtube clip of The Big No Exhibition.
What genre does your book fall under?
Kenneth Branagh could play Grosz. I saw him in Conspiracy (based on the only surviving record of the 1942 Wannsee Conference) and he was fantastic. It would be good to have him play a man on the other side of Nazi oppression. Grosz had his citizenship revoked, his assets confiscated and a large part of his work destroyed or confiscated. He died in 1959, a victim of Nazi persecution.
Maybe someone like Hilary Swank or Sophie Marceau or Nicole Kidman would make a good Eva. It’s harder to think of an actor for Eva as there isn’t a great deal of biographical material about her. She was a strong woman who lived through the horrors of 20th Century Germany with a man who was devastated by it. Both she and George died in their sixties – far too young.
I think it would make a fabulous film.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
Actually, it all just poured out of me. It was as if Eva Peter was inside me. What took the longest was the research for historical accuracy, and writing the bibliography at the back took a long time to compile.
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
I ran an ekphrastic poetry competition for my students based on The Big No exhibition and realised that to make it fair, I should write a poem too. One poem led to another and another and I found myself inhabiting the lives of the Grosz’s and found that their story needed to be told and poetry is the best medium in which to tell it.
What one sentence would sum up your book?
I’ll take one of George Grosz’s, which I quote at the end of the book:
“I left because of Hitler. He is a painter too,
you know, and there didn’t seem to be
room for us both…”
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
The book includes photographs of the Grosz family as well as illustrations from his collections, Ecco Homo and Hintergrund, courtesy of the Estate of George Grosz, Princeton, New Jersey, USA. They’ve also allowed me to use a painting from 1915 called The Street as the book’s cover.
.Will your book be self-published or published by an agency??
Pindrop Press is publishing it. They did my last book and the production quality is fantastic.
The people I’m going to tag:
Karen Dennison: http://kdennison.wordpress.com/
Kiran Millward-Hargrave: http://www.kiranmillwoodhargrave.co.uk/
Anthony Wilson: http://anthonywilsonpoetry.com/