Many of our regulars have been documenting this period of lockdown in their own way. Hilaire and Stephen, a poet and an artist respectively, have been working together (apart!) during lockdown to produce an illustrated poetry pamphlet which documents their experiences of lockdown in Battersea. We were delighted to receive a copy of the pamphlet, and even more so when Hilaire and Stephen agreed to answer a few of our questions, and let us share some poems and illustrations from the pamphlet!
How important is observation to your work, and what sort of things do you notice that most of us don’t?!
Stephen: I now see what birdwatching is about. The singing – they respond to whistles. The various flights and featherings, and their learnt fear of humans.
Hilaire: It’s often a small detail that will start me off on a poem. A sound, an odd juxtaposition, and perhaps an attention to the linguistic or personal associations that the detail may prompt.
How has nature reclaimed your part of Battersea while we are all indoors?
Stephen: The air is much cleaner. There is a partial loss of that horrid dirty thick layer of filthy air spread over the capital!
Hilaire: I hear much more birdsong. The skies have been beautifully clear, though recently I’ve noticed more planes flying overhead again. Also parks and open spaces are looking less manicured. I love how nature quickly asserts herself when given half a chance.
How does Stephen choose the style of font for each poem?
Stephen: The font is one things, calligraphy another. If your heart is in it, you are free to follow your own zeitgeist & inspiration.
Haiku and Tanka – can you tell us a bit about these forms? What made you choose them?
Hilaire: These are both Japanese forms. Haiku, in English, is traditionally three lines containing 17 syllables in total, spread over the three lines as 5/7/5 syllables. Tanka is like an extended haiku, of five lines, the first three the same as a haiku, and the last two lines both seven syllables. Usually a haiku or tanka will contain a reference to the season or elements of nature. I chose these forms because they are short – which felt manageable, especially as I was aiming to write one every day – and also as I like the challenge of trying to say something new or different in a condensed way.
How has this creative outlet helped you both during this time?Stephen: An apple a day… a little art can make you happy all day
Hilaire: It’s been great to have a focus, to realise that even in restricted circumstances I can create a small poem that didn’t exist until I sat down at my desk with a mug of coffee. And then to see that transformed by Stephen into a striking visual version has been really exciting. Working together gave it a momentum I’m not sure I’d have been able to maintain on my own.
Stephen was a theoretical physicist in a past life! How does this influence his art?
Stephen: I cannot be a happy and peaceful person except through creativity and invention, but even in those pursuits I cannot be rid of intellectuality. The plus side is that not many do art in my way!
Lastly, where do we get a copy?!
You can order a copy from Hilaire’s blog: https://hilaireinlondon.wordpress.com/shop/
Or contact Stephen on: 07955 400682
We are now open on an appointment only basis – if you would like to make an appointment to visit us, we’d love to see you! Contact us at Heritage@gll.org.