Pictures and Poetry Online Workshops April, May, June

Pictures and Poetry

In these workshops, we use artworks as the inspiration for writing ekphrastic poetry (poetry inspired by pictures). They are run in partnership with Hereford Mind, Heffernan House, Hereford, to help people maintain their mental health and equilibrium, which is of course all of us! Now in the lockdown we are delivering these sessions via zoom. If you would like to attend the next session, or add you poems to the ones inspired from this session, please message manager@poetry-festival.co.uk. We are very grateful to practitioner Sara Jane Arbury for changing to online delivery and sharing her transcripts for sessions. Scroll down for transcript of April’s session on the paintings of Edward Hopper, and May’s session on Journeys. 

Session 1st July 2020

EXERCISE ONE: This is a warm-up writing exercise called Lines About Headlines

Choose a headline from this list and write a poem/piece inspired by it. This may be stream-of-consciousness thoughts, a newspaper item, a diary entry, a piece from the point of view of a character involved in the story, an interview…etc.

The headlines have been collected from newspapers since March 2020. They can be used as prompts to write lockdown poems from different angles.

EXERCISE TWO: The theme of this exercise is THE ART OF L S LOWRY
This part is about looking closely at Lowry’s artworks and considering example poems.

Let’s begin with some quotes by Lowry on art:
“You don’t need brains to be a painter, just feelings.”

“I am not an artist. I am a man who paints.”

“If people call me a Sunday painter, I’m a Sunday painter who paints every day the week.”

“My ambition was to put the industrial scene on the map, because nobody had done it, nobody had done it seriously.”

“I wanted to paint myself into what absorbed me … Natural figures would have broken the spell of it, so I made my figures half unreal. Some critics have said that I turned my figures into puppets, as if my aim were to hint at the hard economic necessities that drove them. To say the truth, I was not thinking very much about the people. I did not care for them in the way a social reformer does. They are part of a private beauty that haunted me. I loved them and the houses in the same way: as part of a vision.”

“I am a simple man, and I use simple materials: ivory black, vermilion, Prussian blue, yellow ochre, flake white and no medium. That’s all I’ve ever used in my paintings. I like oils … I like a medium you can work into over a period of time.” While Lowry often claimed to only use these five colours, he also used titanium white and zinc white. This use of other paints became helpful when determining that works were genuine and not forgeries.

Lowry on painting his Seascapes:
“It’s the battle of life – the turbulence of the sea … I have been fond of the sea all my life, how wonderful it is, yet how terrible it is. But I often think … what if it suddenly changed its mind and didn’t turn the tide? And came straight on? If it didn’t stay and came on and on and on and on … That would be the end of it all.”

There is a lot of information about the life and work of L S Lowry here:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L._S._Lowry

For more information about Lowry, visit: https://thelowry.com/

Information about Lowry’s work can also be found here: https://www.christies.com/features/10-things-to-know-about-LS-Lowry-8657-1.aspx

Take a close look at the following artworks by Lowry. Consider how they work as art, how and why were they created, how the artworks make you feel, etc…

Pictures from L to R clockwise:

L.S. Lowry: Going To Work (1943)
LS Lowry’s iconic painting ‘Going to Work,’ was commissioned in 1943 at the height of the Second World War by the War Artists Advisory Committee (WAAC). Heavy industry was playing a crucial role in the war effort and the WAAC wanted to reflect that in their art collection.  Filled with all the signature features that have made Lowry such a much-loved artist, ‘Going to Work,’ is set in front of the Mather & Platt engineering works in Manchester as the crowd of matchstick workers flow into the factory. The white sky and ground, originally thought to be snow, is in fact an evocation of industrial haze. At the time, Lowry was paid 25 guineas for the commission and finished ‘Going to Work’ in three months. Once complete, it went on display at home and abroad as the WAAC attempted to promote Britain’s Second World War effort.

L.S. Lowry: The Rush Hour (1964)

L.S. Lowry: Seascape (1945)

L.S. Lowry: Girl With Red Shoes (1960)

L.S. Lowry: Two People (1962)

Now look at these poems:

Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs by Brian Burke & Michael Coleman:
For a film of the song, visit here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmopSVOMSsU
For the lyrics, visit here: https://lyricsplayground.com/alpha/songs/m/matchstalkmenandmatchstalkcatsanddogs.html

Notice the rhyme scheme used in the lyrics of this song (aa b cc b in the verses) and the use of a chorus.

L S Lowry by Howard Chapman:
https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/l-s-lowry/
(Notes from the author: Common to most urban landscape paintings of L. S. Lowry is a curious pale yellow hue, reminiscent of the snow scenes by Dutch masters but peopled by the peasantry of Salford. The background was borne of a practical technique, layering white paint on the bare canvas or wood and then scraped smooth. This provided a clear base for the composites of industrial buildings and strange isolated folk who so fascinated Lowry. Growing up in Old Trafford in the 50’s I remember that yellowed light, later banished by ‘smokeless zones’ and the ‘Clean Air Act’. Lowry evokes that light for me: dank November nights carrying ‘Pink’ paraffin home, the can cutting into cold hands, the menacing smog filling me with dark imaginings of bogey men and murders. I remember, too, when I first started work in Trafford Park, once the largest industrial estate in Europe. The AEI Metrovic factory I travelled to features in a number of Lowry’s paintings. The early morning bus filled up with workmen coughing up phlegm. The gloom seemed to be outside and inside and within, like a thorough shroud for body and soul)

Notice the descriptions, the sounds of the words and the ‘word music’ in this poem.

Haikus by John Kitching:
https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=ZV7JlTpXeAQC&pg=PA209&lpg=PA209&dq=the+pen+in+my+hand+kitching&source=bl&ots=4NFmfIkgn3&sig=ACfU3U0yS_WTzosn2ZjBPapNoakg1QfYdg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiXy5zojqzqAhVlRRUIHbBpD0kQ6AEwAXoECAsQAQ#v=onepage&q=the%20pen%20in%20my%20hand%20kitching&f=false
An example of a poem called a renga – linked haikus on a common theme. Haikus fit well with Lowry’s artwork as they are also seemingly simple forms that say so much more than the sum of their parts. A haiku is a short poem of three lines with a syllable structure of 5 syllables in the first line, 7 syllables in the second and 5 syllables in the third line. You can link haikus about a common theme together like beads on a string to create a longer poem called a renga.

Think about the form, patterns and repetitions in the poems, the ‘word music’, what each poem is saying to the reader, how you feel when you read them, etc.

EXERCISE THREE: Write a poem inspired by the theme of The Art Of L S Lowry

This part is about writing your poem.

Choose an image to work with. Make notes about it. What does it make you think about? What do you notice about it? How does it make you feel? What do you think about when you look at it?

Next, write a detailed description of the work of art. Include words that indicate size, shape, colour, light/shade, objects, figures, positions etc. You may notice details in the painting that you hadn’t before.

Finally, write a poem in response to your work of art. If you need inspiration, look back at the notes you have made. Remember, there are many different ways to go about this.

Some suggested approaches:
•           Write about the scene or subject being depicted in the artwork.
•           Relate the work of art to something else it makes you think of or a memory.
•           Write about the experience of looking at the art.
•           Speculate about how or why the artist created this work.
•           Imagine a story behind what you see presented in the work of art.
•           Imagine what was happening while the artist was creating this work.
•           Speak to or directly address the artist or the subject(s) of the painting, in your own voice.
•           Write in the voice of the artist.
•           Write in the voice of a person or object depicted in the artwork.

Your poem could be written in the form and/or style of one of the example poems – eg: using the particular rhyme scheme of the Matchstalk song; including lots of details and description of a lived experience as in Howard Chapman’s poem; adopting a form such as a renga…

And, of course, you are perfectly free to do your own thing!
Enjoy!

©Sara-Jane Arbury

Are you pleased with your poems? If you want to share one of your poems from this workshop, email to manager@poetry-festival.co.uk and it will be posted on this page.

How about entering your poems in the Ledbury Poetry Competition?

Have you uploaded your Poetry of the Woods on our online submission?

Further sessions will take place from September – we are not sure yet whether they will be online or in-person!

The Festival is grateful to Arts Council England the Garfield Weston Foundation, and to Herefordshire Mind where these workshops normally take place

Poems inspired by this session:

Girl with Red Shoes by J Brady

The red shoes are far more than
a piece of footwear.
They are the beating heart of a girl
that youth alone can paint.
Her head bowed low marks the
beckoning tale of a woman’s life.
She quickens her pace…to outstep
the marriage thief.
Her shroud-like gown carries the dead weight
of women’s history.
Unseen blackened lives.
A woman, she knows, is a
diminished thing.
She who sacrifices red for black.
Black paint.
The grieving garb of a
mother with an unwanted male child.

First Appearance, Second Appearance by PS (written to “Going To Work” Lowry painting)
At first appearance:
People like clods of earth
A bus noses forwards haltingly
Wires drawn tight across the skyline
Buildings like blocks – some with towers,
Others with chimneys belching black smoke

At second appearance:
The people’s feet are moving
Everyone wears a hat
Murmurations form
Humanity dances with industry
And the colour catches my eye

L S Lowry by Sue Bicknell
He put industrial scenes on the map
Peopled with matchstick men wearing a flat cap
Trudged around collecting rent
Kept himself detached
People were dispatched
To factories with black bent backs

He also painted calming sea
Sketch pad balanced on his knee
Capturing the ghostly silent scene
No people lumbering around
Wondering ‘what if’ we all drowned
Under the ocean of aquamarine

Long shoes big hats, fashion does distancing by Sue Bicknell
She wore clown shoes and felt safe
Topped with a big hat
to keep others away
Underneath the brim
she was masked

Important to be safe
in this Covid world
Fashion doesn’t matter
only lives matter

A Renga of Haikus by David Winbow
Flat ‘ats for the lads,
the foreman wears a bowler,
just think it over.

Top-hats for the nobs,
Up-class vicars, and Your Grace,
All heads know their place.

Mortar-boards for hire,
To wear for graduation-
Such celebration!

Bare heads? For tinkers!
Turn your pockets inside out?
That’s just for drinkers

Headwear’s litany
Has changed its meaning often,
And now forgotten.

Lockdown headlines   Don’t take your dog for a walk in Cumbria-it’s closed, by David Winbow
Don’t take me for a walk, I’m closed.
Don’t take me into your house- untrained,
my distance is unsocial.
The safest thing is to ignore me,
imagine I don’t exist,
which should be easy,
I very rarely do,
not in your country, the here and now.
I’m mostly “then”.
Much more me, and more fulfilling;
less full of fools, those self-obsessed.
I’ve looked at Self, and found it lacking
Most of the qualities I admire.
I go elsewhere.
Don’t take me for a walk-
I’ve been there.

Red Shoes, by Jayne Arnott
Black against the white
solace in my solitude
the splash of scarlet

Black of Sunday best
my secret smile well hidden
the joy of red shoes

Black hat turned up brim
so plain and unembellished
red shoes my story

Lowry people? by David Winbow
That was me, I grew up there,
but we were no matchsticks
discarded after Woodbines.

Into the sulphurous valley we came,
by bike, on foot
in the sweated suits we wore for years.

Into the choking splutter
of half-lit coke stoves-
the only warmth in our day

except the well-greased cap pushed back
as Teddy Bees held court,
his humour lifting this to something else.

What held us here? Grim satisfaction
of hard graft, done well-
of being trusted.

Not by the bosses- the ones we cursed,
or estimators we tried to beat,
but by other grimy souls.

Only outsiders saw us as matchsticks-
they had time to paint.

Footstep by Footstep by Sean Summers
Footstep by footstep
Dreamless gloom punctured by dark
Covering the world

Footprints and tracks
A repressive atmosphere
And rusty grey hew

Sunless sky and heart
Wings of birds melt away
As balloons soar

The days merge
Entwined with masses
So trudge along

To wish and to want
Feeble minds manipulated
An artificial solution

Necks and spines suffer
The labour of earthly desire
So trudge along
But do so with purpose


Session 27 May.

EXERCISE ONE: This is a warm-up writing exercise called Words In Names
Write your full name on a piece of paper (or use someone else’s name).

Now spend 5 minutes listing as many words as you can find that appear in your name. Try to find at least ten words and try to find words with lots of letters, for example, I have the word JANUARY in my name SARA-JANE ARBURY!

Next write a short piece/poem/story using as many of the words in your list as possible. You may repeat any found words.

This is also an unusual way to create unique messages for friends and family members by using their names as the starting point!

EXERCISE TWO: The theme of this exercise is JOURNEYS
This part is about looking closely at artworks and considering two example poems on this theme.

“People have always moved around the world. Early humans were nomadic, travelling in search of food, shelter, and safety. Today, people move for many different reasons, including economic, political, cultural, religious, and environmental. Sometimes, events beyond people’s control, like war or natural disaster, leave them displaced and forced to migrate. Other times, people migrate voluntarily, perhaps in search of better work opportunities or a different lifestyle. For many artists, their own migrations and those of their ancestors shape their identities and the art they produce. As people move, they bring their traditions, knowledge, and beliefs with them. Often, as much as they absorb the culture of their new home, they influence it with their own traditions.”
(Preface to Migration & Movement exhibition, MoMA, Manhatten)

Take a close look at the following artworks. Consider how they work as art, how and why were they created, how the artworks make you feel etc…

Paintings top row left to right:

René Magritte: Le Domaine d’Arnheim
https://www.christies.com/features/When-artists-dream-of-far-flung-lands-10390-3.aspx (follow the link and scroll down to the picture)

The Belgian Surrealist, René Magritte, named this painting after the short story The Domain of Arnheim by Edgar Allan Poe. In German, the word ‘Arnheim’ means ‘home of the eagle’, which is reflected in Magritte’s imperious bird-mountain (look closely!)

Magritte had never been to the Alps, but in 1926 he came across a photograph of the mountain range in a travel brochure and used it as inspiration for his bird-mountain. He was so pleased with the results that he painted the Alpine vista another nine times. It became one of his most enduring symbols.

Carry Akroyd: Winter Thrushes Head Home
https://www.carryakroyd.co.uk/prints/ (follow this link and click on the title of the picture to call it up)

Third painting no commentary

Paintings bottom row left to right:

Ford Madox Brown: The Last of England
https://medium.com/thinksheet/how-to-read-paintings-the-last-of-england-by-ford-madox-brown-73eb9e41840f
This painting is in the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Brown began it in 1852 when emigration from England was at a peak, with over 350,000 people leaving that year. The painting depicts a man and his wife seeing England for the last time. The white cliffs of Dover are disappearing behind them in the top right of the picture.

In the foreground a row of cabbages hang from the ship’s rail, provisions for the long voyage. In the background are other passengers, including a pair of drunken men and a family. The father is barely visible except for the pipe he holds; his daughter has her arm around a curly-haired boy. There is a fair-haired child eating an apple behind the man’s shoulder.

In order to mirror the harsh conditions in the painting Brown worked mostly outside in his garden, and was happy when the weather was poor – he recorded his feelings of delight when the cold turned his hand blue, as this was how he wanted it to appear in the painting. He was seen as strange by his neighbours who saw him out in all kinds of weather.  His diary noted that the “ribbons of the bonnet took me 4 weeks to paint”.

Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series, Panel No. 3 (1940-41)
https://www.phillipscollection.org/collection/browse-the-collection?id=1153&page=3

Follow this link to find out more about the life and work of Jacob Lawrence
https://lawrencemigration.phillipscollection.org/

The Migration Series is a group of sixty paintings by African-American painter Jacob Lawrence which depicts the migration of 1.6 million African Americans to the northern United States from the South that began in the 1910s. Lawrence conceived of the series as a single work rather than individual paintings and worked on all of the paintings at the same time, in order to give them a unified feel and to keep the colours uniform between panels. Viewed in its entirety, the series creates a narrative that tells the story of the Great Migration. Lawrence created the sixty paintings in the series in 1940–41 when he was twenty-three years old.

The panels depict the dire state of black life in the South, with poor wages, economic hardship and a justice system rigged against them. The North offered better wages and slightly more rights, although was not without its problems.

Now look at these two poems about journeys: Sea Fever by John Masefield
https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/54932/sea-fever-56d235e0d871e
and Out Of Africa by Grace Nichols
https://prezi.com/pudzhk1_zo3-/out-of-africa-by-grace-nichols/ (scroll down for the poem)

Think about the form, patterns and repetitions in the poems, the ‘word music’, what each poem is saying to the reader, how you feel when you read them, etc.

Jerri Finch: Abundant Splendor
http://jerrifinch.com/painting-journeys.htm (follow the link and click on the image of the man in the air on the far right of the screen as you look at it)

EXERCISE THREE: Write a poem inspired by an artwork on the theme of Journeys.
This part is about writing your poem.

Choose an image to work with. Make notes about it. What does it make you think about? What do you notice about it? How does it make you feel? What do you think about when you look at it?

Next, write a detailed description of the work of art. Include words that indicate size, shape, colour, light/shade, objects, figures, positions etc. You may notice details in the painting that you hadn’t before.

Finally, write a poem in response to your work of art. If you need inspiration, look back at the notes you have made. Remember, there are many different ways to go about this.

Some suggested approaches:
•          Write about the scene or subject being depicted in the artwork.
•          Relate the work of art to something else it makes you think of or a memory.
•          Write about the experience of looking at the art.
•          Speculate about how or why the artist created this work.
•          Imagine a story behind what you see presented in the work of art.
•          Imagine what was happening while the artist was creating this work.
•          Speak to or directly address the artist or the subject(s) of the painting, using your own voice.
•          Write in the voice of the artist.
•          Write in the voice of a person or object depicted in the artwork.

Your poem could be written in the style of one of the example poems.

And, of course, you are perfectly free to do your own thing!

©Sara-Jane Arbury

Are you pleased with your poems? If you want to share one of your poems from this workshop, email to manager@poetry-festival.co.uk and it will be posted on this page.

How about entering your poems in the Ledbury Poetry Competition?

Have you uploaded your Poetry of the Woods on our online submission?

Further on-line sessions will take place 17 June and 1 July – see the poster for details

The Festival is grateful to Arts Council England the Garfield Weston Foundation


Poetry and writing inspired by this session

The Last of England by Christine Hopcutt
I chose to write about this painting as I was fascinated by the facial expressions of the couple in the front of the picture, a mixture of apprehension and expectation.

Today we are leaving England
Sailing far away to start life anew
To a land filled with promise, sunshine and freedom
A new beginning for us, our baby, for our family

Today we are leaving England
Can’t tear our eyes away from the horizon
Reaching out for one last glimpse of the cliffs
Before the view of land is lost forever

Today we are leaving England
We shall never return to these shores
No more greyness, drizzle, constraints
New experience awaits us in our chosen land

Today we are leaving England
Leaving our old privileged life behind
Looking forward to new fresh excitement
New country, new people, new living, new hope.

We’re going for Gold! by PS
This is inspired by the painting The Last of England, as it was painted in 1855 in the height of the gold rush in Australia
We’re going for gold!
Wrap up our souls with
the baby with the books.
Bundled and tossed, heaved
on a broiling sea,
Backs turned from home,
cabbages leading us forwards.
We’re going for gold, our lives born anew.

Fallen Ones by David Winbow
The picture chosen was Abundant Splendor, by Jerri Finch, it reminded me so much of a statue in Funchal of a man suspended by chains, called the Fallen Angel, dedicated to the workers on the vertiginous levadas, which have supplied water to the crops for hundreds of years, the high-rise builders, and the bridge builders in the step gorges, who have died. Very poignant, few societies choose to remember such people.
Remember the Chained man, in the hot Madeira sun,
Reminder of levada builders, bridge makers-
forgotten fallen ones,
the unremembered.

Remember the crawling woman in Kampala,
holding out her baby in the hot sun.
Black flies, beseeching eyes,
the unforgotten.

Remember the airman climbing thin air
thinking he could touch the face of God-
knowing life was short, and fierce and hot.
The unsurpassed.

Remember the evasions, the time lost,
the polishing of haloes as the world dies
the balancing of wealth against the life of others,
the unforgiven.

Warm up exercise words in names; Divi by David Winbow
Divi, what’s that? Not a question to ask in the Co-op, obviously, or Ena in the hairnet will tell you , at length, and life is possibly too short for that, and too precious.
A Divi, if Lovejoy were to be believed- and that would be a leap of faith- is one who by some magical impulse can sense the presence of a valuable antique
A Divi? Well there’s divination, not necessarily of the divine, as you will find if you take to water divining, although the feeling of something outside of you moving the rods you are holding is perhaps a bit spooky. Although I can do it, I still don’t fully believe it works. Being manipulated by some force outside of yourself, over which you have no control is a bit odd, maybe I should ask Dominic C about it.

Happy Birthday Owen an acrostic poem by Jenny Ridout. The words that are formed from his name are in italics.
Own the room my son, on your big dino day.
Whoop, whoop, you’re a whipper snapper of five.
Enjoy eating you whopper, hill like cake,
Nanna made for her nipper  grandson.

Propel yourself into the party games.
Holdout your arms for pass the parcel.
I‘ll use my windpipe to up the volume.
Loud and proud we’ll sing to you.
Lower you first, then up for the bumps.
In our back garden, just out of town,
Pillow pile awaits you in the tent.

Ride around in your go-kart.
Intrude our neighbours’ peace.
Dine on pizza and chips for a change.
Out of lock down, we’ll party.
Untie ribbons and unwrap presents.
Throw coloured paper into a pile.


Session 22 April.

EXERCISE ONE: A warm-up writing exercise called In Our Mind’s Eye.
It takes the concept of Slow Looking as its inspiration. Here is an article about Slow Looking from The Guardian:
https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/shortcuts/2018/jul/24/why-taking-it-slow-in-an-art-gallery-could-change-your-life

Choose a picture that you have displayed on a wall at home. Slow Look at it like this: Study the picture for 5 minutes. Really look at it. Absorb yourself in the picture. Then write a piece about it for 5 minutes without looking at it. What do you remember about it? What impressions do you take from it? Is there something there you haven’t noticed before? What is its essence? Finish your piece by telling us why you have the picture displayed on your wall.

EXERCISE TWO: The theme for this writing exercise is THE ART OF EDWARD HOPPER
Before you begin, take a look at this picture of Claude Monet’s Water Lilies. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Claude_Monet_-_Nymph%C3%A9as_(1905).jpg
This link will take you to an article called Backing into Ekphrasis: Reading and Writing Poetry about Visual Art by Honor Moorman. The article contains two poems inspired by Monet’s painting. One poem speaks to the artist in a spectator’s voice and the other adopts the voice of the water lilies themselves.
http://www.tnellen.com/cybereng/ekphrasis.pdf

Now look at these paintings by Edward Hopper (1882-1967, American painter and printmaker):
Room In New York
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Room_in_New_York#/media/File:Room-in-new-york-edward-hopper-1932.jpg
Cape Cod Morning https://americanart.si.edu/artwork/cape-cod-morning-10760
Cape Cod Evening https://www.edwardhopper.net/cape-cod-evening.jsp
Room In Brooklyn (scroll down for picture)
http://www.thelonelypalette.com/episodes/2016/12/28/episode-13-edward-hoppers-room-in-brooklyn-1932
Night Windows https://www.edwardhopper.net/night-windows.jsp
Hotel By A Railroad https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Hotel-by-a-Railroad-Edward-Hopper-1952.jpg

Cape Cod Morning 1950 by Edward Hopper

Choose one of these images to work with and make notes about it. Why did you choose this picture? How does it make you feel? What does it it make you think about? Memories?

Make notes describing the picture – colour, light/shade, objects, figures, positions, shapes, etc.

Finally, write a poem in response to your picture. Look back at your notes for inspiration. Here are some suggested approaches:

Write a poem in the style of one of the example ‘Monet’ poems (addressing the artist directly as a spectator or in the voice of someone or something depicted in the picture).
Imagine a story behind what you see presented in the picture. What else is going on in the scene?
Write about the experience of looking at the picture. Relate the picture to something else it makes you think of, for example, a memory or your current situation.

With thanks to Backing into Ekphrasis: Reading and Writing Poetry about Visual Art by Honor Moorman

You might enjoy this article about why Edward Hopper is a telling artist for the coronavirus age

© Sara-Jane Arbury

Are you pleased with your poems? If you want to share one of your poems from this workshop, email to manager@poetry-festival.co.uk and it will be posted on this page.

How about entering your poems in the Ledbury Poetry Competition?

Have you uploaded your Poetry of the Woods on our online submission?

Further on-line sessions will take place – see the poster for details

The Festival is grateful to Arts Council England the Garfield Weston Foundation


Poetry inspired by this session

Questions by Christine Hopcutt

The woman in the window, what does she see?
Is it a man who has left her, her lover maybe?
Run through the bright  grass or sombre dark trees Was it a row, an argument, a tiff, maybe more?

She looks anxious, leaning towards the glass Is she watching a child playing in the sun?
Worried he’s strayed too far in the long yellow grass Is he defiant, neither  looking nor taking any heed

Perhaps she’s watching, waiting for her husband to come back Is she excited maybe not seen him for a while ?
Expectant, elated maybe he was a soldier in Iraq?
Watching waiting for him to appear through the trees

Or maybe she’s not waiting for anyone at all Is simply happy to be there looking through the glass
Glad to be alive and living in the thrall
Of a beautiful day in the sun with a view


Room In Brooklyn by Malcolm Whitehead

Don’t you get lonely?
Living by yourself
in a one-bedroomed apartment
on the eighteenth floor?

Look closely, I say,
look at the horizon beyond the rooftops,
see the white vase against
the browns of high rise buildings,
see how beautifully I have
arranged these flowers –
pinks and greens against
a pale blue sky.
Does that look lonely to you?

Do you ever wave to your neighbours?

Never.

Do you mingle? Socialise? Party?

Hardly ever.

But, surely, that rocking chair
is meant for the elderly –
and those views meant to be enjoyed.

This chair fits me perfectly.
This chair is entirely mine.
Gives me access to these views
whenever I choose.

I could not live as you do.

Your view of my life
is a view I choose to ignore.
Others will paint their own
pictures of my life,
but I paint my own pictures.

You are not required to view my gallery.

With or without your approval,
my pictures hang proudly on these walls.


Tableau by Gill Garrett (written to A Room in Brooklyn)

Beneath a vase of tall white blooms
she’s arranged the light blue cloth with care,
half lowered the blinds,
positioned her chair at the open window
to catch the last rays of a dying sun;

Is this a tableau replicated
in countless other homes
across the silenced streets,
in shadowy redbrick buildings

whose inhabitants watch, like her,
as days and weeks slip slowly by,
their lives on hold,
a glimpse at a distant casement
their only brush with humanity?


Husband dear husband, I am furniture no longer by PS (written to A Room in New York)

I’m wearing my best dress
It’s orange – your favourite colour
Just like your chair, and the lampshade
Am I furniture – like them?

I tinkle the piano, you don’t hear
Engrossed in your paper, tie tight
You are buttoned up, waistcoated
Drawn into yourself

I look down, not seeing
the door behind me like a ladder up to the sky
Reaching outwards
An ascent to escape

If I but turn my gaze right
I would spy an open window.
Like a wisp on the night air
I would assume my freedom.
Furniture no longer


Hopper Haikus by Gill B

Poised to spring forward
Your feet in the starters blocks
Awaiting a sign.

Pent up energy
Sizzles in your orange frock.
You are trapped in time.

You’re ready to leap.
You’re peering to the distance.
You long for escape.

The shutters frame you
Captured in that one instance:
Arms, chest, shoulders, face.

What do you yearn for?
What burdens do you carry?
What fear do you know?

The woods are lovely.
The yellow field is airy.
To which will you go?

What silence is here
What patience do you wait in
Your gaze on afar.

What are you thinking?
Are you loving or hating?
Tell me who you are.


An English morning 2020 by Christine Shaw  (written to Cape Cod Morning 1950)

When you wake up in the morning
You believe that everything’s okay
Then just as your brain starts clearing
You realise that you’re not hearing …
anything

That eerie silence isn’t normal
The day’s plan is nothing formal
You get up and open the shutters
Birds swoop down to the lawn from the gutters
Dawn’s early light hits the clapperboard wall
Reflecting it’s whiteness, echoing its pall

The birds are singing like we’ve never heard them do
At times, they are singing, just for me and not for you
The clouds, the bay window, all a shade of Covid blue
My mood, ambiguous, less hopeful, easy to misconstrue.

I’m looking for an answer, I cannot meet your gaze
My emotions once expectant, now forlorn, I’m in a haze.
We are bound to be apart for many weeks, how will we cope?
We hear the briefings, and the podcasts, we must not give up hope.

I know that you are the best of the very best
You work all hours that God sends, you have very little rest.
The skies are clear, the stars are bright
We must all walk towards the light
This has been going on for weeks now, do not give up the fight.

Oh to be in England, now that April’s here
I take comfort in good poetry (you won’t find any here!)
The month has been exceptional, so many hours of sun
At least from my perspective the mental battle’s won
But tomorrow is another day, and still we’re overrun.

Let’s pull ourselves together, and get on with another day
We will phone and write and text and our normal lives delay.
I won’t look out of the window, so longingly again
But for your safety darling, I will pray and pray and pray.

©Christine Shaw, April 28th 2020


The Rainbow Bridge, Polperro – artist Carol Gowing – watercolour and ink by Maggie Sanderson (Warm up exercise)

Golds, aquamarines, peaches, greens, blues, black and grey
Wonky windows, sweeping shapes within shapes
Colours overlapping each other, taking my gaze from the water
Over the bridge, touching the rooftops, up to the hillside beyond.
Each stone, each slate captures the feel of this tiny, Cornish village.
I can smell he sea, hear the gulls, remember the peacefulness…….
On the corner is a favourite restaurant, The House on the Props, a pointer lives there.
Now I can taste the crab sandwich
Followed by warm scone crumbs falling onto the tablecloth
I tried to paint in this style later that week – colour on colour – shape upon shape

This painting spoke to me on the exhibition wall that summer’s day.Maggie Sanderson


Anticipation by Maggie Sanderson
(inspired by ‘Cape Cod Morning 1950’ by Edward Hopper)

Edward,
You’ve taken me back twenty-nine years
To a single mum in her Victorian home.
Standing, waiting, anticipating

The clock on the wall was ticking
The children watching TV
And I was waiting for a car to appear
Now a distant memory

You’ve made me remember the solitary years
New job, new responsibilities
Learning, coping, sometimes moping ……

You’ve made me grateful for how far we’ve come
Happy families – no longer alone
Creating, sharing and always caring
Twenty nine years – long gone.


Lady In The Window by David Winbow
(inspired by Cape Cod Morning 1950 by Edward Hopper)

Where is it headed, this glowing boat of a room,
skirting the darkened shore?
No lookout ever more vigilant than this,
no figurehead more ready to part the seas.
It’s not here yet, what is desired;
that is to come.
Perhaps the telegraph of the phone
will signal for some change of speed,
some new direction,
or halt things, midstream.
But, for this moment –
the momentous one,
tranquillity.

David Winbow
Imagine Billy Collins here
In this slow New England afternoon –
he could delight it with his chosen words,
captivate
finding depths not seen, but sensed,
my soul purring, a warm cat.


Poem inspired by Cape Cod Morning 1950 by Edward Hopper, by Maggie Matthews
So Mr Hopper
you think you know me
You think I am waiting
Waiting and expecting
Is it so clear?
I am alone yet well dressed,
An effort made with my hair
The light is on in welcome
But I do not know why
I search the distance
And why the dark wood
dominates my view, and my mind
I only know that night is nigh
The shutters will shut
Me efforts will go un noticed
‘Til tomorrow when
I will live in hope again.

My aside to this!
This is by no means me –
Everyday is a bad hair day!
Everyday in everyday clothes!
The day is ruled by a to do list
Never fulfilled
But there’s always hope for tomorrow.


In loving memory of Amanda Ingham, a long-time participant and dedicated supporter of Ledbury Poetry Festival’s community workshops

Anonymity by Amanda Ingham
(Inspired by the painting WESTERN MOTEL by Edward Hopper, right)

In a motel room, what’s her story?
Bags packed, ready, waiting
Battered, worn, holding their breath.
Just arrived or just going;
Sun coming up or going down?
She waits for a signal.

Streamers of light dull the details
Bare walls, bare floors;
Curtains barely wide enough to cover
Windows. The door unadorned with material,
Shut. Gripping the edge of the bed, stiff,
She looks through me.

Picture frame on the bedside
Incongruous, inappropriate,
Unlikely. Shares its space with
A light – functional, lifeless,
Unromantic. Bed, chair, solid
Unmemorable, leaving no lasting impression.

Just her, poised, waiting.
Waiting for what, who, why,
An anonymous life, a story
Untold, but not unrecorded,
This snapshot in time haunts
Me. Familiarity in anonymity.