The recently published ‘Furrowed Lives’ has blossomed out of a dynamic creative collaboration between performance poet, James King, and visual artist, David Hegarty. ‘Furrowed Lives’ comprises 31 poems by James, each poem very much related in subject matter to 31 black and white (chiaroscuro) line drawings by David. ‘Furrowed Lives’ is truly a unique and high quality local publication, excellently designed by Mark Willett.
“Most often,” says James, “David had already completed the drawing and I responded by creating a poem which reflected the ‘feel’ of David’s artwork or I built upon a story that David had told me about the character represented in his drawing.”
Many of David’s drawings were created during an enforced short-term stay in a local convalescent home when he was recovering after breaking his leg in an accident. David’s subjects are most often residents from that hom,e many of whom were experiencing depression, suffering from epilepsy or Alzeimers, or were bereaved as in the case of Martha:
He left in a hearse
My Alfie, my Alfie
A grand affair
What hearse, what hearse?
O Alfie, Alfie
Where are you Alfie?
I don’t want a hearse
It’s Alfie, I want
A grand affair
James’s simple, direct, child-like words give expression to the loss, sadness and isolation now felt by Martha, drawn by David with head slanted, left hand to forehead and apron loose, as if she couldn’t quite be bothered. Picture and poem work together to take us more fully into the heart and mind of Martha, a woman bereaved and left pleading, again and again, “Where’s Alfie?”
James King is perhaps better known both as a former theatre studies lecturer at the University of Ulster (where he was course director for Community Drama) and as a street theatre performer. His poems in ‘Furrowed Lives’ have a power and strength akin to that often arising from dramatic monologues:
The tormented mother
Of seriously ill, epileptic Damian
Visits every Saturday
Hoping not to see
Another painful heart-wrenching attack.
His dad wheels Damian
To the pub.
David’s empathetic portrait, allied to James’s words, lets us see something more human behind the tightened lips on the mask Damian’s mum chooses to wear to help her manage her feelings in this “painful heart-wrenching“ situation with her epileptic son. Damian’s dad appears more practical.
‘Furrowed Lives’, you will gather then, is not easy but it is certainly worthwhile. Both artist and poet reflect lives mainly lived in residential care, where challenges exist day and daily. Some of these challenges are matters of life and death.
David and James stand ‘on the side’ of their subjects, walk compassionately in their shoes, endeavour to have us see what they see, feel what they feel. The poems are generally tight and effective, the idiosyncratic drawings are both moving and wonder-full, even if the lives depicted can seem bleak. Perhaps for David and James there is here the possibility of an exhibition combining both drawings and poems, in some kind of performance space like the Void Gallery or at the Playhouse where ‘Furrowed Lives’ had its local launch with a reading on June 28th.
‘Furrowed Lives’ is having its Belfast launch tomorrow, September 1st, at 3pm in No Alibi Books on Botanic Avenue. The book is already for sale in the usual outlets here in Derry-Londonderry e.g. Easons, Shipquay Books, Cool Discs, Little Acorn Books, Culturlann or through Yes! Publications linked with Amazon. ‘Furrowed Lives’ can also be accessed though email@example.com and ‘firstname.lastname@example.org