cenotaph south

I'm delighted that my book Cenotaph South: Mapping the Lost Poets of Nunhead Cemetery has just been published by Penned in the Margins. I first became involved with finding dead poets during the Curious exhibition at West Norwood Cemetery in 2013. I discovered twelve poets, each with their own story and body of work, which became the basis for my book In the Catacombs. I was excited to find that West Norwood was one of seven cemeteries opened in London between 1833 and 1841 with the aim of taking pressure from the overcrowding of inner-city churchyards. My interest in finding a great lost poet has grown into an obsession which I am documenting in my series of books, each volume covering one of the seven cemeteries.

Cenotaph South, cover by Ben Anslow

Cenotaph South took two years to write, during that time I not only discovered twelve lost poets but mapped out the area surrounding the cemetery. I discovered that the tree that Blake saw his angel in on Peckham Rye was a hawthorn, visited the road in Telegraph Hill that Robert Browning lived at, followed Barry MacSweeney's footsteps to Dulwich College (the venue for his last ever reading) and walked the Elizabethan village of Dulwich - a village that was built on the profits made from poetry, bear-baiting and prostitution. Walking around the cemetery allowed me to make connections between the poets we remember and those that have been forgotten. One of the poets who is not quite forgotten, but extremely overlooked, is Charlotte Mew, whose brother Henry Mew was buried in Nunhead in 1901.

Highlights amongst the poets found buried in Nunhead are Marian Richardson, who invited Garibaldi to stay with her in Peckham; Tom Hood, who helped to introduce fun to the Victorian readership and Walter Thornbury, a brilliant chronologer of London who wrote many overlooked books in the spirit of what we now know as psychogeography. I wrote Cenotaph South during a period in which my mum was receiving treatment for cancer and this personal crisis became part of the text, weaving between the discussion of the poets with diary entries about mortality and the role of art in helping to overcome trauma.

As well as the beautifully designed hardback edition, with cover by Ben Anslow, there are a limited number of special edition copies available which include a postcard of my poem 'Nunhead Cemetery, a map of the Magnificent Seven by Frances Ives, and a found object from the cemetery. The book will be launched at Nunhead Cemetery on Sunday 30th October at 4pm and all are welcome. More details on the launch here.

Cenotaph South is available to buy for £12.99 from Penned in the Margins here .

Special editions are available for £20 here.


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