Updated: May 26, 2020
Before lockdown, we’d been looking forward to the launch of Jacqueline Saphra’s new book, Veritas: Poems after Artemisia, at one of our favourite venues, The Cinema Museum in Kennington. The following afternoon, Jacqui was set to read at the National Gallery, as part of a study day informed by their blockbuster Artemisia exhibition, and to speak on a panel with the art critic, Jonathan Jones. After lockdown, when it became clear these events would not take place, we began to consider the option of a virtual launch. Many presses and poets had already shifted their gatherings to platforms such as Zoom – a way of keeping in touch with audiences and readers in these strange days of quarantine. That’s one of the many consolations of books – reading is a pleasurable form of self-isolation.
There are other consolations too. While we were disappointed not to be able to raise a glass to the book in person, or to hear Jacqui speak about the book in the galleries where Artemisia’s stunning and dark paintings are hanging, we were able to welcome a truly international audience of over 200 to our intimate space on Zoom. The writer Andrea Witzke Slot said, “I felt I was sitting in a large theatre, shoulder to shoulder in sold-out seats, watching a group of talented people on stage.”
Two wonderful speakers were on hand to introduce us to Artemisia’s life and art. Jordana Pomeroy, who wrote an essay for the book, joined us all the way from Miami. She was followed by Jonathan Jones (we were glad to be able to bring him together with Jacqui, at least on Zoom); they talked of Artemisia’s power, talent and determination, and why she has finally been ‘discovered’ and acknowledged as a great painter 400 years after her heyday.
We were then pleased to be able to welcome composer Benjamin Tassie, whose new pieces fuse samples of Renaissance instruments with modern synthesiser sounds. His music was the perfect way to set the stage for Jacqui’s reading. Using the formal constraint of the sonnet, she brings to life an artist trained in the methods of the old masters, but whose vision was entirely modern and dramatic. There’s no doubt that Jacqui’s poems illuminate Artemisia for a new generation of admirers.
If you missed the live Zoom event, or would like to watch again, the recording is now available on our media page here.
Meanwhile, the book is now in the world, and whizzing through the post to destinations all over the UK, Europe and the US (while we are all still sitting in our individual Zoom squares). If you don’t yet have your copy, you can order it here.