In May 2020, we commissioned ten poets and visual artists to make work stemming from the theme of small pleasures during lockdown. We’re blown away by these commissioned works; they’re exciting and diverse. Some are moving, some are funny, all give an insight into our artists’ and writers’ minds. It’s been a pleasure to curate this anthology, we hope you enjoy it too.
Curated by Jemima Foxtrot and Evelyn Albrow for DINA. If reading the poetry on a phone please turn it on its side.
A joyful moment from the outdoors to the indoors
Fabric / collage / digital
10.93cm x 15 cm
Inventory of Small Pleasures
Lapsang souchong with oat milk. A knife’s clean cut
through the soft pouch of a poached egg. The slap
of heavy post dropping into the living room,
finding a handwritten address. The patterns on freshly
vacuumed carpet. The satisfaction of leaving orchid roots to soak
until they go from silvery straws to sap green worms.
Organising drawers into compartments with the moreish tang
of clotted-cream jasmine seeping through my office window.
The way Kasandra on YouTube says swan pose, chaturanga, namaste.
In the garden, every minute germination, discovering a new bud,
the micro-beauty of a husked seed pod, the sudden splash
of red from the first sweet peas. The wind carrying
the long church-bell notes of piano practice from the street below.
The visiting cat whose rough tongue lick could be a kiss.
And the digging, and digging, the weight of my body pressed
to the spade, that sweet give in a chunk of earth. Then slumped
in my deckchair smelling the colour of roses after rain,
wishing I could move and pulse my body like this caterpillar.
And, on the other side of the wall, three gardens away: Hannah
cutting her husband’s hair. And all I can see behind a square
of washing is a pigeon sat cocky on the birdfeeder, watching,
and a chair with a flash of naked torso, and Hannah’s legs
and apron like a snapshot of the 1950s.
And all the walks, each a lap of gratitude. The one with Lu
and the low flying electric blue damselflies, the prize of finding
the lilac wand of a common spotted orchid near the path
in Falconer woods. And the hidden lake we stood in when the air
was drunk with humid heat and the water eeled like icy ribbons
against our feet and calves. The ancient sycamore on the hill
at Graves park where the guy practices trumpet, his silhouette
knocking back the copper sky. Stretching hamstrings
on that small strip of AstroTurf they use for cricket. So many
sunset runs around its fields, its dark, damp woodlands,
skirting the ponds where the rats run alongside in the undergrowth
spurring me on. And the rabbit, Hazel, who waits for me
by the bench after evening silflay. Everything dazzling
and bright green, growing and climbing
against the ebb and flow of these sealed-in days.
And the meals that came together, all colour and intuition,
like a painting I could never recreate. The perfect ratio
of water to rice. The hiss and froth of a little green bottle of beer,
shimmying up the kitchen with a wok full of okra.
The choreography of knitting, the final looping and scooping off
of yarn to start again and start again. The flow state
of monotropic nonexistence, where there’s no time, no place,
no self, only the task, becoming the thing you are doing,
no moth-headed flitting, no forty tabs open, when your senses
are giving, willing, unable to change direction.
Just that, just the joy of it.
Digital and handmade collage
29.7cm x 42 cm
Jessica Jane Charleston
watercolour on paper
13.5cm x 17.5cm
The Tiny Jack Russell That Goes Past My Window Every Day Around 2.45 with a New Enormous Stick (What, Is He Building a Dam?)
A big pleasure is only its bigness, yak-stubborn
and full of itself, so packed with the butter of its own
cream there’s no room for the cables, the modem, that little
letter-writing table to keep you in touch with the
sadness next door, the shame you were at school with,
the hope that moved to Melbourne in ‘04.
A jigsaw piece bigger than the jigsaw, unseeoutable from,
ungraspably slippery with the juices of its own excitement.
A small pleasure is a grass seed in a handful of grass seeds
flung amongst the rubble and rusted machinery
of your stalled and fucky life, and finding the dark spaces,
the beads of lawless thought, to hoist their tiny flags
of anonymous moss green, content to be lost in the mass,
a hammock of vanishing contentments, the lawn of an okay life.
Care / Connect / Support
pencil, gouache paint, collage
29.7cm x 21cm
The Right Type of Love
God Bless The Great Indoors
Pencil and watercolour
70cm x 99cm
A Little Like This
Close up hug
ceramic white earthenware
10cm x 7cm
Sitting with Olive
ceramic white earthenware
13cm x 9cm
Holding Olive standing
ceramic white earthenware
14cm x 5cm
It happens when you drink too much in the park
on an afternoon with the girl you just met,
the weather stuck between sunshine and squall.
And no, I don’t mean that. Not yet.
More the way our lives have hidden for months
on hold but now, here, you’re noticing
yourself, remembering those two foxes
on a midnight run at the dawn of lockdown,
tentatively sussing the streets, the silence,
each other. You chat around the usual stuff
but then it comes: your eyes lock, and this
could be the start of a story without pandemic:
the precise moment you both recognise it,
fox and vixen, mirroring each other’s movements.
No to Racism, Sexism, Transphobia & Homophobia
100cm x 50cm
Comfort of a Lonely World
In the Capsule with Bob and Doug
Bob and Doug are leaving the Earth’s atmosphere
as fast as human invention can take them
in a seated position that they have to remain in
for nineteen hours. I wonder how much
they like each other. Is it a lot or are they
already getting sick of one another? Does Bob
like Doug more than Doug likes Bob or is it
the other way around? Does Bob find Doug’s behaviour
unnecessarily risky? Do they wish they were
different people sometimes? Nineteen hours
is a long time to sit in a blue-lit
hospital-white cockpit, time enough to really
get into all the issues, have the conversations
life has made them too busy for, until now
in their rubber boots and gloves,
knees bent at ninety degrees
the whole world watching the reflective bubbles
behind which their faces exist. They don’t seem
to be saying much but when they reach Zero G
Bob (or Doug) releases a toy dinosaur
that floats gleefully towards the camera
then cavorts around the spacecraft.
Bob and Doug are out of here!
on Earth we relax on sofas, bodies
incubating their germs and beliefs. At twilight
we might catch Bob and Doug on the horizon
a free spark zipping through the night.
The Gardener (She grew juicy red flowers and then hacked the plant to pieces & ate it)
Porcelain with underglazes and cobalt and nickel inks
8cm x 9cm
This is not a Poem about Baking
or double-yolkers gleaming like newly discovered planets
in the spitting oil of space.
This is not a poem in which a chink of light breaks through
to the infinite void in our souls
just because we’ve grown vegetables together.
So what if I’ve soil under my finger nails?
The infinite void in my soul doesn't care
if I planted wishes in paper pots
felt them burgeon in my heart like algal blooms
until my blood ran shamrock-green.
This is not a poem that stops to smell
the roses. Take a look outside, the thorns
have snaked up the walls of your house
and pierced the clouds, and now it’s raining
news again. My head’s in a vice facing upwards,
my eyelids propped open with matchsticks
and the acid is pouring in. There are rose petals
between my toes but all I can smell is feet.
This is not a poem about dancing
because dancing is far too shackled by gendered
societal expectations to do with leading and following
for any woke person in their right mind to enjoy
being whirled around like a sycamore key in the wind
and anyway, I could be doing something useful.
This is not a love poem
because I would never tell anybody how much I love you
and especially not in a poem
when everyone knows poems are chock-full of lies
like ‘this is not a poem about baking’, I mean
who am I even kidding? I watched the mixture rise
through the greased-up glass of the oven door
like a waif in a Charles Dickens novel peering in
through a steamy window on a family at Christmas-time.
I licked the spoon and now I’ve sticky globules of truth
smeared all around my mouth
and everyone can see how much I
She keeps inviting me in. Won’t understand why
I can’t walk through the door with a blue bag
filled with henna (it has to be the dry, green henna)
and a fresh cotton dress. Won’t understand why
I can’t massage her knees anymore with blackseed oil,
that I’m dangerous now. I stand by the front window,
laugh at her laugh through this prism of love. I ask her
of her day and she recounts routine, and phone calls
home, the floods in Burcao, how the city flows
backwards into the villages, and when she talks of her
daughter, chides her grandsons, I hear in her voice
she is chief of her household again, Hurricane Aisha.
Drinking too much tea, cardamom, ginger,
too much sugar. Sundus’ chuckle steams the pane
and my eyes are glassy portholes. I know she forgets things
but never her salah, wudu in the kitchen sink.
I know she sleeps less so the nights are longer.
Inside, I catch my father slouched over
the coffee table, handpicking the bone of dates.
Her arms are soft olive branches and I distract her
when she reaches out. Something in me
comes undone. I think of how love can take
form in a face. How it stands there on the other side
of glass. Here, we are small mirrors, of each other.
Sundus and I, in a fishbowl of youth and before we go,
the same advice – be wary of boys who don’t walk
through the front gate, remember, you have a good mother,
good father, don’t be seen in bad places and find Allah
everywhere. I leave carrying an empty Sainsbury bag,
her duas filtering the street, guiding me home.