At the Height of the Moon is a new collection of poetry and art, themed around night and bedtime, curated by Anette Roeder, Alison Baverstock and Matt Cunningham. With such beguiling chapter headings as Twilight, Dreamland and Moonlit Menagerie the book brings together writing and art from across the ages, combining the old with the new, the traditional with the modern, in a spellbinding anthology.
In this special feature, Alison Baverstock talks about the collaborative process of putting the book together, and what she hopes this new collection of art and writing will bring to readers of all ages.
As the book had already been published in German, the artworks and chapter headings were given to us by the publisher, but along with my fellow editors, Matt and Anette, I was tasked with pairing these paintings and illustrations with poems and short stories for an English-speaking reader.
We disagreed surprisingly little on our choices – we started by making a list of poets we wished to include and there was a big degree of unanimity. The main experience of working on the book was the huge pleasure in talking about poetry and finding some new voices. I love the unreachable nature of poetry – semi-grasping something important that is just out of touch. The way poetry can sum up a powerful emotion or thought, and hold it there.
We discussed our priorities for choices – to have a range of different poems, to juxtapose poems if possible, to give two takes on the same subject, and to try to think deeply about the picture we were seeking to accompany. The match did not have to be straightforward, we could use the magic in poetry and picture to make a link.
We hope that the book offers an introduction to a variety of artists and artistic movements, and that the combination of texts and images offers a new way of looking at each poem or painting. Although the book is themed around the magic of night and bedtime, I think there is plenty of scope to use the book in school and home learning. Every individual interprets what they see and read in the light of their personal experiences and wider world environment/history. In the same way that a book re-read can reveal significant new insight, the fresh seeing of a work of art can inspire new thoughts from a different generation.
In terms of my own favourites from the book, I found it really interesting how long poems sit in the memory and how reading them again still brings the same thrill. I remember, while studying ‘A’ level English, coming across the poems of Coleridege and just loving ‘Frost at Midnight’. I have remembered it now and again ever since – when my own children were born, and recently when my grandson arrived. I still love the sense of magic and also potential it offers. So, for those reasons, that would have to be my favourite poem.
I’m a great fan of Singer Sergeant so was delighted to find one of his pictures was in place for this book. I have seen the original many times and bought a poster of this, from a Singer Sergeant exhibition, for my daughter’s wall when she was quite young. I was delighted when she moved out that she took it with her (other images of my choice were left behind)!
At the Height of the Moon: A Book of Bedtime Poetry and Art by Annette Roeder, Alison Baverstock and Matt Cunningham, is published by Prestel on 5th October 2021, £18.99 hardback. ISBN: 9783791374802