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A Finger in Derek Jarman's Mouth by Simon Maddrell

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Accompanied by cyanotype impressions, a finger in derek jarman’s mouth is a poetic tribute to Jarman’s inspiring legacy spun from the multi-coloured threads of his extraordinary life – writer, artist, queer and AIDS activist, designer, filmmaker, and gardener.

After his diagnosis Jarman bought Prospect Cottage, facing Dungeness nuclear power station, where he created a beautiful garden in the harshest of environments. Unashamed of his HIV status, Jarman died of AIDS-related illness on the 19 February 1994, aged 52.

Simon Maddrell is a queer Manx poet thriving with HIV in Brighton & Hove. They are published in twenty anthologies and over eighty publications including Acumen, AMBIT, Butcher’s Dog, Poetry Wales, Stand, The Gay & Lesbian Review, The Moth, The Rialto, Under the Radar. In 2020, Simon’s second pamphlet, Queerfella, jointly-won The Rialto Open Pamphlet Competition. In 2023, Isle of Sin (Polari Press) and The Whole Island (Valley Press) were Poetry Book Society Selections.

Simon Maddrell is a poet who knows Derek Jarman’s work both intimately and deeply, and in this new collection he has taken words from Derek’s diaries, images from the films and colours from that famously wild and stony Dungeness garden — and re-edited them into a loving, furious and gorgeously queer act of homageNeil Bartlett, author of ‘Address Book’ and ‘The Disappearance Boy’

Brought back to us through weather and plant life, and in his works across multiple media, Derek Jarman becomes a celestial mirror ball, radiating inspiration from the heart of this poem-shrine lovingly “filled with music”. Taking up the torch of Jarman’s queer and HIV/AIDS art activism, Simon Maddrell declines the time-stamp of mortality and the diminutions of marginalisation, as his hero before him “refused to die/ without the sun rising”. Also exploring his own poz status, Maddrell powerfully honours the generative nurture inherent to creative community, showing irrefutably how our lives are made more whole by art-making and receivingalice hiller, author of ‘bird of winter’, shortlisted for the Forward Prize, 2021

a finger in derek jarman’s mouth is a tribute to Derek Jarman’s home and garden at Prospect Cottage, plus a recognition of his pivotal role as an AIDS and queer activist/artist. Jarman courageously battled HIV, along with its stigma and shame. This homage stands as a testament to his enduring legacy. As someone close to Derek, it’s heartening to see his impact remembered in such a moving mannerPeter Tatchell, human rights activist

One of the most radical figures in queer culture honoured by the most propulsive of queer poets. Read this, and rememberJoelle Taylor, author of ‘C+nto and Othered Poems’, winner of the TS Eliot Prize for Poetry, 2021

Polari Press



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