Hercules Editions – small and mighty

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On Thursday night I attended the launch of a small book, The Heart Archives, by Sue Rose (a poet with a published collection to her name and another due later this year). Sue has photographed things meaningful to her and accompanied them with a series of sonnets, many relating to her own family. The poems have a sweet rhythm and a deep undertow, with mortality lurking in the background. Each is titled with a number in reference to the heartbeats recorded by Christian Boltanski and played continuously for his installation, Les Archives du Coeur. Sue’s book is one of two published by Hercules Editions (http://herculeseditions.wordpress.com), a press that came about to fill a need – the combination of photos and poetry.

DSCN4805The other book, Formerly, records disappearing London in photos by Vici MacDonald and poetry by Tamar Yoseloff. If you have ever wandered those streets of the city that have lost favour or are due for ‘redevelopment’, you will recognise in the photos the traces of the people who once lived and thrived here. The poems are sharp, bright, funny and heartbreaking. I love the verbal high jinks within them and the way they capture the flavour of what has now  disappeared (http://formerlysonnets.wordpress.com).

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One poem and photo, The Rose, took me back to my time as a struggling sculptor when my flatmate and I rented two bedrooms and a studio in The Rose and Crown in Deptford (long since demolished). The Studio was in the old strip bar (complete with appropriate murals). One of our bedrooms had to be given up to the Great Dane (who lived there too) to occupy with her puppies. I remember one day being told to stay away from the bar for a few days as Mick would be out (of prison) tonight. The barman then hid the rifle that used to hang above the bar. Exciting times!

Hungary to Japan in a weekend

Wonderful couple of days. Small but international poetry meeting with the theme ‘dwelling’ very freely interpreted. Poems ranged from the romantic to the starkly tragic, with English, Hungarian, Czech, Polish and Bengali contributions, most read in both English and the original. For bonus we had two singers – one operatically trained (who indulged me and delighted us all with the Handel aria Did You Not Hear My Lady unaccompanied), the other a charming cabaret/folk story-teller singing in (?) Turkish. We all regretted that these meetings are so very rare.

Yesterday we went to the Holland Park Opera for Madame Butterfly. The best interpretation and staging of this that I have ever seen. A story of its period, but no longer silly. Anne Sophie Duprels made us believe in Butterfly’s moral outlook, her dilemma and her ultimate choice. She brought out a strangely modern problem – that of the cultural immigrant who accepts a country’s hype at face value, and is fatally damaged as a consequence. Strong stuff, cleanly and simply staged.