Drop in by Chloe Hanks

This week it’s my pleasure to welcome Chloe Hanks. When her unusual collection, I call upon the witches (Sunday Mornings at the River, 2022) arrived on my desk I immediately wanted to review it! I’m fascinated to hear what she has to say.

For my drop in, I will be discussing the poem The Four Witches. It is written in response to the engraving of the same name by Albrecht Durer. 

            My previous publication, May We All Be Artefacts, evolved through the practice of ekphrasis: writing in response to artwork. It is a technique I find especially innovative. I love the idea of intertextuality blending through different art forms as a dialogue or discourse between creatives. But more so, it is also an intertextual link between time periods and concepts/discussions. Using ekphrasis in I Call Upon the Witches helped me to build the links between how the Witch was being characterised in art and literature, and the history of the time in which that character was produced. The Four Witches depicts a small coven of women who are gathering to perform a ritual; liberating yet clearly scandalous. They are shed of their clothes, they are at one with their femininity and more crucially, they are observed by creatures. I learned about puckles during a lecture delivered by Dr Darren Oldridge during my time as a Creative Writing student at the University of Worcester. He provided a deep dive into the history of ‘familiars’ and so-called ‘puckles’ who existed as a physical extension of the devil, communicating with and corrupting witches. I knew I wanted to write them into a poem, and this one seemed like the perfect place for them. It allowed me to build a scene beyond the one that exists in Durer’s image. 

            The poem closes with a couplet, one of which I am especially proud. I used iambic tetrameter to echo the monologues of Shakespeare’s Three Witches. “Black roses bloom to bring the thorn, but only once the curse is sworn,” I wanted the closing lines to feel like an incantation or a spell. 

The poem is one of my favourites because I feel like it captures the essence of what I was trying to do with the whole collection: a representation followed by a dissection of what may or may not be true. The Witch is complex in her authenticities, and her womanhood, and in this poem I feel I managed to explore both.

Next week read my review of this extraordinary collection.

Catch up with poets previously featured: Brendon Booth-Jones

Open Letters to the Sky is a passionate, persuasive collection about finding beauty and meaning in a world that moves faster than us. If we are captured souls with fleeting dreams, then Booth-Jones’ poems are living, breathing and reaching through the bars, holding fallen leaves and faded polaroids. The collection fluctuates between liminality and longing, capitalism and contentment, showing defiance by shaping their echoes. At the edge of the sky, drenched in advertisements and sunlight, the moon eats, the wind laughs and Booth-Jones writes letters. We are brighter and more gentle for it.  Leonie Rowland, author of In Bed with Melon Bread 

 It is not easy to follow a successful first collection but with Open Letters to the Sky, Booth-Jones does it with aplomb. Niall M Oliver, author of My Boss

Open Letters to the Sky is currently available from www.hedgehogpress.co.uk, selected bookshops in Amsterdam, or from the author himself via Twitter @BrendonBoothJo1

AVAILABLE NOW ‘UNMUTED‘ by Nigel Kent!

Nigel Kent’s collection of ekphrastic poems, Unmuted (Hedgehog Poetry Press), is inspired by a gallery of famous works by artists from the present and the past. Each artwork acts as a frame in a storyboard which he unfreezes and unmutes to reveal the narrative he imagines lies behind it. Even for those who have no interest in art these direct, accessible and moving poems will stand alone and promise to engage with issues that truly matter. For details regarding how to purchase a copy visit the signed copies/e-books page.

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