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.

Tonewood: Photographs by Lawrence Impey • Poems by Sue Rose

Blackrock Sequence: screenprinted images & poems by David Butler & Jim Butler

Concurrent exhibitions: 29 April – 1 June 2019
Standing Water from Tonewood by Lawrence Impey & Sue Rose, 2019.
‘Standing Water’ from Tonewood by Lawrence Impey & Sue Rose, 2019.

Tonewood: Photographs by Lawrence Impey • Poems by Sue Rose, 29 April – 1 June 2019

Join us for a celebratory event at The Poetry Café, London, with Lawrence Impey & Sue Rose on 2 May, 6.30–8.30pm – all welcome!

“Trees, rooted to the spot, connect us to the surface of the planet, a visual reference to time and place; their life-cycle provides a metaphor for our own, enhanced by their evident anthropomorphism. Enter the woods and we become the interlopers with a heightened awareness, oppressed by silence or nervous at the cracking of a twig.” – Lawrence Impey

Lawrence Impey’s photographs for Tonewood, the title of his exhibition at The Poetry Café and accompanying book, produced in collaboration with the poet Sue Rose, are inspired by his deep fascination with woodland. He explains, “For a couple of years, I was fortunate to live close to Monken Hadley Common and the adjoining Covert Way Nature Reserve in the London Borough of Barnet.”

“To photograph woodland is to explore a different realm and, hopefully, to come away with something that expresses a connection to the natural world, an awareness of the beauty of nature as revealed by light, a sense of growth and decay and the passing of the seasons. After photographing the area for about a year, I approached the poet Sue Rose to see whether she would be interested in creating poems to accompany the photographs.”

Sue Rose was delighted to spend time examining Lawrence’s beautiful black and white images to see where they would lead. “They resonated with many of my preoccupations as a poet and provided me with a point of departure for meditations on heredity, legacy and endurance. The process led to the creation of these twenty poems, which would not have been written without Lawrence’s photographs. The resulting book is a testament to creative symbiosis and also to the survival of what lives on in us and through us, despite the predations of death and change.”

“Tree diagrams dating as far back as Darwin have been used to communicate life’s history of descent. Darwin said ‘The affinities of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree. I believe this simile largely speaks the truth…’ Trees draw deep from the soil, the way we draw on our pasts, nourished by all that has gone before, creating communities of similarity and succour. We are rooted in our traditions, our memories and our upbringings and these, like the roots of a tree, provide us with a strong foundation from which to grow.”

About the artists

Since graduating from Bournemouth & Poole College of Art & Technology in 1974, Lawrence Impey‘s photographs have been published in numerous books and magazines, including Mojo, Q and Rolling Stone. He now works mainly on self-directed projects using monochrome film which he processes and digitises. His previous exhibitions include On The Beat, held in Hackney, London, in 2007, and Signs Of The Seventies in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, in 2015. Lawrence lives in Greenwich, London

Sue Rose is the author of two poetry collections published by Cinnamon Press: From the Dark Room and The Cost of Keys. A third Cinnamon collection is due out in 2020. She also published a chapbook of sonnets paired with her own photos, Heart Archives, with Hercules Editions. Tonewood, a book of poems with tree photographs by Lawrence Impey, is published by Eaglesfield Editions in early 2019. She won the Troubadour Poetry Prize in 2009 and the Canterbury Festival Poet of the Year Competition in 2008, and has been commended, shortlisted or placed in competitions such as the National Poetry Competition, Live Canon, Peterloo and Wigtown.

Blackrock Market by David & Jim Butler.
‘Blackrock Market’ by David & Jim Butler.

Blackrock Sequence: screenprinted images & poems by David Butler and Jim Butler

Join us for a celebratory event at The Poetry Café, London, with David and Jim Butler on Sat 4 May, 4–6pm – all welcome!

Blackrock Sequence is an award-winning collaboration of 11 screenprinted images and poems by writer David Butler and artist Jim Butler, exploring a stretch of Dublin coastline through poetry and printmaking.

In 2016, Dún Laoghaire / Rathdown County Council commissioned David to write poems exploring the culture, history and ecology of a stretch of suburban Dublin coastline, for which his brother Jim then produced a series of images acting in dialogue with the poems. The images were developed from collages and rubbings of incidental typography Jim made on location. Using screenprinting, Jim was particularly interested in the colours formed by overlapping layers. Each image uses a related palette of inks, though the print order and transparency is played with across the sequence to achieve different colours. The shapes of the straight and torn edges echo the shapes of the poems, while location-specific typography completes each image. The poems are set in Koefler’s Knockout typeface. Blackrock Sequence won the professional book category in the 2018 World Illustration Award and to date has been acquired by a number of artists’ book collections including the Tate, the British Library, National Irish Visual Arts Library, Yale University and Cambridge University.

“Blackrock Sequence is a fine example of the historical traditions of the livre d’artiste, delivered in a contemporary method of production with the artist acting as master printer and publisher. It showcases Butler’s sensitivity and skills in presenting visual form on the page.” – Sarah Bodman, Senior Research Fellow for Artists’ Books at the Centre for Fine Print Research

About the artists

David Butler is a multi-award winning novelist, poet and playwright. The most recent of his three published novels, City of Dis (New Island), was shortlisted for the 2015 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year. His second poetry collection, All the Barbaric Glass, was published in 2017 by Doire Press, while a short-story collection, No Greater Love, was published in London by Ward Wood in 2013. Literary prizes include the Maria Edgeworth, ITT/Red Line and Fish International Award for the short story, the Scottish Community Drama, Cork Arts Theatre and British Theatre Challenge awards for drama, and the Féile Filíochta, Ted McNulty, Brendan Kennelly, Phizfest, Poetry Ireland/Trocaire and Baileborough awards for poetry. His radio play Vigil was broadcast by RTE in 2017. He lives in Bray, outside Dublin.

Jim Butler was born in Dublin and currently lives in Cambridge where he leads the MA Illustration & Book Arts course at Cambridge School of Art, Anglia Ruskin University. His practice is centred around drawing, collage and printmaking. He designs, prints and binds his books by hand. His work has been exhibited widely in the UK, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Portugal, Mexico and the USA and is held in numerous public collections including the Tate, British Library, Huis van het Boek / Meermanno Museum and the National Irish Visual Arts Library. His illustration clients include Adidas, Siemens and New Island Books.

If you would like to receive regular updates about our exhibitions and all the other exciting events in The Poetry Café, just sign up.