I’m delighted to announce the opening of a new exhibition that I’ve been working on with colleague Dave Lockwood. The launch will be 3 pm on Thursday 29 August at Liverpool’s Victoria Gallery & Museum. There will also be a ‘Meet the Artists’ session on Saturday 31 August at the VG&M between 11 am – 1 pm. All welcome.
As part of LOOK Photo Biennial, 2019 – delivered by Open Eye Gallery – The Allotments exhibition considers Dingle Vale allotments in Aigburth, one of twenty-five working allotment communities in Liverpool. It has been authored with the co-operation of the allotment holders, who shared their insights, stories and experiences. It will be shown at the Victoria Gallery & Museum between 29 August and 28 September.
The Allotments reflects on place and people and offers a meditation about plots of earth that remain places of belonging away from home; the exhibition is, also, an exploration of collaborative artistic practice.
Allotments are spaces in the heart of a city that feel separate from urban noise and demands — places that celebrate and respect the seasons, the cycle of life. They offer escape from the everyday and provide the opportunity to work alongside others to learn and practice the ancient human labour of making things grow. Here we find small habitations and glass-houses, aspirations embodied in flowers, fruit, trees and vegetables – a harvest that offers elegies to other times and demonstrates hope for the future. There are dahlias and purple sprouting broccoli, cabbages, rhubarb, summer and autumn raspberries, plum trees and tomatoes, busy beehives and a kit of pigeons in flight above the plots. Allotments offer opportunities for friendship and exchange, lessons in the seasons and time to reflect.
This exhibition explores these spaces of cultivation and society through the work of photographer, David Lockwood with poet Pauline Rowe and painter, Arthur Lockwood who, at the age of 85, died while he was working on this project. While Arthur’s career was in publishing, he rekindled his passion for painting when he retired and spent most of the last 30 years exploring, painting and recording the changing face of industry in the Midlands. In his final project he explored the urban oasis of green that provides space and leisure away from the world of work. Arthur brought his characteristic colour to this exhibition.
The Victoria Gallery & Museum is at Ashton St, Liverpool L69 3DR and further information can be found here: http://vgm.liverpool.ac.uk/
PLEASE SEE ARTIST INFORMATION BELOW:
David is a Liverpool based photographer who has been active in both photography and photographic education since graduating from Staffordshire University in the 90’s. David is currently working as a photographer and course leader of the BA Hons Degree in Digital Imaging and Photography at the Hugh Baird University Centre in Liverpool, England.
He has won numerous awards such as the AFAEP (Association of Photographers) Still Life award and North Staffordshire Arts Society Award. He has also exhibited in a wide variety of solo, joint and open exhibitions including the following; Finding Fangorn (displayed at the Open Eye Gallery as part of The Charter for Trees, Woods and People events), playmate, Contra Naturam, Another Mind in Your Eye touring exhibition and performance, Standing Shift performance with photography, the National Trust’s Ham House – Times Past and Present and South BankPhoto Show opens. Website: www.dglockwood.com
This was Arthur’s final project. His contact with art began early in life sketching in the company of his father, the painter and designer Frank Taylor Lockwood. Arthur attended Bournville School of Art from the age of 15 then Birmingham College of Art and (after National Service) The Royal College of Art where he studied graphic design. After a distinguished career as a free-lance designer in the publishing industry in London he returned to the Midlands in 1987 to paint full-time. His mission was to record the architectural and industrial heritage of his native city before it was lost. Arthur was a member of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists, the Royal Society of British Artists and an Associate Member of the Royal Watercolour Society.
Arthur donated over 1,000 works by himself and his father Frank Lockwood, to Birmingham City Art Gallery & Museum, over 350 paintings and drawings of Black Country Industry to Wolverhampton City Art Gallery and 30 drawings of the coal mining industry to the Herbert Art Gallery Coventry.
2009 Featured Artist – De Laszlo Medal Winner, Royal Society of British Artists Annual Exhibition, Mall Galleries, London
Also, major solo exhibitions at the RBSA, Birmingham City Art Gallery and The Herbert Art Gallery, Coventry.
Aawards and prizes include:
Singer & Friedlander/Sunday Times Watercolour Competition, 2005
Award, Royal Watercolour Society, 2006
De Laszlo Medal, Royal Society of British Artists, 2008
̛̛Change in the Midlands̛̛ urban and industrial watercolours by Arthur Lockwood published by John Sansom & Co. Ltd in 2007.
̛̛Urban and Industrial Watercolours of Birmingham and the Black Country̛̛ with watercolours by Frank T. Lockwood and Paul Lockwood. By Arthur Lockwood published by Sansom & Company Ltd in 2012.
Further Information: http://www.historywebsite.co.uk/articles/Lockwood/Paintings.htm
Pauline is a Liverpool based writer, poet and tutor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the National Association of Writers in Education. She has worked with Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust as Poet-in-Residence since 2013 and at Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool as Writer-in-Residence, 2016-2018. She has two poetry pamphlets and two collections. Collaborations with artists and local people include the following projects and exhibitions – ‘Enigma’ (Sudley Project, 2014), ‘Liverpool Elegies’ (Liverpool CCG/North End Writers, 2015), ‘Sleeping in the Middle’ with photographer, A.J.Wilkinson (Open Eye Gallery, May 2018), ‘Here & Now’ (Open Eye Gallery/ Merseycare NHS Foundation Trust, 2018), ‘1918’ (North End Writers/Radio Merseyside, 2018).
She founded the Liverpool charity North End Writers in 2006 and worked as an editor for North End Press, 2007 – 2019. She has an MA in Creative Arts from Liverpool HOPE University and was awarded a PhD from Liverpool University in 2019. She has a poetry pamphlet, ‘The Ghost Hospital’ forthcoming with Maytree Press, November 2019.
Her blog: https://paulineroweblog.wordpress.com/
For interviews or further information about ‘The Allotments’ please contact:
Dave Lockwood email@example.com
Pauline Rowe firstname.lastname@example.org
For further information about LOOK Photo Biennial please contact Thomas Dukes or Jacob Bolton at Open Eye Gallery – Tel: 0151 236 6768
The wonderful American poet, Frank Bidart will be 80 on 27 May 2019 and his Collected Poems – Half-light – published in 2017 and recipient of the Pulitzer Prize should be read by anyone interested in contemporary poetry.
Half-light – the title of the Collected Poems (2017) – is a quintessentially Bidartian title, suggesting as it does not simple illumination but shadow, not clarity of vision but dimness, when things cannot be seen too clearly. Although, of course perception is still possible, and essential in this poet’s enterprise of half a century, the title also conveys both internal and external experience, the on-looker with perception clouded or dimmed and the external source of natural light diminished either at the breaking of night into day, or the falling of day into night, dawn and dusk, beginnings and endings, birth and death. In Bidart’s poetry the human seer is subject to greater elements and experiences than can be contained in the mind or heart. Christopher Spaide contends:
Bidart’s tendency, swept up in divided ceaseless revolt, is to expand: intolerable propositions, even a single word, can detonate into forty-page sequences and book-length interrogations; Half-light itself can be read as a single seven-hundred-page poem, reprising the same obsessions over its fifty-year composition. (1)
In addition to his previous poetry collections, a further 66 pages of new poems – including ‘The Fourth Hour of the Night’ – are published together under the title Thirst. In the notes to Half-light Bidart admits to making changes in format of three poems; ‘The War of Vaslav Nijinsky,’ ‘Confessional’ and ‘The First Hour of the Night’. He explains why this is necessary, as previously noted:
None of the words are different. But in terms of punctuation and “set-up,” they seemed to me too often spoken à haute voix, as if declaimed to the last row of the balcony. I have always heard the voice in them more intimately. They increasingly to my eye lacked this intimacy. I have tried to modulate the voices, by shifting punctuation, spacing, pacing.
He decries what he sees as his youthful judgmental tone in his poem Book of Life and further says:
This is the first poem I wrote about my family. The four-line refrain now makes me wince – such confidence about what the alternatives are, such speed in judgment. Hard to encounter in writing one’s old self. I feel some version of this throughout the book, but most acutely in Golden State (1973). Such confidence about what the alternatives are….
The four-line refrains he refers to is as follows:
Its memory is of poverty, not merely poverty of means but poverty of history, of awareness of the ways men have found to live. (Collected Poems, p.174.)
Such confidence about what the alternatives are; the commentary reflects both age and experience, and is a mark of the poet’s compassion for his younger self (as he doesn’t alter the poem) and the lives his parents lived. It is also a mark of Bidart’s motivation; he writes and continues to write because he is never satisfied with what he has written. Bidart’s famous dramatic monologues demonstrate that the strategy of his poetics rests on the four pillars of voice, autobiography, sources and survival. This strategy can be seen to work throughout his collected poems, and is exemplified in his new poems including the title poem, ‘Half-light’ (Collected Poems p.603) as it embodies paradox and duality both in its structure, themes and figurative language. It consists of 36 lines arranged in 18 couplets across two pages with the familiar, intimate, autobiographical lyric voice of the Bidart that was first heard (read) in ‘California Plush’ (Collected Poems, p.163) incorporating a variety of time zones; of now and memory, of ‘that crazy drunken night’ and ‘yesterday’ of the unattainable future (when both the poet and dead friend he addresses might have become ‘broken- down old men’) and ‘all the years we were | undergraduates.’ This is a poem about the irreconcilable aspects of a lived life, unrequited love, memory and regret and, as always with Bidart, a continuous conversation with the dead. He feels compelled to tell his old friend, now he knows his friend is dead – of his adolescent passion.
We haven’t spoken in years. I thought
perhaps at ninety or a hundred, two
broken-down old men, we wouldn’t
give a damn, and find speech.
When I tell you that all the years we were
undergraduates I was madly in love with you
you say you
knew. I say I knew you
knew. You say
There was no place in nature we could meet.
The italicised line is a repeated line from part II of his earlier poem ‘Confessional’ concerned with his filial relationship with his mother. The earlier poem states that there are two sentences our protagonist “can’t get out of my head” – ‘Forgiveness doesn’t exist’ and (as punctuated in the first poem):
THERE WAS NO PLACE IN NATURE WE COULD MEET.
This line, his earlier verdict about his relationship with his mother, now becomes a verdict about the poet in the voice of a dead man. It is a conclusion of sorts about human love and shame, self-identity, Oedipal longing, sexuality and its humiliations, friendship and loss. It is difficult not to hear the accusation and awkwardness in the repetition of ‘knew’ and ‘you’. It also implies the question, Bidart’s own riddle, of ‘where in nature can we [the irreconcilable] meet?’ It’s a question central to his poetics – and one he attempts to answer in the first new poem in Thirst – ‘Old and Young’ (Collected Poems, pp.599 – 602); this is a meditation on looking at someone else in a mirror, of an old man looking at a young man in a long mirror “backstage as you | prepare | for a performance.” It might be about an old man, like Frank Bidart, looking at a younger man such as the actor, James Franco. Over four pages the poem asks whether anyone has made a film about two people looking at each other (and talking to each other) through a mirror:
trapped but freed neither knowing why this is better why this as long as no one enters is release because you are twice his age THIS IS THE PLACE IN NATURE WE CAN MEET space which every other space merely approximates (Collected Poems, p. 601.)
The mirror is a metaphor for the place in which Bidart has encountered his subjects, his torments, his research and themes of human connection and breach; it brings together the concepts of the male gaze, the voyeur, reflective artist and the study of human nature. It is the medium through which Bidart resolves the repeated dilemma: THERE IS NO PLACE IN NATURE WE COULD MEET – a line and concept he returns to, to articulate filial disobedience and the anguish of unrequited love. In ‘Old and Young’ he declares, at last:
THIS IS THE PLACE IN
WE CAN MEET
The mirror is the medium not of solipsistic reflection but the place through which the poet looks outwards to art and making:
suddenly inspired not
to look at each other
directly but held by this third
(Collected Poems, p. 600.)
Making is the mirror in which we see ourselves.
(Collected Poems, p. 346.)
Bidart’s mirror – and solution to the divisions and paradoxes of human suffering – is, as it has always been, poetry, his art of making.
Happy birthday, Professor Bidart.
(1) Christopher Spaide, ‘Poetry in Review: Half-light: Collected Poems, 1965–2016, by Frank Bidart,’ Yale Review Jan 2018, Vol. 106 Issue 1, pp.178 – 191.
I’m looking forward to doing a public reading of my poems about Nellie Bly (1864 – 1922) for the first time on Light Night on 17 May. The poems from my collection in progress – Insane Places – speak through Nellie as she’s trapped on Blackwell Island Insane Asylum, New York for ten days in the disguise of Nellie Moreno/Brown. This experience was recounted in her exposé Ten Days in a Madhouse. Her story is interrupted by a conversation with David Rosenhan who, as David Lucie, became a pseudo patient seventy years after Nellie to test the limits of psychiatric knowledge and diagnosis. His famous study On Being Sane in Insane Places is a classic study in the literature that questions and challenges psychiatry. My poems interrogate what it means to be mad through setting, place and experience. It is particularly thrilling to be reading my poems in the library of The Athenaeum, a club first founded in Liverpool in the late eighteenth century. My reading will start at 8.00 pm on 17 May.
Chaperone “One for the pavilion” the doctor’s voice an auctioneers with poor young Nelly Brown as bargain of the day. The undernourished crowd sighed to see the new unfortunate, as though the playing out of power were as good as a cold repast. The ambulance surgeon walked me through the well-kept grounds to the insane ward, to the rooms of broken women, to the cells of hard billets to the buckets of black water, to the atmosphere of excrement and fear to the rules and orders to the white capped nurse, “Take off your hat. You are staying.” I heard my voice as though in another mouth – repetitions like childhood disadvantages or the sound of guns. “I am waiting for the boat.” That first insane night ruminant noise of nurses kept us all awake. The food was filthy, festering like a wound. They removed my clothes. “Do you see faces in the wall? Do you hear voices? Tell us what they say.” As though I had strange powers beyond the world, powers they longed to kill or claim themselves. Then a parade of visitors, each one scrutinised my face, tried to see the skull beneath my skin, the pickled brain beyond, a specimen in a case. Pauline Rowe from 'Insane Places'
I got confirmation of my PhD on 1st April and will receive the award in July. This has been such an extraordinary few years learning to write in a new way. For me, after being away from study for so long, the research element was very difficult and I spent much of my time on the academic study. This was a creative writing PhD so I produced a new collection of poetry as well as the study on the early dramatic monologues of US poet Frank Bidart. Bidart is not known as well as he should be over here. I’ve started working on my book proposal but I’m in a muddle over what to do next. The Viva Voce in January was a revelation. I was able to defend my work and came through without any corrections on the poems. The few changes for the study were not onerous and I’m still thinking about the advice of my examiners. I have gone back to the beginning with the poems re-editing and rewriting and am some way off being happy with the manuscript. I will try out some of the poems with an audience on Light Night (17 May) reading from ‘Insane Places’ at the Athenaeum in Liverpool 8pm – 9pm.
This already feels like a good year. It’s a sober one and, I hope, a great opportunity for new work, fresh collaborations and different directions. My first main project for the year is working with Anna-Maria Parry on editing a poetry booklet for our friend Jim Bostock who has a terminal illness. We want to do Jim’s work justice – but this one is against the clock as we want to see Jim launch ‘Kiddo’.
I’ve also got my PhD Viva on 18 January – I’m praying for calm and memory.
I will be continuing to work with Mersey Care and North End Writers – until March, at least; I am now Poet-in-Residence at Open Eye Gallery – developing my previous work there as their first writer-in-residence – but concentrating more on my own poetry in response to exhibitions and new initiatives.
I submitted my PhD last month and will have my Viva on 18th January 2019. I am rethinking my writing life and how I can earn money to support my family. I’ve been a freelancer for 10 years or so – and have been doing some part-time teaching at the University of Liverpool since 2014 – I’m now on to my fifth temporary short-term contract and it feels like I’m filling in. I don’t think I want to do this any more even though I enjoy working with the students.
How do I consider my worth in terms of work, working as a freelance writer and teacher – when everything is so competitive?
In the 80s my Dad was one of Thatcher’s casualties – and he stopped working in his 40s. He will be 80 next year and found a way to manage without work, without money. When my mum and dad divorced at the end of the 80s (after nearly 30 years of marriage) he was – in effect – homeless – and managed to get a Council flat because the marital home when sold was in negative equity. My mum worked as a teacher until her late 60s and has had a very different kind of life since her divorce from my dad. She was ambitious and – although they were married when they were 17 and 19 – she worked and went back to school – did her O levels and A levels at night school – then went to Teacher Training College. She started teaching in her 30s and became one of the first Advanced Skills English Literature teachers in Halton. She went on to lecture in Education at Liverpool Hope University. She has always worked and earned.
My work includes the following just now: University teaching, delivering a writing, wellbeing and photography project, co-ordinating a writing project on World War 1, developing my own work and research in socially engaged practice, voluntarily managing North End Writers, working as Poet-in-Residence at Mersey Care NHS Foundation Trust, continuing as Writer-in-Residence at Open Eye Gallery. In addition I am working on a book proposal about the American poet, Frank Bidart and re-visiting and correcting my latest poetry collection. Although I know I am lucky in many ways it is oppressive to be constantly worried about money and bills.
However, for all the work I do, my earnings are very poor and I can’t continue to work for so little. Something will have to give. I still have four of my six children at home and we always struggle to have holidays or manage Christmas, or even sometimes getting to the end of the month and cover basic housekeeping. I think a lot of people are facing the same kinds of difficulties. But I want to be able to support my family properly and perhaps repair the house a little. It’s tricky some days not to feel like a failure. Or rather – it’s difficult to keep writing at the expense of my family – I suppose that’s the issue.
My two sisters are teachers – my elder sister retired as a Headteacher last Summer. In many ways I am the odd one out because of writing – and because of having had six children. Perhaps I should just keep going with what I am doing and hope for the best? I don’t think it’s possible to stop writing – but just now while work leads to more and more work for such limited income I have to think seriously about my future.