The Other Guernica: Poems Inspired by Spanish Art

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by Derek Sellen

Foreword by Prof. Janet Montefiore

Inspired by Spanish artists from the 15th century to the 21st, The Other Guernica invites us into worlds of violence and love, war and domesticity, in a collection that is both a coherent homage to the painting of Spain, and a daring exploration of what might emerge when word meets image. Read with or without the images that inspired them, Derek Sellen’s poems are equally powerful.

Links to the paintings

978-0-9957381-2-6. Cultured Llama. PB. 203×127mm. 98pp. July 2018. Poetry. £10.00

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Derek Sellen has written poetry, short stories and plays over many years. His poems are widely published, and have been awarded prizes in various competitions, including The Canterbury Festival, Rhyme -International, Poets Meet Politics, Poetry Pulse and O Bheal Five Words, the National Poetry Competition and Poetry on the Lake. He has long had an interest in Spain and Spanish art.


This is a work of outstanding richness and variety, imagination, thought, storytelling, full of vivid imagery and the pleasures of language.

Professor Janet Montefiore, author of Rudyard Kipling
and Feminism and Poetry

Through his close poetic engagement with Spanish painters, well-known and less so, Derek Sellen deepens and extends the possibilities offered by the visual arts.  Whatever we see or think we see is re-framed and re-visioned so that we experience a painting both through our own imagination and that of the poet.  We are invited into worlds of violence and love, war and domesticity in different eras and with different sensibilities in a collection which is both a coherent homage to the painting of Spain and a daring exploration of what might emerge when word meets image.

Victoria Field, author of Baggage: A Book of Leavings and
The Lost Boys

Derek Sellen’s The Other Guernica is a poetic journey from the fifteenth century to the twenty-first; it is a powerful invocation of the past into the present, through individual narrative and discourse, comment, query, and reflection. This collection is an education in itself: for those unfamiliar with the paintings, Sellen paints as precise a picture as language can, infused with passion for his subject and his voice as a storyteller. It invites us to seek out the paintings. It acts as tribute to a hugely influential group of artists, and as witness to forgotten moments of poverty, deceit, and catastrophe; beauty, honour, and glory. These poems transcend mere description: the gaze of the poet rests, connects, conveys. What could be narrative flights of fancy are married to knowledge and research, and acts as restraint, acute awareness of the poet’s response, as shown in ‘La Marquesa: two contrasting responses’. We are treated to ‘Guernica’ and ‘The Other Guernica’, responses to the artist formerly known as slave to Velázquez (Juan de Pareja), to kings, soldiers, tyrants, the insane. We are invited to comment on the shifting gaze, the modern effect of Sorolla’s painting, ‘Sad Inheritance’ on a viewer today.  The odd and the vilified are given room to speak, e.g. the presence/inclusion of ‘The Bearded Lady’ confirms that ‘nature’s richer for its singularities’. This collection enforces the powerful need for art, it confirms the power of the imagination in its effect to chronicle, disturb, enlighten, and most of all, allow us as readers to become part of the discourse. Every painting may tell a story, but it takes a poet to tell it well!

Maggie Harris, author of Kiskadee Girl, Writing on Water and
Canterbury Tales on a Cockcrow Morning

In these perceptive and astute devotions to the singularities of his admired Spanish artists, Derek Sellen adopts the image as a starting point for a series of speculative narratives and observations that inhabit the works and take them in new and often surprising directions. While always respecting the originals, Sellen invites us to join the characters, in media res, as they step forward, speak to us, perhaps reveal their secrets, before returning to the uneasy stasis of the frame. Along the way he finds a fresh and intriguing dimension that not only offers highly-accomplished poems but also gives insights and encouragement to revisit the paintings themselves.

Michael Curtis, author of The Fire in Me Now and Lullaby Days

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