Edwinify yourself…

100_3905The email was from the Royal Institute of British Architects. The brief was to commission five poets to each write a poem inspired by their exhibition of Edwin Smith‘s photographs. I didn’t know the name, but as soon as I swept through the gallery doors, I realised I knew several of the images quite well. If you’ve lived in England for a number of decades, reading a particular kind of book, they’re the sort of things which will have wormed their way into your subconscious.

So far, so good. As for selecting the poets, some projects just seem to have certain names stamped all over them: in this case, those of Shaun Belcher, Kayo Chingonyi, A F Harrold, Helen Mort and Belinda Zhawi. A mix of the established, the emerging and the criminally unknown. One by one, I despatched them to the exhibition (hoping that they wouldn’t all want to write about the same photo) and waited. Within the fortnight, my inbox was full of cannily-written epics on the finer points of Box Brownie composition – and that was just Shaun’s footnotes. So here they are – with sound files too, for we are unafraid of modern multimedia stuff. Sit back and Edwinify yourself….

Helen Mort, ‘Circus Acrobatic Troupe.’ Mort’s poem is inspired by Edwin Smith’s photograph, ‘Circus Acrobatic Troupe.’ The photograph depicts a group of circus performers forming a human pyramid. Helen Mort uses this imagery as a metaphor for the collapsing nature of our society. Visit the RIBA website for more info.

Kayo Chingonyi, ‘Long Loch By Ardgartan, Argyll’. Chingonyi’s poem is inspired by Edwin Smith’s photograph ‘Long Loch By Ardgartan, Argyll, Scotland.’ The poem, like the photograph, has a haunting feel to it, and depicts themes of love and longing. Visit the RIBA page for more info.

Belinda Zhawi, ‘Homestead At Gatawa.’ Zhawi’s poem is inspired by Edwin Smith’s photograph ‘House in Urbino.’ The poem focuses mainly around themes of ancestry, tradition and the representation of home. Visit the RIBA website for more info.

A.F. Harold, ‘When Sister Bridget Doubts.’ Harold’s poem is inspired by Edwin Smith’s photograph ‘Plaster Statues of St Brigid.’ Harold uses the imagery in the photograph to explore the complicated nature of religion and ritual. Visit the RIBA page for more info.

Shaun Belcher, Catching Light, Part one: ‘Kodak Box Brownie No.2 Model F.127 Roll Film 1927.’ Inspired by Edwin Smith’s photograph, ‘Camden Town Bedroom,’ Belcher’s poem uses vivid imagery to explore the theme of light. Visit the RIBA website for more info.

Shaun Belcher, Catching Light, Part two: ‘ICA IDEAL 205 Glass Plate 9×12 1935.’ Inspired by Edwin Smith’s photograph, ‘Opticians London,’ Belcher uses images of lenses and spectacles as a metaphor for perspectives. Visit the RIBA website for more info.

Shaun Belcher, Catching Light, Part three: ‘CONTAX II 5cm Sonnar Lens 35 mm 1936.’ Belcher’s third poem is inspired by Edwin Smith’s ‘Kentish Town’ and continues on with the theme of light and perspective. Visit the RIBA page for more info.

Shaun Belcher, Catching Light, Part four: ‘THORNTON PICKARD RUBY Quarter Plate 1904.’  Inspired by Edwin Smith’s ‘St. Lawrence, Bradford-On-Avon, Wiltshire,’ this poem uses imagery of light as a means of depicting the devastation of Post-War England. Visit the RIBA website for more info.

Shaun Belcher, Catching Light, Part five: ‘GRAFLEX SPEED GRAP HIC Roll Film.’ Inspired by Edwin Smith’s ‘Fylindales Yorkshire’, Belcher’s uses a list technique to create a strong feeling of movement, exploring themes of travel, light and perspective. Visit the RIBA website for more info.

Shaun Belcher, Catching Light, Part six: ‘ENSIGN AUTORANGE 820 120 roll film 1955.’ Belcher’s final poem is inspired by Edwin Smith’s ‘Stubble Burning.’ The language in the poem matches the dramatic scenery captured in Smith’s photograph. Visit the RIBA website for more info.