Pinned: Words and Images by Sonja Benskin Mesher
Sonja Benskin Mesher, despite her exotic name, is a British artist, born in Bournemouth and now based in Dolgellau. Although best-known as a visual artist, she has been writing for many years (she calls herself “a painter who writes, an author that paints”) and this small, attractive volume represents the first of her works to be printed in book form.
She does not call them “poems”, but “words”, and indeed that is how they are arranged.
Small objects - pins, thread and buttons - hold the collection together in metaphorical terms. This is no random arrangement, although at times the sparsely-arranged words almost dwarf the miniature images. Yet this is fitting.
It is apt, too, that the work is published by another artist, Swansea-based photographer Rhys Jones, who set up the 20/20 Vision imprint as a means of collaborating with other creative spirits to produce “media books” that combine poetry, prose and photographs to memorable effect.
Mesher experiments with language, fitting Latin terms and shreds of conversation into a fragment of her life story: brief memories of the shell-shocked uncle, the child, the lover, the collector, the fashion-conscious, the departed. The analogy between stitching a cross and drawing a kiss is simple enough, but it touches the reader’s imagination without impinging on our psyche. This sounds to me like someone else’s life, not mine.
The theme of communication and connection is subtly conveyed, perhaps too subtly for the average reader, yet I think there is no deep desire to tell the story fully, only to hint at it.
Sonja Benskin Mesher - her own name - becomes a mere abbreviation as she mentions a dead friend. The words stand apart on the page, sometimes in line, sometimes hiding at opposite ends.
The form of the book makes me think of an echo or a shadow. To purchase it is like owning a print of an oil painting; you can possess a small work of art to look at and enjoy whenever you want.
Reviewer - Deborah Fisher is a writer based in the Vale of Glamorgan, best known for her popular history books such as “Royal Wales” (University of Wales Press, 2010).