The Poetry Café hosts a lively programme of art exhibitions inspired by poetry and literature. A number of our exhibitions have toured to other venues, resulted in publications or have been shortlisted for the prestigious Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry. We collaborate regularly with up-and-coming artists, including students from the Illustration and Graphic Design departments of Middlesex University.

Current exhibition: “YAPPO,” SAID THE MAN

Iro Tsavala & Henry Martin

23 October – 1 December * Now extended to 9 December 2017 *

Crows' flight by Iro Tsavala, from Yappo.
Crows’ flight by Iro Tsavala, from Yappo.

The book YAPPO, the first collaboration between the award-winning artists Iro Tsavala and Henry Martin, tells the story of a nameless, mostly silent man, who protects a small plant as he walks through the wilderness. During his travels, the man meets a milliner, a butcher, a dog, and a mermaid, each of whom requests a leaf from his plant. The man refuses to comply, muttering “Yappo.” How will his journey end?

The latest Poetry Café exhibition, “YAPPO,” SAID THE MAN, presents Iro Tsavala’s earthy, timeless illustrations inspired by the Scottish Highlands, alongside new prints and objects.

About the artists

Iro Tsavala graduated from the Royal College of Art, London, in 2008 and lectures in illustration at University for the Creative Arts, Farnham. She works in the field of ‘authorial illustration’, exploring new genres in illustrated books that are not strictly covered by picture books or graphic novels. Her work has been exhibited at Somerset House, London; the Women’s Library, London; Ethnographic Museum, Kraków; and the Boston Children’s Museum, USA. She has produced illustrations for The Poetry Society; The Guardian; the publisher Laurence King and others. irotsavala.com

Henry Martin’s books include YAPPO (Company Cod, 2017) and the biography Agnes Martin: Pioneer, Painter, Icon (Schaffner Press, 2018). His poetry has appeared in Stylus, Criterion, Limited Edition, Jam magazine and elsewhere. His plays have been shown at Theatre 503, Arcola Theatre, Roundhouse, Latitude, Fishamble and Belltable Theatre. He has been nominated for various awards and is recipient of the Jerome Hynes Award. henry-martin.co.uk

YAPPO is published by Company Cod with support from University for the Creative Arts and Tipperary Artists Award 2017 in a signed and numbered limited edition of 300 copies, ISBN 9781999725006, price £15.


Slow show exhibition

Continuing at The Poetry Café: Slow Show

First slow dance in letterpress. Inspired by popular songs

From 9 June * Now extended to 9 December 2017 *

The inaugural exhibition in the newly refurbished Poetry Café is Slow Show. First slow dance in letterpress. Inspired by popular songs by students in the Graphic Design department at Middlesex University.

Second-year Graphic Design students have taken memorable lines from popular songs and transformed them into exciting images, using the centuries-old relief printmaking technique of letterpress. The exhibition presents original one-off prints – ear worms metamorphosed into visual splendour!

A celebratory opening event was held in The Poetry Café on Friday 9 June.

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Headbooks exhibition image

Coming up at The Poetry Café: Headbooks!

11 December 2017 to 3 February 2018

Sidekick Books presents Headbooks!, a winter exhibition of visual poems from the first two titles in the wildly experimental Headbooks series. Each book is an interactive, collaborative compendium combining the aesthetics of guidebook, catalogue and poetry anthology, melding the factual with the fantastical, the lyrical with the visual, and brand new work with remixed public domain art. Contributing artists include Forward Prize winner Vahni Capildeo, avant-garde Scottish poet and performer Harry Giles, CLiPPA Award winner Kate Wakeling and Burning Eye Books editor Clive Birnie. Included are scrapbooking and do-it-yourself pages so that every copy is customisable, blurring the line between reader and writer.

The exhibition showcases collages, calligrams, mixed-media translations and telegraphic poems across two floors, including some exclusively redesigned for the exhibiting space. On the ground floor, you can find rewired and re-mediated versions of the poems of Catullus, the Roman poet famed for his bawdy and salacious verses, and for his explosive love-hate relationship with the mysterious noblewoman referred to in his poems as ‘Lesbia’. Below deck, you will uncover the dive-verse world of Aquanauts: sorrowful shipwrecks, Loch Ness sightings, vile jellies and deep sea leviathans.

The exhibition is curated by Sidekick’s writer-editors Kirsten Irving and Jon Stone, both multi-prize-winning poets in their own right and previous joint winners of a Saboteur Award for Best Collaboration. There will be a launch event on Monday 11 December with a mixed Roman/underwater theme. Togas and other costuming encouraged. Red wine, grapes and honey cakes will be served, and the filthiest Catullus translations – those deemed too extreme to be exhibited – will be performed aloud.