The pity of war
In Penny Rimbaud’s performance of the war poems of Wilfred Owen he will be accompanied by Liam Noble and Kate Shortt on piano and cello, with visuals by Gee Vaucher.
This performance is in memory not of victory but of the terrible darkness brought by war; in remembrance of those on both sides of the divide who died for their leaders and the illusions that they were fed during the patriotic war games of the First World War.
Penny Rimbaud writes: ‘I was a war baby who, like many, didn’t meet their father until they were three or four, which too often was too late. My father brought the war home with him. He never much spoke of it, rather he was imbued with it; it seeped from his every pore. He was distant, absent and cold, and he made me feel fearful. Then how was I to know what horrors had so muted him, horrors which in his imaginings and his dreams would forever be present? He would speak of “the real world” and how he’d fought for my freedom, but as I grew older I became increasingly cautious of the conditional nature of that freedom. I’d seen pictures of the death camps, knew about atom bombs and was aware of the carnage, but, beyond a sense of uninformed sorrow, I grew to feel loathing and contempt for what seemed be the utter senselessness of it all. My father’s war and his real world had to me become synonymous.
In my late teens I was introduced to the poetry of Wilfred Owen and from one line in his “Strange Meeting” I was awoken to an entirely new way of being – “I am the enemy you killed, my friend” – no malice, no terrible vengeance, only love; a true expression of human possibility beyond the bitter brutality of jingoistic cant. In Owen’s selfless tenderness I had at last found something that made sense within the madness of the warring material world; we are no more, no less than the other, divided only by the fall from grace. It was from this illumination that I became an active pacifist committed to the promotion of peace and love.
It is, then, only natural that I chose to commit myself to present Owen’s poems throughout the centenary years of the euphemistic ‘Great War’. In doing so I am able to honour the great gift that he gave through his life, his works and his untimely death.’
PENNY RIMBAUD is the author of countless books, both of poetry and polemic, as well as a founding member of the iconic group Crass.
LIAM NOBLE is Lecturer in Jazz at Birmingham Conservatoire and Trinity College of Music. He has published 4 volumes of transcriptions of the Bill Evans Trio, and a book of original compositions, Jazz Piano: An In Depth Look at the Styles of the Masters.
KATE SHORTT is a pianist, cello player, and songwriter. She won Performer of the Year award at the London Palladium.
GEE VAUCHER started gaining recognition designing politically outspoken record covers and newsletters for anarcho-punk band Crass in the 80s. Her work became a strong influence for protest art as well as the punk and anarchist aesthetic of her time.