Poet Leanne Bridgewater’s Posthumous Collection ‘Dharma Dialog’ Is Published

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Dharma Dialog, a collection of poetry and art by innovative poet, artist and animal rights campaigner Leanne Bridgewater, who died earlier this year at the age of 29, has been published by Hesterglock Press.

The Sunday Tribune talked to poet Antony Owen and poet/publisher Paul Hawkins from Hesterglock Press about the collection.

TST: Poet and friend of Leanne Bridgewater, Antony Owen. You two poets became great friends. Now you’re supporting the launch of her last collection, Dharma Dialog. Sad times indeed, but we’re here to celebrate her work and launch this exceptional book. Thank you for answering a few questions for The Sunday Tribune. How did you meet Leanne?

AO: I first met Leanne at Foleshill Park in Coventry to film a poem that appeared with her one at a magazine published by Hesterglock Press. We became close friends and collaborated on projects for the next 3 years and some.

TST:  Can you describe your friend Leanne, what was it about her that was so special?

AO: Full of life and one of the warmest people I have met in poetry. Leanne had that rare gift of making people feel like you were only in her zone, she shook the world like a snowglobe and made it otherworldly, beautiful to look at. Leanne was also a passionate advocate not just for animal equality but for women writers as well. My favourite memory of Leanne was how she excavated responses from the LGBTQ writers we worked with together for Coventry Price, man, they really liked her, trusted her and found her hilarious as well.

TST: Her work was visual and full of life. She combined automatic drawing and pareidolia with text. What is it that you saw in her work that made it stand out for you?

AO: Good description. For me there was Leanne the poet and Leanne the artist and I think the artist side of her gave her the joy of creation more. I noticed a separation of expressions in her doodling and always felt the vividness of the colours she chose concealed texts and emoticons for the real feeling hidden somewhere in the work. Leanne was clever as you felt you were always missing something in her work yet you felt fulfilled artistically from beholding it. Her art and poetry was not pretentious and for me her Love Bipolar video poem was beguiling in a David Lynch meets Kate Bush kind of way.

TST: Particularly, what is it about Dharma Dialog that makes you think, this is an important and worthwhile book? And a readable one! 

AO: I think it’s the most straightforward work Leanne has done. It is a map of sorts to finding the things that matter. Yeah, I think she wanted us to have fun with it. The thing with Leanne is that for me she loved life, she loved people and art gave her the colours and words gave her the rainbows. Sometimes they were black and white though.

TST: Leanne was a unique talent, that’s clear to me. But she was also a passionate campaigner for animal rights. Is this something you identify with? What should we be doing to further the causes she believed in?

AO: Yes as her sister Donna says there was only one of her, she was unique for sure. I think we need to adopt her selflessness and celebrate that being strong can make us fragile because we care so to look out for each other, be kinder, more accepting. Leanne would want more opportunities for women writers as well. I guess less judgement and more acceptance of each other. 

TST: Anybody you want to mention and thank? Anything else you want to say?

AO: Yeah Leanne’s editors for believing in her so Alec Newman at KFS Press and Paul and Sarer at Hesterglock Press for the posthumous work. Adam Steiner and Emilia Monisko for her video which was part of the Disappear Here project. She loved so many people and of course people like Greg Freeman at Write Out Loud for memorialising her and Colin Scott of Positive Images Festival. Most important of all, her sister Donna for her dignity and strength plus her badger buddies.


Dharma Dialog

TST: Paul Hawkins, publisher of Hesterglock PRess, and poet too, what was it that you saw in Leanne’s work?

PH: I first came across Leanne’s work when she submitted work to Issue 2 of an anthology we published five years or so back called Boscombe Revolution. I’ve included the poem 50 States of America in Dharma Dialog. Leanne made a short film for the launch event too. Leanne’s strong creative drive & playfulness immediately struck me. We first met at the launch of Margaret Thatcher’s Museum (Hesterglock Press) by fellow Coventry poet Antony Owen, and her warmth, openness & humanity shone clear & true. Leanne submitted Dharma Dialog to us sometime around 2016 and I was very keen to publish it. I was truly saddened to hear of Leanne passing away at such a young age, with such endless, exciting possibilities for the future. But it wasn’t to be . . .

TST: How do you feel her visual work and her text worked together. Are there other visual poets to which her work relates?

PH: I’m honoured & humbled to be able to now publish this book of Leanne’s stunning, tenacious, future-facing poetry; a sublime series of artistic creative writing that confirms the importance & centrality of Leanne’s use of strong, vibrant colour with handwritten words/scribbles etc which puts me in mind of the avant-garde COBRA group, artists such as Asgar Jorn, Christian Dotremont, Corneille, Karel Appel, Pierre Alechinsky, through to the contemporary work of Poem Brut (a ground-breaking project of events, exhibitions, publications, collaborations & performances curated by SJ Fowler, see www.poembrut.com) and the work of Rosaire Appel. These forms/styles placing context to the fore, championing handwriting, composition, abstraction, scribbling, illustration are all facets of Leanne’s work, in which, for me, the visual combinations work seamlessly together. Leanne’s humour also plays a big role, as well as her optimism and enthusiasm. 

Leanne and her sister Donna

TST: I believe this is her final manuscript to be published (posthumously) and that she was unable to finish it. Do you get a sense of that as a book, or do you feel there’s a sense of completion in the visual poems?

PH: We never got round to putting the book out for many reasons, in part though due to our own personal battles with mental health issues. I As far as I know there are no other books scheduled, though over time I hope more of Leanne’s work may be unearthed and published. I think Dharma Dialog works convincingly as a complete collection of Leanne’s work from a particular time and place. I hope it complements her other published output, including Confessions of a Cyclist (Knives Forks and Spoons Press 2016). This book wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of Donna Bridgewater & poet Antony Owen for which I am truly grateful & thankful.

All profits from the book sales of Dharma Dialog will be donated to West Midlands Hunt Saboteurs & Warwickshire Against The Cull.

Donna Bridgewater, Leanne’s sister: ‘By buying a copy of this book you will also help one of the causes that she was so passionate about. Though Leanne’s suicide was tragic, I want to make it clear that whenever you read one of Leanne’s poems, or look at one of her pictures, you keep her spirit alive.’


Jude Cowan Montague is an artist and broadcaster. She produces 'The News Agents' for Resonance FM, a weekly show experimenting with international story and the arts. She worked at Reuters Television News for many years as an archivist and this has informed her poetry and some of her art. She's an award winning printmaker and a composer. Her graphic memoir 'Love on the Isle of Dogs' is available from Central Books.

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