Chester Poets Visit the ARK




Over the summer, I’ve being doing some Tour Guiding for the wonderful ARK exhibition, hosted by Chester Cathedral. 90 ARK-themed sculptures inside and outside the building reflect a range of styles, subjects and materials. They represent the work of over 50 artists.

On Saturday, I took round a group of fellow Chester Poets. We engaged with these pieces together: looking and learning: discovering what they had to say to us, and listening for the poems that might start to emerge.

IMG_0161Some of these ekphrastic poems – poems written in response to a work of art – are shared below, alongside images of the sculptures that inspired them. A poem can itself become an Ark, its form a sanctuary for that which we wish to contain and preserve in words.

ARK comes to an end on October 15th. If you’ve not already been – or even if you have – do try and get along to this unique exhibition while you can.




(From War Horse by Joe Rush)


Mounted warriors never made it

Beyond the First World War,

The carnage from mechanised gunfire

Was too great;

Iron clad tanks on caterpillar tracks

Pushed the cavalry aside,

Treating bullets with contempt.


On the walls of this church

The fallen are commemorated

In permanent brass and marble,

But for a short time

We can contemplate

The head of a brave war horse

Fashioned from unyielding


Metal debris, reined in

By ammunition belts,

Supported by discarded

Gravy boats from Sandhurst

And sinews of worn out

Combustion engines;

It is a fitting memorial.

David Subacchi          (



The light seems to avoid your corner,

and somehow, warmth floats away.


Your spirit is captured within the body

built with the leftovers of war,

and you remain so still, and cold.

If I could, I would wish to release you.

Let you run free in a summer field,

feel the sun on your back,

the close smell of apples.

While leaving the shape of you,

to remind us of the conflict,

your struggle, your strength.


Somehow the light is stronger now

and warmer.  But I will not forget.

Maureen G. Coppack



(From Noah and the Raven by Jon Buck)


Enter!  Though if it’s purity you seek4bc114c9ced245f8ea8a23c30c890df5

the white dove has flown.

The artist in his bleak mind provides

an allegory, paradox of life and death

and you must find your own resolution.


The raven flew between earth and water.

In Noah’s head or on it?

Eyes beneath the claws that tear dead flesh

or cause his colour-blindness.

Sightless sockets, pupil-less.


Blackness, he released into a drowned world,

all-seeing scavenger,

some have said, carrion-fed, unclean bird.


Whatever was his prayer perches there.

A legacy, that monochrome world –

good and evil portrayed in dark and light

for us to judge goodness in black and white.

Ian M Parr



(From Becoming by Sue Freeborough)


In the half-light of the cloisters,

A tree god, holding within him

Both male and female

Nourished by the same soil

Trapped by the same roots.

They have split, forked

As if by lightning

As they strain to become


Arms stretched out

Like leafless branches

Towards the sun,

The barren sky.

Helen Hill




(From Chromosomal Dance by Sue Freeborough)


She melts copper and tin,

steps forward, pours heat

into patient moulds.


Steps back, lifts hands,

trusts art to Terpsichore

and liquid wisdom.


She stands to watch

mysterious flow and mottle

settle into metal-formed flesh.


Two paired figures, genes

paletted as archipelagos

circle round bronze.


Exposed in light-folds of amber

they hold their space,

staged by Sanctuary wall:


Poise of X with Y; X with X.

Male stance; female step

shadowed by supporting cast.


A gendering set of melt and cool

has mirrored cells’ align, divide,

and multiply: an elegant arithmetic.


Their bodies ripple to still rhythm;

outstretched arms; in Jubilate Deo,

silent song of self-knowing.


Place your feet by the rail;

configure steps that have led

You. Here. Now.


Lean slant to catch their eyes,

amazed at this vast space.

Pause at the join.


Now split and turn away,

assured your day will dance

its own choreography.

Julia McGuinness


Chester cat2 053


We are hoping to find peace, not pain,

a friend, not a foe.

We are searching now, for dry land

and a helping hand.


We are hoping to find comfort and care,

love and laughter.

Yet if we don’t ask – how can we know,

which way to go.


We are hunting for family and friends,

good hearts and homes.

Yet, will this strange journey make us,

or forever break us?

Maureen G. Coppack



The Earth

Bleak, overcrowded.


At breaking point.

Still they hope

For why else

would man, woman, child

gather their most sacred

Worldly things

Risk what remains of their life

For a better one.

On the horizon

A glimmer of sunlight

People will cross oceans

Filled with stomach-churning fear

Knowing chances of survival are slim

All that is precious

Held close to their hearts

Packed together like prisoners

The only other means of escape


The Crossing, then,

is an endurance test.

Pushed to the limit

Summoning strength

they had no idea even existed

The possibility of tomorrow

rising above everything.

The waves crash

The sun sets.

Some will fall foul of Mother Earth

Buried at sea.

The lucky ones count their blessings.

They have reached


Katy Konrad



HOUND Hound 2

(From Hound II by Terence Coventry)


Angle of the head

Vulnerable in the watchful

Curve of the faithful

Marigold Roy 






(From Stubbs (Absorbed) by Michael Joo)


Why a zebra in a cathedral

Stripes of metal and of wood

Here for wedding or for funeral

Intent on harm or doing good.


What is your message graceful beast

More often seen in warmer climes

Do you appear as prophet or priest

Or just a symbol of changing times.

 David Subacchi   (

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  • About Julia


    From writing stories for my younger brother, to penning poems for the School Magazine and filling a growing pile of personal journals, the written word has always been part of my life’s journey.

    I started out as an English Teacher and subsequently retrained as a Counsellor. I have counselled in a GP Surgery and worked with various Employee Assistance Schemes and Charitable Trusts alongside seeing private clients.

    Although I have done some freelance journalism and written four non-fiction books, creative writing has become my main focus in recent years.

    My poems have appeared online on sites including Amaryllis, Silver Birch Press, Clear Poetry, Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis, Riggwelter and Ink,Sweat and Tears. I have been published in Curlew and Bucks Mill Magazine, and anthologised in Our Hearts Still Sing. My first poetry collection, Chester City Walls, came out in 2015.

    Read more about Julia
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