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Ekphrasis, the British Library and Alice in Wonderland

alicesml

Lewis Carroll: ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’
British Library Add. MS 46700, f.19v
Copyright © The British Library Board
A high-quality version of this image can be purchased from British Library Images Online. For more information email imagesonline@bl.uk

ALICE AT THE BRITISH LIBRARY

We are delighted to announce that our next Ekphrasis event will take place in conjunction with the British Library and the Alice in Wonderland exhibition.

2015 is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice in Wonderland and the year will culminate with an exhibition opening in November, which will be exploration of the book itself and the themes it explores in the main foyer of the British Library. Very excitingly our evening event will also take place in the main foyer of the British Library on March 4th 2016 and it will be a cabaret of poetry and song written especially in response to the work on display.

We are inviting poets and songwriters from all over the country to take part but this time we also wish to compile and publish a full anthology of Alice inspired poetry and will commission poets to write their own poem in response to the exhibition or to any aspect of the book.

We will also, as before, invite poem submissions from everyone inspired in some way by Alice, two of whom will be invited to join us on stage in the evening, with the publication of a further three other winning poems offered within the anthology.

It is hard to imagine a world without Alice. Reading it today, it still seems fresh and alive. And so we invite you all to consider your own response to this classic, thinking through any of the very many ways Carroll has shaped or freed our imagined world, our perception of childhood, even our very use of language.
Keats

WHO WE ARE

Emer Gillespie, Abegail Morley and Catherine Smith, together we share a passion for creating a dialogue between the arts.

‘It’s the exciting bit, really….how arts practitioners in one sphere can take something created by an arts practitioner in another sphere and see something fresh and inspiring in it,’ Catherine Smith

‘I find that what I see and read sets off a chain of thoughts in my own head that can lead to a poem I would never have thought of writing in the first place. The poem furthers my communication with a work of art, I can talk back to it, talk back to the artist who created it, or explore the resonance it creates inside me,’ Emer Gillespie.

EKPHRASIS provides an evening of conversation and exploration inviting collaboration with some of the most original voices working in poetry today.

Exhibition details will be posted up on the British Library site shortly.

Previously we worked with The Royal Academy of Arts:

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Robert Peake on Reading at the Royal Academy

Stolen from his blog with kind permission: here

Last night I participated in a truly unique poetry reading sponsored by Ekphrasis. A dozen of us poets dispersed ourselves amongst installations in the Sensing Spaces architectural exhibit at the Royal Academy. As patrons wandered through the exhibits, we read poems to them, which we had written in response to these very spaces.

It was challenging. Bursting into poetry as the spirit moved me felt a bit like trying photo-1-300x300to be a one-man flashmob. Having never done any busking, I was unaccustomed to people wandering into or out of a room while I was reading a poem. Based on their responses, I think it was challenging, too, for the patrons. I saw many a bemused and bewildered smile.

Often, when we encounter something surprising like a provocative art installation, we seek guidance–in the placards on the walls, or the words of a knowledgeable guide. Yet we poets were the opposite of guides–raising yet more questions in response to their questions, bringing our own thoughts, music, and imagery to bear. The patrons were therefore simultaneously experiencing their own responses to the installations, and responding to ours. Challenging, indeed.

Yet challenge is not a bad thing in art; far from it. Being of service to an artistic experience, even if it is a bit personally uncomfortable to pull off, is always a privilege. To do something truly original like this is rare. We are so accustomed to the conventions of performance, so comfortable in knowing our place on either side of the “fourth wall”.

A film crew was on site to record the evening’s antics. Having individuals dressed in black point high-end videography equipment at you pretty well guarantees that people will gather in the form of an audience, and clap at the end. It is a familiar format; it tells us our roles. Yet some of the most interesting moments for me involved a more causal mix of reading, conversing, and admiring the spaces. I also managed to experience several other poets reading as well, which was fascinating, and made me feel proud to take part.

The challenge of it also brought us poets together with a sense of solidarity. For the patrons, I think it added an element of surprise. There was an atmosphere of playfulness last night that I had not experienced in my previous visit. You never knew when you might round a corner, and there would be someone reading a poem. I felt a bit like a poetry ninja.

Ekphrasis also put together a handsome anthology of the poems, which they made available to us all on the night. Hearty thanks are due, and congratulations, to Emer Gillespe and Abegail Morley for pulling this off with such grace, as well as Owen Hopkins of the RA, Kate Goodwin the curator of the Sensing Spaces exhibit, and of course the six remarkable architects who realised these installations for us all to enjoy. Here’s to more layered and provocative artistic experiences to come.

You can read all six poems I wrote in response to the Sensing Spaces exhibit, and listen to audio recordings, on my Sensing Spaces, Wandering Words page.

Robert Peake

Robert Peake is an American poet living in England. His newest short collection is The Silence Teacher (Poetry Salzburg, 2013). His previous short collection was Human Shade (Lost Horse Press, 2011).

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EKPHRASIS at the Royal Academy

Sensing Spaces: Wandering Words

sensing

Friday March 7 2014 7pm – 9pm

Seven internationally influential architects transform the main galleries of the Royal Academy of Art in London, ten poets respond to their work in an exciting evening of peripatetic poetry.

‘Imagine, feel, share, explore, touch, reflect’ – where we are shapes how we feel, what we hear colours our experience… We are delighted to announce our first event in collaboration with the Royal Academy.

The poets contributing response to Sensing Spaces are:

Patricia Debney Sasha Dugdale Ian Duhig Martin Figura Vanessa Gebbie Emer Gillespie Helen Ivory Maureen Jivani Edward Mackay Abegail Morley Robert Peake Catherine Smith Tamar Yoseloff

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Two members of the public will be invited to read as part of the evening alongside established poets. If you would like to take part, please send your work to info@ekphrasis.org.uk

Tickets for the event can be booked on the main RA website.

Sensing Spaces: Architecture Reimagined

25 January — 6 April 2014

http://www.royalacademy.org.uk/sensingspaces

WHO WE ARE

Abegail Morley, Catherine Smith and Emer Gillespie, together we share a passion for creating a dialogue between the arts.

‘It’s the exciting bit, really….how arts practitioners in one sphere can take something created by an arts practitioner in another sphere and see something fresh and inspiring in it,’ Catherine Smith

‘I find that what I see and read sets off a chain of thoughts in my own head that can lead to a poem I would never have thought of writing in the first place. The poem furthers my communication with a work of art, I can talk back to it, talk back to the artist who created it, or explore the resonance it creates inside me,’ Emer Gillespie.

EKPHRASIS provides an evening of conversation and exploration inviting collaboration with some of the most original voices working in poetry today.

Catherine Smith

Otherwhere: Catherine Smith

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THE SPAGHETTI HARVEST

In 1957, BBC’s ‘Panorama’ announced that due to a very mild winter and the virtual elimination of the dreaded spaghetti weevil, Swiss farmers were enjoying a bumper crop. Huge numbers of viewers called the BBC asking how they could grow their own spaghetti tree.
Not for us, the back-breaking digging,
Wellingtons sinking deep into sticky mud,

spade-handles callusing our hands.
No, we’ve switched, gone Continental.

We started with one tree, but now we’ve
a small orchard! At harvest time,

the whole family’s involved. Up at dawn
for prayers round the table, giving thanks

for God’s great blessing –  the mild winter,
early spring. We sing the special

harvesting song as we reach up, lay
damp strands in our wicker baskets.

It’s a marvel, how straight
and blonde it is. Like a Princess’s hair!

our daughters say. You can‘t say that
about spuds, can you? We lay it

on towels, dry it in the sun. It keeps
for months, never loses flavour.

Our neighbours don’t speak to us,
leave their windows open

when they’re roasting potatoes
in duck-fat and home-grown rosemary.

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Otherwhere Smiths/Doorstop 62pp | 978-1-906613-76-1 Available here

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‘Her scary, unsettling voice seems unexpected in poetry, and cuts her free of the crowd’ said The Times of Smith’s earlier work. Her latest, unputdownable collection is as unpredictable as ever – including as it does the spaghetti harvest and the drought of 1976, vegetarian hangovers, horse-racing, teenage girls inhaling helium and cats brought in a case through customs. Sexy, sassy and recklessly wise writing.’

‘Catherine Smith’s poems are at once visceral and delicate. The mythical seeps through the tang and stench of the everyday and asserts itself, triumphant and strange’ — Sasha Dugdale

‘Seductive and hugely enjoyable … a celebration of the human condition by a poet at the top of her game’ — Neil Rollinson

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Catherine’s first pamphlet, The New Bride, was a winner in the 2000 Book & Pamphlet Competition and shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Her first book, The Butcher’s Hands, was a PBS Recommendation, and won the Aldeburgh/Jerwood Prize for Best First Collection. Her collection, Lip, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection.

Catherine’s poetry has been widely published in magazines and anthologies, and she has won prizes for her short stories. She writes narratives of alienation, engaging with dream, nightmare and the surreal, peopled by characters at the edge and sometimes beyond the edge. Intense and even at times grotesque (the pages are littered with obsessives, a vampire, the ghost of a jealous wife, ‘Charades’ with an s & m subtext) her poetry is always convincingly well-observed, imaginative and ultimately life-affirming. Born in 1962 in Windsor, educated at Windsor Girls’ School and the Universities of Bradford and Sussex; Catherine now live in Lewes, East Sussex, married with two adult sons.

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Snow Child

My new collection is out in November from Pindrop Press. Some (kind) people are saying the sort of thing I’ve pasted below. If you’d like to be a kind person please go to: Pindrop Pressand bag yourself a copy.

The launch is at the Phoenix Artists Club on November 15th at 7.30pm.

And one kind person says…
Abegail Morley’s Snow Child gifts us bold, unflinching, memorable poems, dazzling in their precision and clarity. This is a poet who faces life’s wonders, complexities and losses head-on, and invites us on a lyrical journey which will, at times, take our breath away.  Catherine Smith

“Intensely personal poems of love, desertion, obsession, written with great skill and delicacy yet with a disturbing sparsity and uncanny detachment. Snow Child is a captivating and impressive collection.”  Malcolm Carson

“At the heart of Abegail Morley’s powerful second collection is a deep sense of loss. The poems work at countering that loss with tangible visceral images that both disturb and sing with their own gorgeousness. Morley has captured just what it feels like to be living inside a skin so thin, the sun burns right through in all its lucid glory.”   Helen Ivory