One of my favourite things to do on holiday is to drift about in secondhand bookshops.
There’s often good contemporary poetry in charity shops which is heartening and disheartening at the same time, great for fixing holes in my spookily well organised poetry book case though.
Other books I collect are often more elusive, being older, usually early and mid twentieth century publications, fairy tales and activity books.
Old activity books, with their dry yet perky instructions for practical creativity also speak of magic and transformation, with a resourceful kind of innocence.
The combined inspiration of these three types of book is behind my new collection of poems that’s about to go to press.
Called 60 Lovers To Make and Do, it is a sequence of poems in which women characters create their own lovers from stuff they find lying about at home or at work. The sixty women all have different jobs which give the poems their titles, and sometimes the lovers they manifest connect with these.
It’s a homage to the female artist in all of us, as well as to the imagination and to loneliness.
I was delighted that David and Ping Henningham, of Henningham Family Press, wanted to publish the sequence, as they are artists like me, and always design their books as if each one is a new invention.
I have been making a new type of collage/papercut to accompany the poems, but not illustrate them. For these I have been concentrating on finding and releasing invisible lovers from pages in old magazines and books.
There are also images made with collaged words in addition to the salvaged images – some works with just found words and no image, there’s even a bit of drawing.
Working with the Henninghams has been brilliant, they helped think of how to structure the book – suggesting a seasonal approach, like a book of hours.
We all spent a day in the V and A looking in the library as well as at the collection, riffing off the many exquisite and surprising objects, and marvelling at how medieval people made pages with so many dimensions, what we could take from their inventive text handling…
I cut out another type of newspaper collage for the seasonal dividers – here’s an example of one: winter.
This picture is cut from a newspaper photo of the crowds of mourners at George V’s funeral in 1936.
Henningham Family Press ran a very successful Kickstarter campaign to supplement some Arts Council funding for the book, which means there can be really beautiful duotone reproductions of the collages, as well as an additional colour within its pages. I’d like to thank Gemma Seltzer at Kickstarter, and everyone who supported the book, and preordered a copy through this.
If you would like to order a copy of the book, it will be easy to buy direct from henninghamfamilypress.co.uk from September, as well as by ordering it at your local bookshop. Do please come to the launch party –
Tuesday 17th September at the Cinema Museum 6:30-9, with a reading at 8.
hopefully there’ll be enough room for lots of us, even with our real or imaginary friends and lovers.