Poetry and illustration work well together and there are many examples of books and collections where poets and illustrators have collaborated. In the past Roger McGough has had his work interpreted by artist and film director Terry Gilliam, but tonight the poet is taking part in a special event at the Edinburgh International Book Festival with illustrator Chris Riddell. The event has the title Performing Poetry with Illustration and is a sold out show at the main theatre space at the Book Festival in Charlotte Square Gardens.
Performance poet and spoken word artist Harry Baker introduces Roger McGough and Chris Riddell to the stage, but not after giving a performance of his poem Dinosaur Love. It is a great introduction to the next hour and fifteen minutes.
Chris Riddell sits behind a desk to the side of the stage. On this desk are his drawing materials, along with a video camera. This camera captures what he is drawing and the beautiful and elegant illustrations are projected onto a screen to the back of the stage. Meanwhile Roger McGough stands on the other side of the stage and reads his poetry. Chris reacts to Roger’s words and the audience see a visual representation of the poetry. Being able to observe Chris Riddell draw in a live setting is a fantastic opportunity. Here the audience get to see first hand what an artist does and we witness how much can be conveyed with a quick line from a sharp pencil. The poetry that is read is on the comedic side with a selection of short poems about the wives of surrealist painters drawing laughs from the audience. Other poems include The Ginsberg Skeleton, Crazy Bastard and One Mild Morning in Early November. Each receives a drawing from Chris, where crocodiles, gorillas and other bizarre characters find their way into the poems. The second section of the event features a full reading of the long poem Summer With Monika, where the story of a long lazy summer is brought to life with Roger’s words and Chris’s brilliant illustrations.
Another common topic was ageing and getting old, but despite Roger mentioning that he has been coming to Edinburgh during August for over fifty years, it seems like his enthusiasm and joy for poetry and performance has not waned at all.