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The Sick Rose front cover copyright Thames & Hudson, 2014.

The Opera di Cera launch last week was an absolute joy, and I’m delighted to have positive reviews of the book cropping up already (here & on FB).

Several readers have been in touch to say they couldn’t put the book down – always the best thing to hear!

I’m delighted to say that my partner, Dr Richard Barnett, is launching his latest book this week in Brooklyn, NYC.

The Sick Rose: Anatomy and Art in an Age of Revolution:

‘Between the French Revolution and the First World War, Europe and America witnessed a golden age of medical image-making.

‘The first generation of mass-market anatomical and pathological textbooks and atlases offered crisp, detailed colour illustrations of the human body in health and disease, and in doing so created a corpus of work that is beautiful and morbid, singular and sublime.

Dr. Richard Barnett in the Morbid Anatomy Library. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Wylie.

Dr. Richard Barnett in the Morbid Anatomy Library. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Wylie.

‘Over the past year Morbid Anatomy Museum Visiting Scholar in Residence Richard Barnett has been writing about these images for The Sick Rose, the first in a new series of illustrated books made in collaboration with the Wellcome Library.’

If you’re near NYC, stop in, have some gin, and get your copy signed!

When Richard is back from his NY travels, The Sick Rose will be launched in London – stay tuned for details.

Photo courtesy of Marcos Avlonitis.

Photo courtesy of Marcos Avlonitis.

So, dear readers:

Have you enjoyed Opera di Cera?

Do you love the Wellcome Collection & Library, the Morbid Anatomy Blog & Library, or similar places?

Have you discovered the book thanks to a love for anatomy, dissection, the history of medicine, or the macabre?

You’re sure to love The Sick Rose.

One prose, the other verse; one history, the other fantasy; both dissection and anatomy.

The two books make a fine pair…

Opera Di Cera Launch_15 Opera Di Cera Launch_13 Opera Di Cera Launch_11 Opera Di Cera Launch_10 Opera Di Cera Launch_9 Opera Di Cera Launch_4 Opera Di Cera Launch_1

We had a full house at the Horseshoe Pub in Clerkenwell last night for the launch of Opera di Cera – It was a marvellous evening! I couldn’t be happier with the final published book: it is more beautiful than I could have dreamed – and my expectations are darn high! My sincere thanks to everyone who came, as well as to the team who has been an essential part of making this book happen: Jamie McGarry, publisher extraordinaire; Anna Maerker, my generous historical advisor; Tanya Marcuse, who donated the gorgeous cover art from her photography series; Rebecca Tremain and Garry Merry, who have been helping bring the poems to life for the past few months (and more to come, we hope!) and Richard Barnett, who is away in NYC, but was very much there in spirit. Also my thanks to Marcos Avlonitis, Paul Craddock, and Simon Barraclough for their photographic work! More photos here.

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A stunning bouquet of flowers from my darling welcomed me at my door on the morning of the launch!

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Opera di Cera launch

kelleyswain:

I’m looking forward to seeing many friends and readers at tomorrow night’s book launch!

Originally posted on P.S: Poetry & Science:

Valley Press

Valley Press

Join us for the launch of Opera di Cera!

8th April, 7pm

The Horseshoe, Clerkenwell Close.

Click here for more information as well as the book.

View original

On Tuesday, I ran my annual poetry workshop for the Medical Humanities students at Imperial College London, led by Giskin Day. For part of the workshop, we applied the techniques used in Tom Phillips’ classic art book, ‘A Humument,’ to the Hippocratic Oath. I provided students with four versions of the Oath: a translation of the original, a version for nurses called the ‘Florence Nightingale Pledge,’ a modern version written in the 70s, and the ‘Affirmation’ that Imperial College London medical students will take once they graduate.

I’ve written previously (there and also here) about the amazing adaptability and resonance of applying ‘A Humument’ to Medical Humanities workshops. Students respond with an overwhelmingly positive level of enthusiasm to cutting out paper, marking up the texts, and teasing out words and phrases relevant to their experiences. They’ve given me permission to post their works below – and this was from about twenty minutes’ worth of ‘treatment’ time! I’ve selected some of the most colourful, but I want to thank all of the students for their marvellous contributions.

Tom Phillips would, I hope, be proud of the range of styles, and also the humour here:

Stunning styles.

Stunning styles.

Hilarious? Sad? Both?

Hilarious? Sad? Both?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Each student came up with her (or his) own metaphorical style and approach. The artwork some of them did in just a fifteen or twenty minutes!

The doctor.

The doctor.

Seeing through the wall.

Seeing through the wall.

 

Ships at sea.

Ships at sea.

It’s not only impressive, but incredibly heartening, to see which words students chose:

Colour-blocking.

Colour-blocking.

Lab coat and blood (intended). Green field of poppies (interpreted).

Lab coat and blood (intended). Green field of poppies (interpreted).

A 'wordle'.

A ‘wordle’.

Opera di Cera

Opera di Cera

Opera di Cera is now in hand, and available from Valley Press (where you can read about details of the launch party on 8th April – do join us!) and Inpress Books (who names the verse drama as one of their favourite publications of the year)!

I could not have hoped for a more gorgeous quality of production, and I must thank Jamie McGarry for his fine attention to detail and uncompromising aesthetic. The path to publishing Opera di Cera before it found its proper home with Valley Press was treacherous at times and I’m relieved that I rescued it from a lesser situation and worked to make it a stunning VP book.

Some people have asked about the title: it is pronounced ‘Chera,’ or ‘Chair-ah,’ - Cera has a hard ‘ch’ sound. Ready? Channel that Italian accent: ‘Opera dee chair-ah.’ Opera di Cera. The title translates as ‘wax work,’ or ‘work of wax,’ and I’m ever grateful to Richard Barnett for suggesting it.

The ambition of the book is operatic, and I’m extremely fortunate to have caught the interest of actors Rebecca Tremain and Gary Merry, who joined me at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre on Saturday for a brief dramatic reading as part of the Oxford-Globe Forum for Medicine and Drama in Practise. Our excerpts took place alongside scenes from Selimus and discussions of Titus Andronicus, and fit in well. Rebecca and Gary will also be reading at the launch!

Last Thursday, I was in Cambridge for the Science Festival as well to meet with Leigh Chambers from Cambridge 105 Radio for an interview about Opera di Cera. This should go on the air in the next month or so, and I will post details and links when it’s available.

Following the interview, I joined a distinguished panel of writers – some of whom I know well, some of whom I was delighted to meet for the first time – for ‘Science as the Spark’ – talking about writing creatively about science. The event was sold out, and we had a bright, engaged audience, who listened and contributed to a healthy discussion about historical fiction (from the two female writers on the panel) and science fiction (from the two male writers on the panel) – convened by someone I always enjoy hearing from –  Dr John Holmes, Chair of the British Society for Literature and Science, which sponsored the event. A great night, ending with lively discussion in the pub afterwards about the pre-Raphaelites and their poetry – one of my favourite topics!

Opera di Cera launch

Valley Press

Valley Press

Join us for the launch of Opera di Cera!

8th April, 7pm

The Horseshoe, Clerkenwell Close.

Click here for more information as well as the book.

Pocket Horizon, Valley Press.

Pocket Horizon, Valley Press.

Join us at the Cambridge Science Festival on Thursday, 20 March for a lively panel discussion with authors whose work involves equal portions of art and science.

How has scientific inquiry lead to literary works? Why is the literary presentation of science relevant to scientists and society?

A panel including Chris Beckett, Dave Clements, Laura Dietz, and Kelley Swain will skirt the ‘inspiring science!’ cliche to ask illuminating questions, including why scientists and historians who can communicate in any genre, and artists who can draw on any inspiration, choose to structure their work at the intersection of these fields.

The panel will be led by Dr. John Holmes, Chair of the British Society for Literature and Science.

The organisers thank the British Society for Literature and Science for its generous grant in support of the event.

Valley Press

Published by Valley Press

This title both is and is not what it sounds like – but who can resist such a thing?

I’ve been invited to present a 15-minute talk about creating my verse drama, Opera di Cera, at the Oxford-Globe Forum for Medicine and Drama in Practice, the theme of which, this year, is ‘Amputation and Body Parts’.

This is indeed very exciting, and also, hopefully a step in the right direction towards the possibility of Opera di Cera onstage.

The newly-opened Sam Wanamaker Playhouse at The Globe would be the best possible setting. Candlelight; waxworks; poems about candles and wax…and body parts…after all, I’d like to hold a performance in La Specola itself, but it would make for rather pricey tickets.

Opera di Cera is going to be published by Valley Press in the next few weeks!

You can already order it here.

Watch this space for news about the book launch: all welcome.

February with Venus

Readwomen2014

Readwomen2014

Join us at the Museum of London on Valentine’s Day to indulge in this ‘City of Seduction’, including poetry readings – sexy, sultry, stimulating…come find out…

If that isn’t enough of a night with Venus, and you’d like to explore her darker side, come to Bart’s Pathology Museum on 20th Feb. Anna Maerker will give a talk on the wax models of La Specola, Florence, and I will read from Opera di Cera.

It’s been an exciting month, with the pleasure of editing my two forthcoming poetry books: Opera di Cera is due out with Valley Press in Feb, and Atlantic is due out with Cinnamon Press in May. The anticipation of waiting for these books is delicious.

It was a special delight to receive a collection of bookmarks from the artist herself for my birthday – Badaude’s ‘Readwomen2014′ concept that has been a worldwide success – as well it should! It’s an honour to be included on the list.

As my creative writing tutor used to say, ‘Go forth, and write!’ – Or read…

January & Feburary 2014

Kelley_Swain

In the London Science Museum. Photo by Marcos Avlonitis.

Happy New Year! I’m delighted to say it’s looking to be the busiest publishing year I’ve ever enjoyed, due several books being scheduled for 2014. There will be plenty on this blog about all of them in the coming months, so I’d like to mention several events which are happening soon. It would be great to see you there!

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Pocket Horizon, our small poetry anthology of poems and artwork on the history of science and medicine, launched successfully in autumn 2013. We’re rolling out several events around the book this year, starting with an evening at Made in Greenwich art gallery.
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There will be readings from all of the poets, as well as a Q & A with our artist, Cassie Herschel-Shorland. It promises to be a full and lively evening, with a musical piece, based on PH, being debuted, and guest poets contributing their own science-inspired poems.
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The event is Wed 29 Jan, 7:30pm start: Tickets £5.
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You can buy the anthology here:
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My verse drama, Opera di Cera, a tale about anatomical wax models, is due to be published by Valley Press in the next few weeks!
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It has been selected a Top Choice by Inpress Books: 
I’ll be reading from the Opera at Bart’s Pathology Museum in Feb.
Dr Anna Maerker, medical historian and advisor on the project, will be speaking about the history of the wax Venus.
The event is Thurs, 20 Feb, 18:30 – 21:00. Tickets £7.
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I’m currently working with The Mustard Club to produce a project for radio based on Opera di Cera.
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On 14 Feb I will be one of several poets reading romantic and/or salacious poems at the Museum of London’s Valentine’s Extravaganza.
The whole evening is £10 and runs from 7 – 10pm. http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/london-wall/whats-on/adult-events/late-events/
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I hope to see you at some events, and thank you for reading!
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