Charcoal on paper *
One of three large scale charcoal drawings on this theme, part of a collaborative project with the artist’s father. Michael Longley‘s poetry collection Ghetto is published by Andrew J Moorhouse Fine Press Poetry. The artist also produced a smaller scale series of pen and ink illustrations for her father Michael Longley’s Ghetto poetry collection (click on Artworks tab to view all of these).
“The third book [in collaboration with my father and Andrew Moorhouse’s press] is called Ghetto and is dedicated to Helen Lewis, who survived Auschwitz and Terezín before finding her way to Belfast, where she worked as a choreographer. She taught me dancing as a little girl. I had been thinking about Helen and reading memoirs such as her own wonderful book A Time to Speak and Night by Elie Wiesel. I needed to do something creative with the emotions I was feeling. This was also the time when we were witnessing the horrendous 21st century suffering of the Syrian refugees. The poem ‘Ghetto’ was a way in. I nervously sketched out a few images and ideas of how I could present such a complex, powerful poem. I focused on the first three sections. It was an emotional process. I used my daughter Amelia as a model for the little girl in the second section: ‘The little girl without a mother behaves like a mother //With her rag doll to whom she explains fear and anguish’. I also used my own photographs and bits and pieces to illustrate the first verse of ‘Ghetto’, which lists items which might be packed when you are abruptly forced to leave home: ‘Because you will suffer soon and die, your choices//Are neither right nor wrong’. I believe that we must try to picture ourselves and our families enduring such hell on earth.
Eventually this led to the book Ghetto, with an illustration for each of the poem’s eight sections; also for several more Holocaust poems from previous collections, and a new poem ‘Primo’s Question’. It was a challenging task but I’m very proud of the book especially as right-wing xenophobia is simmering throughout Europe.” – Sarah Longley (to see her full essay, click here)
The little girl without a mother behaves like a mother
With her rag doll to whom she explains fear and anguish,
The meagreness of the bread ration, how to make it last,
How to get back to the doll’s house and lift up the roof
And, before the flame-throwers and dynamiters destroy it,
How to rescue from their separate rooms love and sorrow,
Masterpieces the size of a postage stamp, small fortunes.
– extract from ‘Ghetto’ by Michael Longley (2019). Copyright the poet.
*270gsm strong acid free paper