English and Drama blog

4 posts from October 2012

25 October 2012

Two recent acquisitions

We are delighted to announce two recent acquisitions in Printed Literary Sources.

We have acquired a new work by the artist Linda Landers at the Spoon Print Press.  This beautiful artist’s book is a setting of William Blake’s poem ‘The Shepherd’ from Songs of Innocence.  The book contains print and watercolours and is one of an edition of five signed and dated by the artist.  This work complements our existing holdings by Linda Landers and will be available shortly in the reading rooms.  For more information about Linda Landers please see her website at http://www.lindalanders.co.uk/.  For more details about the Library’s collection of artists’ books please see our website at http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpsubject/artarchperf/art/finepressesartistsbooksandbookarts/finepresses.html

We have also acquired a rare illustrated children’s book, The Sandman’s Hour by Nellie Elliot.  Published around 1948 this is one of two known books by this author.  The other Grandmamma, and other Irish Stories is also held by the Library at shelfmark 012640.m.42.

The Sandman’s Hour was published by At The Sign of Three Candles Press the Dublin press run by Colm Ó Lochlainn.  Not much is known about the author but information is available on the internet about the illustrator Karl Uhlemann at http://hitone.wordpress.com/category/designers/karl-uhlemann/ and for information about Colm Ó Lochlainn please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colm_%C3%93_Lochlainn and http://hitone.wordpress.com/category/publishers/sign-of-the-three-candles/

For more information about the Library’s children’s literature collections please see the following link http://www.bl.uk/reshelp/findhelpsubject/literature/chillit/childlit.html


19 October 2012

"As I write this letter...Treasure these few words 'til we're together": John Lennon's Letters

Last Thursday the Library celebrated the work of John Lennon at the launch of the newly published The John Lennon Letters


We all know Lennon’s  music - but he was also a quite remarkably inventive and quirky writer and poet - the author most notably of works including In His Own Write (1964) and A Spaniard in the Works (1965), both adapted for the National Theatre in 1968.

Lennon corresponded widely, and many of his correspondents were present in the Library auditorium last week: from a well-known art critic, to a Manchester based consultant obstetrician.

Hunter Davies, the first and only authorised biographer of the Beatles, has collected around three hundred of such letters for his new collection. He found them in museums, with private collectors, and, in some cases, still in the hands of the original recipients. Some had been sold for astronomical sums…others had just about fetched enough to cover a new washing machine.


Hunter talked for over ninety minutes about his quest to track down as many letters as possible, and also discussed his own collection of Beatles lyrics that he had amassed while hanging out with the band in the 1960s on tour and in the studio. One of these lyrics- an early and vastly different draft of ‘In My Life’  - was a star exhibit at the British Library’s summer 2012 exhibition, ‘Writing Britain’ , while a rotating selection of the lyrics and memorabilia is a permanent feature of our free Sir John Ritblat Gallery, Treasures of the British Library.

008_John Lennon Letters (2)

After Hunter had finished his talk, we had a special treat at the publisher’s launch party- with a set by the reformed Quarrymen (formed in 1956 by John Lennon and school friends, before Paul McCartney joined a year later- photo above is courtesy of the Quarrymen) filling the Library with the sound of skiffle…before a brief appearance by Yoko herself: looking stunning in black top hat and shades, and speaking generously about Hunter’s work editing the Letters.


She assured the guests that Hunter had made only two small mistakes that she had had to correct…and tantalisingly explained how Hunter- or rather a particular part of Hunter – had almost featured in her 1966 film No. 4- otherwise known, and with good reason, as….Bottoms.


16 October 2012

British Library has acquired the James Berry archive

We are very pleased to announce that the British Library has acquired the archive of the Caribbean British poet and writer, James Berry OBE. James Berry, one of the first black writers in Britain to be widely recognised for his work, came to Britain as part of the first wave of immigrants from the Caribbean in 1948.

Berry's archive includes poetry notebooks spanning the length of his career, along with manuscript and typescript drafts of his poetry and prose (including notes for an unpublished novel), diaries, photographs and audio visual material. Notes and heavily annotated drafts in the archive illustrate Berry's creative process and the meticulous attention to detail in his writing. This fascinating and varied archive will provide researchers with a real insight into Berry's life and work.

Much of Berry's work explores the relationship between black and white communities and in particular, the excitement and tensions in the evolving relationship of the Caribbean immigrants with Britain and British society from the 1940s onwards. James Berry's passion for and involvement in education, which developed out of a concern for the low priority given to multi-cultural education in British schools, led to numerous visits to schools and a year spent as Writer-in-Residence at Vauxhall Manor School in 1978.

For more information about the archive and some lovely images of items from it please see the press release.

08 October 2012

The Power of Caribbean Poetry – Word and Sound

On 20-22 of September the British Library recorded The Power of Caribbean Poetry – Word and Sound at Homerton College, Cambridge. This was a conference on contemporary Caribbean Poetry from English-speaking territories linked to the Caribbean Poetry Project 2010-2012, which is a collaboration between the Centre for Commonwealth Education (Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge), the University of the West Indies at Mona (Jamaica), St Augustine (Trinidad) and at Cave Hill (Barbados), conceived to promote and disseminate the teaching, understanding, and appreciation of Caribbean poetry in the Caribbean and the UK. See here for further details.

Grace Nichols1Grace Nichols

The conference was structured around a generous programme with participants and experts from both hemispheres. Its three days elapsed among scholarly papers, panel discussions, seminars, poetry readings and late-night sessions of poetry entertainment. The papers revealed many of the multiple subjects of Caribbean poetry, crossing over several disciplines: from literature to history, anthropology, sociology and ethnomusicology, and included environmental approaches, postcolonial views, perspectives on cultural identity, polyphonic interpretations and analysis of ethics of representation, just to mention some of the topics. The seminars addressed aspects of teaching and learning Caribbean poetry, providing creative methodologies for both teachers and students. In conjunction with this polymath learning there was an exquisite cast of poets who read and performed each evening till late, treating the delegates to an unforgettable experience.

In her opening speech Professor Morag Styles, Project Director, stated that this was the biggest line-up of Caribbean poets ever to appear in Cambridge. Here is the list for your consideration: John Agard, Christian Campbell, Kei Miller, Mark McWatt, Mervyn Morris, Philip Nanton, Grace Nichols, Velma Pollard, Olive Senior, Dorothea Smartt and special guest Linton Kwesi Johnson, who gave a lecture on Jamaican poet Michael Smith. In addition to the poetry Morris, Senior and Campbell gave keynote lectures: Morris focused on poetry and language showing examples of Creole and Caribbean English; Senior on poetry and play; and Campbell on a book he is writing on Caribbean poetry.

Linton Kwesi Johnson1Linton Kwesi Johnson

The Caribbean Poetry Project has also collaborated with the online Poetry Archive set up by Andrew Motion (see here for more), leading to new recordings of several Caribbean poets. Besides Nobel Prize winner Derek Walcott, Jean 'Binta' Breeze and James Berry the list currently includes Linton Kwesi Johnson, Mervyn Morris and Olive Senior, while Christian Campbell, Anthony Joseph and Velma Pollard are soon to be added.

The landscape of Caribbean poetry is transnational and full of features. In brief we could say it is critical at heart, often political and social, frequently jocose and closely entwined with the rhythms of reggae, dub and calypso.

Kei Miller1Kei Miller

The recordings of this conference will be accessible online at the British Library Sounds page once they have been processed. Look out for them and tell us what you think. Until then here is a sample of Kei Miller reading his poem 'Speaking in Tongues'.

Listen to Kei Miller reading in Cambridge