Published in November by Shoestring Press, Feast of Fools shows Stuart Henson’s work moving in new directions. The short, chiselled lines, often punctuated only by space, give the text a rough, carved quality, mimetic of the subject matter– a variety of medieval misericords.
Vanity, jealousy, love, sex and biblical violence are themes as resonant now as in the fourteenth century when these often scabrous church carvings were made and hidden under the tip-up seats of holy places such as Ely Cathedral and Beauvais Priory.
Each poem is complemented by a facing illustration by celebrated scraperboard artist Bill Sanderson, capturing not just the ideas in the poems but also the rough energy of the original artisans’ work.
‘It’s been a joy to work with Bill Sanderson on this project and I think what we’ve come up with is a genuine collaborative response to some of the most thought-provoking and amusing pieces of secret art in our culture.’
(Stuart Henson, January 2016) ‘Only poetry’s speech can grow as charged as Henson’s words to a girl who entraps a unicorn: ‘yes / what you’d betrayed was love’. His pamphlet ends with one of the strangest medieval images: the Green Man. Meaning leaps across space, between two worlds: so I utter leaves Strength, like a young oak leaf’s, is matched by the delicacy of lightly-run syllables: only ‘one cell / at the tongue-tip of being’. ‘Only connect’, wrote E.M. Forster. It is rarely done with such grace.’ (Alison Brackenbury, PN Review 42;5 May June 2016)