In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf writes: “For my belief is that if we live another century or so – I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals – and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think…then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare’s sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down.” As we were planning and preparing Inkwell, the art and poetry night we are putting on at the Heong Gallery this Sunday (25 February, 6-9pm, free entry, I think you should come!), we didn’t talk about the common life, or rooms of our own, or putting on bodies but, nonetheless, we have circled back and found ourselves face to face with the same ideas.
Inkwell is vey much about making room, opening up an intimate space in the public context, in which the sometimes messy and often imperfect products of lives lived in a gendered world can be presented on their own terms. We want to showcase the work of those disadvantaged by the gender paradigm, and are featuring a range of women, non-binary and trans artists and poets. Kate Collins of Mark My Words put it just right when she said, “The first question that is asked when you go and see a play is ‘was it good?’…Why should we have to decide that? Who says what ‘good’ is?” ‘Good’ is in some ways, a means of marginalising voices which we do not recognise or understand. Perhaps, you will come to Inkwell and think some of the work strange or naïve or technically unpolished. We invite you to lay down those thoughts briefly to consider also the person, the body, the subject who has created it. We have asked all of our contributors to provide a short biography and reflection on their own creative practice to assist you in this. Though art itself may speak to us, it can do so only in language which we already know – the artists or poets’ own accounts remind us not to speak over, or ventriloquise unwantedly, their voices. During the evening, words and voices will also be embodied by their authors reading aloud: another opportunity to take a moment to listen.
Inkwell comes from our desire to bring people into a welcoming space in which such conversations can be had. We talked a lot initially about calling-in, rather than calling-out, an opportunity to celebrate and collaborate – inviting people into spaces that might even be unfamiliar to them (cis male friends, take note), as respectful observers but also as participants in a multi-way dialogue. The image of the well is one of a communal space – the focal centre of a community and a literally fluid space. The inkwell is the spiritually the same – it is a source of vital and creative forces and a space for radical self-making. Our poets and artists explore, in their individual ways, the liquid self and the ways in which it ebbs and flows and crashes against the experienced world. These are big words, for what is really a little show, but they are words we have thought about carefully, and which we offer to you sincerely.
Come then, on Sunday night – wend your way to Downing’s Heong Gallery for Inkwell. We have art and poetry (and crafty things!) – you have eyes and ears and a certain curiosity. Not even a century ago, Virginia Woolf found herself barred from the libraries and lawns of Oxbridge. Not even a century later, we are here.
all drawings by Kitya Mark for Inkwell