Sunday, 16 November 2014

A Poem House

I had a great day yesterday.  I went to a workshop run by an artist called Brigid Collins. She is a delightful, clever, thoughtful lady who manages to combine the written word with the visual arts. She described her work as three dimensional collage, and that description seems to fit the bill! Her website is very worthwhile exploring, and there you can see some of her poem houses.

We had to take a poem along with us, as well as some bits and pieces we thought we might like to work with.  I have an old exercise book, labelled 'Elocution', which belonged to my mother.  This book dates from the 1920s.  In her childish hand there are lots of poems, written out carefully, to be learnt and recited at school.  There are a few corrections on the pages, made by her teacher.  

From Mum's book, I photographed 'From a Railway Carriage' by Robert Louis Stevenson.  It is a poem I also learnt as a child and I still think of it, especially when blackberrying time comes round.  
Here is a child who clambers and scrambles
All by himself and gathering brambles;
I had in mind that my poem house might be a nest, in a hedge, and although it is not an obvious house, a nest is a house - to a bird!  

Brigid started off her workshop by showing us the huge array of things we could use to create our poem houses - wire, paper, PVA glue, inks, stencils, letters, an old typewriter on which to type words, masses of mediums to choose from.  She showed us how to build up delicious paint effects on tissue paper, using colour, gold stuff, stencilling - the options are endless.
There were five of us on the course, and we all did something completely different.  I now know why I have spent all my life collecting little bits and pieces, beautiful to me, pointless to others, but I now know how I can use them!  It's so exciting!  
 It was a thoroughly enjoyable day of pure play.  I loved it.  
I chose three extracts from my poem - 'hedges and ditches', 'gathering brambles' and the last three words of the poem 'gone for ever'.  I traced them from my mother's handwriting on to tissue paper and attached them to the piece.  The nest sits on a real length of blackberry stem, very prickly, lovely purple colour on its top side and green underneath - beautiful.  In the nest I put the 'gone for ever' extract.  Once the eggs have hatched and the fledglings have flown, they have gone for ever.  
The final collection are a funny lot.  The box on the left hand side was amazing inside, very theatrical and clever, especially with a light shone through from the back, and the others were iridescent and gorgeous!  Mine was a bit whimsical, but I loved making it.
I took another poem with me.  A haiku poem.
Buds of folded blue
Origami masterpiece -
Harebells in waiting.
I really would like to make a poem house with it, more in keeping with Brigid's ideas, so I am going to do that, not any time soon, though, because the next week and a half are going to be very busy with preparations for going to Australia for 6 weeks.  But in the New Year …..!  


  1. You're post has brought a lump to my throat, my mother loved poems and used to recite some she learnt at school for public speaking. There is one that I can only remember a few words from, 'drip, drip, drip into the pool/' or something like that. I've tried to find it and of course now I wish that I'd asked her to right it down when she was still alive.
    I love the idea of taking your mother's words and creating a beautiful 'home' for them, I think the bird's nest and choice of phrases work wonderfully together. What an inspiring day, I hope you're able to do more. Antonia x

  2. Thank you Antonia! I'm glad you enjoyed my poem house! It was fun to do, and I am definitely going to do another. A x