The Naked Verse
By Mark Cantrell
IN a fourth floor flat on a run down council estate in Bradford, the
camera is watching two people strip and climb into a coffin.
This isn't some kind of low-budget necrophiliac porn, but the
photo-shoot for the cover art and illustrations of Love, Sex, Death
&; Carrots, the latest anthology of poetry and prose produced by the
Interchange writers' network.
The models are members of the group who volunteered to flaunt more than
just their words for the sake of literary and visual art.
It's the group's first anthology since Flak Attack seven years ago, and
it was produced with the aid of a grant from Yorkshire Arts. Its 80
pages are packed with the fruits of those years; poetry and prose and
even a little music, courtesy of veteran journalist and broadcaster
In total, twenty Interchange stalwarts grace the pages of the book.
Many have been active in developing performance poetry throughout West
Yorkshire and beyond. They include Seema Gill, Andrew Penwarden,
Patrick Blues and Bruce Barnes. For all their diverse activities, they
do concede this latest volume has been a long time in the making.
"I'll tell you why we haven't produced an anthology since 1993 -- we've
been too busy," says the group's chairman, Howard Frost, in the book's
foreword. "Poet members have read their work in the UK, USA, Australia
and Canada. They have read at festivals in Edinburgh, Cheltenham,
Ilkley, Bristol, Sheffield, London, and in Austin (Texas) and Cape Cod
(USA) ... Other members working in the realm of novels, short stories,
play and film scripts as well as song writing have also achieved
success in their chosen genres."
The book was finally launched at the Interchange @ the Melborn
performance poetry event. This is one of the group's regular venues; an
open mic session that occurs every last Wednesday of the month. A
similar event takes place on the first Wednesday of every month at the
Monkey Bar cafe in Wakefield. And these will form the backbone of the
book's marketing strategy.
For Phil Wainman, artist and one of the editorial team, his challenge
was to produce artwork that would match the theme of the book. The
title is derived from the nature of poetry, most relating to love or
sex or death. The rest deals with everything else, which goes some way
towards explaining the carrots.
"One of my biggest worries for the cover artwork was that I wouldn't be
able to find anyone to pose nude -- especially in the coffin," said
Wainman. "When I finally got four volunteers, plus myself, I was really
pleased. It's not an easy thing to pose nude for photographs and still
manage to look natural. I was extremely impressed by how professional
Despite the nudity, it's all tastefully done. Not a -- female -- nipple
in sight, so there's nothing to offend those of a more sensitive
disposition. That said, some might find the coffin a little disturbing,
even though it was cobbled together from scrap wood and an old wardrobe
by Wainman's sidekick Joedot (his 'professional' name).
"I had this idea for the front cover, which was to have a nude couple
in a coffin, surrounded by carrots with love hearts floating around,"
Wainman added. "I liked this idea, because it properly reflected each
aspect of the title in the image. It was at this point that I started
working with Joedot, because not only is he a great artist but he also
had the necessary skills to both design and build the coffin that was
Originally the plan was to use a proper coffin, but nobody was prepared
to loan them such a grim item, even after an advert in the local press.
That left them no choice but to make their own.
"I had this old wood affect chipboard wardrobe," said Joedot. "It was
going to cost about ?150 to build a coffin big enough to fit two people
from scratch. So the wardrobe had to go. This [and some scrap wood] cut
the coffin's cost to about ?40. We built it over a few weeks."
With a coffin finally to hand, they were able to collect the models and
take the shots. "I was a bit nervous seeing naked friends walking about
the flat, but they looked quite beautiful," Joedot added. "We soon got
used to it and began to enjoy staging this art."
The visuals might have been a challenge for Wainman, but as part of the
editorial team he also faced the tough process of sifting through all
the submissions to create the finished volume. As with the photographs,
he didn't face this task alone. He worked alongside chief editor
Lynette Shaw McKone and Rahel Guzellian to ensure they picked the right
balance among the diverse voices on offer.
"Selecting work was very difficult," said Shaw McKone. "We devised a
complicated scoring system, and had three 'elimination rounds',
selecting the works with the highest scores. We worked hard to be as
fair as we could to ensure that everyone who submitted work had some
Now that the job is complete and the book out, alongside the pride in a
job well done, she confesses she feels 'strangely empty'.
"It took up so much of our time that for the first week after it had
gone off to the printers, I seemed to be in limbo," she added. "I swore
I would never do it again, then chewed the carpet waiting for it to
come back. I can't wait to do another one now. I think I've got the
Love, Sex, Death &; Carrots (ISBN: 0 9521 295 1 5), published by
Interchange (Bradford writers' Network) costs ?5.99 and is available
from Interchange, 4 Bentley Street, Wyke, Bradford, BD12 9NP. Email:
firstname.lastname@example.org. Add ?1 for P&;P for the first copy and a
further 50 pence for each subsequent copy.
Bradford, 11 February 2001
Copyright (C) February 2001. All Rights Reserved.