Stephanie Green: Sean Borodale Workshop and Lucilla Sim Exhibition

Friday 8 March 2013

Poet Stephanie Green writes about her time at Sean Borodale's workshop at Balmungo House, The Narrow Road to the Deep North exhibition by last year's artist in residence Lucilla Sim, and the Festival Launch event with Lesley Riddoch.

Sean Borodale Workshop at Balmungo House

Sean Borodale (Credit: Stephanie Green)

I was looking forward to see how 2012 T.S. Eliot short-listed poet, artist and film-maker, Sean Borodale would interpret the workshop title 'Chromatic Fields: voicing a landscape': though, in the event, not a landscape, but paintings, since it was raining. I was hoping we would write 'note-poems dictated by phenomena' as his own poems in 'Bee Journal' has been described by Alice Oswald. And indeed, this is what we did, using the chromatic range of the 'landscape' of Wilhelmina Barns-Graham's paintings, our own senses, but also considering the spatial and temporal, like a documentary film where's an immediacy unreeling in real time, revising and self-editing on the spot. Surrounded by Barns-Graham's Modernist paintings, we considered abstraction in terms of a poem: form, the 'field' or space of a poem, and how to create collages of dislocated phenomena.

I left the workshop buzzing with ideas and strategies of how to approach new poems using the techniques of artists and film-makers. Balmungo House is particularly suited to fostering this cross-over of the arts: given permission, as we were, to roam the house, to immerse ourselves in Willie's dynamic, bold paintings and respond in exciting new ways.

From poems inspired by art, to art inspired by poems: with time to spare before the Official Festival Opening, I had a look round Lucilla Sims' exhibition and was bowled over.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North

Lucilla Sim (Credit: Stephanie Green)

Last year, at the Balmungo workshop, I met Lucilla, StAnza's Artist in Residence for 2012, so I was particularly interested in seeing what had come out of her residency. The title refers to the Japanese poet, Basho's famous journey and resulting haiku, but, of course, hers is an artistic journey. Her work uses fragments of text and collage, paints and inks where she builds up surfaces and layers. Some of the works are directly inspired by specific poets, such as Michael Symmons Roberts, the Irish poet Tony Curtis, Lavinia Greenlaw, John Glenday, and John Burnside, and in others, as she says are 'glimpsed and vague, a drift between the fleeting impulse and memory'.

I particularly loved her response to 'A Scattering' by Christopher Reid, a collage where fragments of book spine and cover suggest the title. She told me she had also incorporated a cutting from the Guardian Review. I also loved her response to 'The Iron Age Boat at Caumatruish' by Bernard O'Donoghue, where the boat suggests the shroud of Christ, hinted at by O'Donoghue's poem of this title:

If you doubt, you can put your fingers
In the holes where the oar-pegs went

- a reference to Doubting Thomas putting his fingers in Christ's wounds, of course.

Festival Opening

Then it was rush, rush for the festival launch, taster readings by Gillian Clarke, Alvin Pang and Erin Moure plus some bouncy music from St Leonards' School pupils (I liked the hats, guys) and the exquisite St Andrew's Buchanan Quartet.

Stephanie will be posting about StAnza all week! You can find her poetry musings outside of the festival on her blog.