Dorothy’s Colour

Sarah Corbett, Zoe Benbow and Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere Journal
23 April – 2 June 2018 

On the Path to Rydal 2017 by Zoe Benbow. Oil on canvas, 95 x 135cm.
On the Path to Rydal 2017 by Zoe Benbow. Oil on canvas, 95 x 135cm.

Dorothy’s Colour, a collaboration between the poet Sarah Corbett and the visual artist Zoe Benbow, is inspired by their residency at The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere, in 2017, walking in the footsteps of Dorothy Wordsworth. This ‘walking’ took took them around the Vale of Grasmere, the few miles towards Ambleside or around Loughrigg Fell – most often the few hundred yards between Dove Cottage and Bainriggs Wood, where the Wordsworth’s paced for hours under moonlight or lay all day in reverie.

A series of paintings and drawings, interlaced with a sequence of poems printed on coloured panels, create a three-way conversation with Dorothy Wordsworth’s Grasmere Journal. Corbett’s poem, ‘A Perfect Mirror’, the title a phrase of Dorothy’s describing Lake Grasmere, intercuts lines from the journal with journal-like fragments of image and observation. The poems work in tandem with paintings that evoke both surface and depth, encouraging the viewer to enter into landscape, place and moment.

In her journal Dorothy details the daily life of the Lakes poets, moving between the domestic (mending clothes, cooking, planting peas) and the profound (visions, inspirations, minute observation) in a voice as immediate and direct as any contemporary memoir. Dorothy brings the epic Lakeland landscape into graspable proximity, as close as the interior of home, self, imagination. But it is her observations of colour that provide the starting point for this new piece of work.

Zoe’s work makes use of abstraction to bring the viewer into a relationship with the landscape that is “intimate and surrounding rather than distancing and remote”. Sarah’s poetry is rooted in landscape and natural imagery, and makes use of shamanic practices to enter into the visionary. Both poet and visual artist begin their practice in situ: walking, wandering and daydreaming in the landscape. As women artists, being free to inhabit the natural landscape is key to creating work, engaging with Dorothy Wordsworth as one of the first women to walk in the wild with freedom and agency.

The artists

Sarah Corbett’s fifth collection of poems, A Perfect Mirror, is published by Pavilion Poetry this April. Further details of Zoe’s work can be found on her website:; you can follow Dorothy’s Colour on Facebook.

Sarah and Zoe first came together on The Poetry Society supported project, Where We Begin to Look, an exhibition curated by Deryn Rees-Jones and featuring Zoe’s visual work alongside a selection of women’s landscape poetry. The exhibition toured the UK in 2013-14, and was shown at the Dorothy Wordsworth Women’s Poetry Festival in Grasmere in 2014. Dorothy’s Colour has its genesis in this encounter.

Dorothy’s Colour is funded by an Arts Council England Grants for the Arts, Lancaster University’s Friends Alumni Fund, Lancaster University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, and is indebted to The Wordsworth Trust for considerable support. The exhibition was shown at The Wordsworth Trust, Grasmere and The Peter Scott Gallery, Lancaster University in 2017.

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