This summer The Mosaic Rooms commissioned me to write poems in response to drawings by the young Syrian Kurdish painter Lawand. I had never seen his work before and was stunned by the power of his portraits. I spent August in Paris, got up early each day and sat at my French window which opened out onto a vine-covered courtyard. One day, very early, I walked through the outdoor sculpture park along the quai St Bernard and wrote the first four poems. The gardeners worked around me, watering the shrubs.
Back in my room I noticed that the wood pigeon chicks in the nest opposite were out on their ledge, and that day I witnessed both their first flights. A few of Lawand's figures seem to be attempting flight. They emerge from a mist of thorns, as if his troubled homeland hangs behind them. Those wood pigeon chicks looked so impatient to launch into their element, yet vulnerable as they crashed into walls and fell, almost within range of the ginger cat below.
One girl – see the painting above, and the drawing below – walks towards us, head down, as if she is entering the world from a childhood in a cave. In the drawing she has a black scrawl in front of her face. She looks determined, advancing doggedly towards her hard-won light.
On Monday 14 October I will lead a workshop in the galleries – Writing the Body – a full day surrounded by these mist-wreathed figures! If you would like to take part there's just a few places left. You can book on The Mosaic Rooms website
The fifteen commissioned poems I wrote this summer will be published in a special art book Effigies, along with the fifteen drawings by Lawand that I responded to. Effigies will be launched at The Mosaic Rooms at 12 noon on Saturday 19th October, at Art and Poetry, a discussion between me and the artist about the relationship of art and poetry. You are warmly invited but please do RSVP email@example.com to book your free seat.
Seven poems from Effigies will also be published by Seren in my next full-length collection Fauverie in October 2014. Fauverie centres on my father and Paris, specifically the Fauverie in the Ménagerie of the Jardin des Plantes, but I wanted to intersperse portraits of other 'effigies' between the portraits of my father and mother in the book, and of course there are numerous portraits of the big cats in the zoo, those few survivors of a harrowing eco-war.
Very grateful thanks to the A.M. Qattan Foundation for offering me the commission, for introducing me to the work of a fabulous artist, and for believing I could do it in just one month!