Poetry readings, friends and photographs

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All these strange and separate phenomena have been with me this week. I have been attending poetry readings for a long time, since I was 15 (and that’s a long time) so it is good to be able to organise a few events at Open Eye Gallery where I’ve been working as Writer-in-Residence since 2016.  This opportunity developed through a PhD placement supported by Liverpool University and I feel blessed to have found not only a place that feels welcoming but new opportunities to develop ideas and work connecting poetry and photography.  This isn’t my PhD research area but it’s what I hope to work once my study and new collection are finished.  The Writing and Photography series will run until December. It was lovely to welcome poets  SEÁN HEWITT  and MARIA ISAKOVA BENNETT to read on 11 July who mesmerised the audience with their serious encounters with lyric and myth.

I read at our first event in June alongside Elspeth Accordion who shared her photographs from her 3 months teaching in Palestine with her new collection of poems, Backs to the Wall.  Elspeth and I know each other as we are both members of Liverpool Women Writers, although I’m a late-comer as I’m not an original member. I was moved to hear this work paying tribute to a community trying to live their lives in spite of constant surveillance, oppression and threatened violence. I was also delighted to hear Elspeth’s tribute to Brenda Haddon, a mutual friend and LWW member – as she reminded us how Brenda had encouraged her writing and work in Palestine in spite of holding very different views on the politics of Israel and Palestine.  Brenda died on 9th June after a bit of a miserable few months.  She wanted to be out of this place and had dreams of being reunited with her beloved Barbara (who died in 1981).  Brenda had a long time living without the person she loved most.  She used much of that time to continue to develop and support many friendships.  She loved women and enjoyed shouting at men.  One of the men she shouted at was my spouse, John whose idea of flamboyance is wearing navy socks (rather than black); it was a treat to see him respond to the order to wear something bright for her funeral ceremony.  I can’t imagine him wearing glitter and lights for anyone other than Brenda.

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And I can’t get through another week without paying tribute to our dear friend and local poet Ralph Killey who was a regular member of the Mossley Hill Writing Group in Mersey Care, a group I’ve supported since it’s start in 2014, in my role as Poet-in-Residence in the Trust (a partnership project with North End Writers.) Ralph left the stage on 22nd June after a hard time with cancer – having spent his final weeks with his loving and much loved family, his wife Edna, son – Peter, and daughter – Jan, as well as his grand-children.  Ralph was a character, a man who faced the difficulties of bi-polar diagnosis and medication with courage and the determination to live his life to the full.  I will miss him.

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