‘The Artist’s Room’ by Jo Slade

Jo Slade’s pamphlet The Artist’s Room is as unique in presentation with its hand-stamped Munster motif as James Brooke’s beautiful pamphlet The English Sweats. The two have been published by Pighog and if they are representative of their larger output then this small press is impressive for its dedication to creating aesthetically beautiful and tailor-made pamphlets.

Front cover - slightly dirty from a trip in my handbag.

There is nothing meretricious about this collection, much like the hushed colours of its cover, the poems whisper to you.  They will not sleep with you on the first date but they will get you drunk and talk of their last desperate relationship.

The Artist’s Room is all about relationships: the relationship between the writer, Jo Slade, and her muse the painter Gwen John; between sculptor Auguste Rodin and his muse/lover Gwen John; but also between Gwen John and her craft. Sometimes these conflicts of inspiration/creation meld beautifully as is the case in ‘Abeyance’. In this poem, Gwen’s state of suspense, on the brink of creativity, is observed by an outsider:

‘Watch her.

Though the day moves through her

And her through it –

Her true state is suspended’

At other times the quiet desperation that seeps through the poems, however luminous they may be, makes you want to shake them from their emo trance. This is the case with the regretful ‘Last Letter’:

‘I should have sent you my heart

I should have cut it out –

made a book of its muscular tissue.’

Jo Slade’s obvious passion for Gwen John, her work and her life, carries the pamphlet through. Not quite a work of art, not quite a biography, it’s a reminder of the unexpected otherness of poetry – its ability to metamorphosis facts without betraying them and its capacity to take the reader by the hand and through the looking glass.

The Artist’s Room is on sale now for £6. There are 300 hand-stamped versions available so hurry if you want a limited edition!