Ekphrastic Poetry in Walsall on 1st Anniversary of Elizabeth II`s Death
16th September 2023
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A unique collaboration is being staged between Walsall Society of Artists and Walsall poets at The Crossing at St Paul`s in Darwall Street.


A program of free events will be launched  on 21st September and will run until 28th October including spoken word events, workshops, exhibitions, soundscapes, live music and art demonstrations at The Crossing at St Paul`s Church.


  The project will also feature Walsall poet and the former Head of Creative Writing at the University of Wolverhampton, Dr Paul McDonald, who was Senior Lecturer in English and a prize winner at this year`s Wolverhampton Literature Festival Competition.   His first novel, "Surviving Sting", based on his early life in Walsall`s leather trade,  was heralded as "a voice from the Black Country as authentic as baltis and Banks` bitter" (Time Out).  


  In addition to his work as a novelist Dr Paul McDonald is also an accomplished poet whose work has won numerous international awards including most recently the Liverpool Poetry Prize judged by Roger McGough.  


  Included within this body of work is a poem written on the first anniversary of the death of Queen Elizabeth II that was inspired by the artwork of Simon Tew.  The exhibition features ekphrastic poetry, a term originating from a Greek expression for "description" and is planned to be featured in the 2024 Wolverhampton Literature Festival in the Art Gallery. 


  "Ekphrastic poetry is an exciting literature form which engages with paintings, drawings, sculptures and other forms of visual art" said Ian Henery, one of the organisers of the event.     "The earliest ekphrastic poems were accounts of real or imagined scenes but the desire was to unleash their potential for wider use and not simply the visual or verbal formats." explained Ian Henery.  


  The team of Walsall  poets behind this project wanted to move beyond descriptions to reflect deeper meanings and devise many ways to interact with art - analyse the work, explore symbolic meanings, invent stories or create dialogue or dramatic scenes.  The artwork will lead the public to new insights and surprising discussions.  


  The artist Simon Tew, a retired financial advisor, painted a piece of stunning artwork of an elephant for the exhibition and shared with poet Ian Henery the creative process.  Simon had been thinking about the monarch, knowledge and wisdom as he was creating it and a farewell look over her shoulder as the matriarch of the troop when Elizabeth II had died.  


  "The story of how Simon had prepared the painting lodged in my  subconcious" said Ian Henery " and I found himself jumping out of bed at 3.30am with the poem ready-formed in my  brain.  I then recorded it on my  mobile phone before going back to sleep.  Only later on did I realise the significance of the date - 8th September - the first anniversary of the death of the Queen at Balmoral Castle."    


  Ian Henery attended a course, funded by West Midlands Combined Authority, earlier this year at the Newhampton Arts Centre in Wolverhampton to explore how buildings could be used for cultural activities.  This then led to a partnership with The Crossing at St Paul`s Church, a Christian Social Enterprise, to use their facilities for arts and culture.  The challenge was to increase the number of community groups using The Crossing and turn it into not only a hive of activity but also a centre of cultural and artistic expertise in the same way as the New Art Gallery and the forthcoming craftmakers`guild at the former Guild Hall in Walsall.


  The Crossing, housed in a Grade II listed Victorian church, is an exemplary example of creating a  new life and role for a Christian building.  "The Crossing" refers to the meeting point of church and community as well as to the crossing over from death to new life in Jesus, which is at the heart of the Christian faith.   



                                      One Farewell Glance               

               (After a painting by Simon Tew - "Knowledge & Wisdom")  


She`s the matriarch,

Head of the troop

And the memories

Are etched into her skin

Like wrinkles:

The good, the bad but never ugly.

She loves them all.  


She`s the matriarch,

Head of the troop

And she had trouble

Keeping them all in line.

There`s always one

  Who has to dawdle

or go their own way.  


She`s the matriarch,

Head of the troop

And the times, they are a-changing:

It`s not the same world

As when she was little.

Poachers are everywhere

Looking for royalty.  


She`s the matriarch, 

Head of the troop

And she`s called "Elizabeth"

Or simply "Lilibet"

In their own tongue.

It`s been a long road to travel

And she`s tired  


As she gives one farewell glance

Over her shoulder

And turns                    

                      to go.  


Ian Henery

8th September 2023





About the Author

Ian Henery

Member since: 4th February 2019

Presenter Black Country Radio & Black Country Xtra

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