When George Spender got in touch from Samander Street about I Am Ill With Hope: poems and sketches by Gommie I knew I simply had to read and review it. I’m delighted to share my review today and would like to thank George enormously for sending me a copy of I Am Ill With Hope: poems and sketches by Gommie.
Published by Salamander Street on 27th September 2022, I Am Ill With Hope: Poems and Sketches by Gommie is available for purchase here.
I Am Ill With Hope: poems and sketches by Gommie
In 2019 poet-artist Gommie began walking the coastline of an England with nothing but a backpack, a tent and an unusually large collection of pens. His aim? Searching for hope during increasingly hard times.
From losing his way on the Dover Hills to bankruptcy in Rhyl and wild camping in Scarborough, Gommie’s extraordinary journey is still ongoing, and his findings, a deeply moving mixture of texture, illustration, poetry and verbatim conversations, are a gentle homage to the often-overlooked places we inhabit and the frequently forgotten voices we hear.
My Review of I Am Ill With Hope: poems and sketches by Gommie
Intimate, personal and moving I Am Ill With Hope is exquisitely simultaneously painful and uplifting to read. Gommie has created found poetry that speaks for us all, but especially the lonely, the ordinary person and those who still believe in hope and love. I found reading I Am Ill With Hope gave me a physical sensation in my chest as if my very heart were being squeezed. There’s both a literal and metaphorical connection with humanity to be found here. I didn’t actually read the introduction until after I’d read the poems and when I did I found myself quite undone by Gommie’s hoest, self-deprecating words.
The presentation of the entries in I Am Ill With Hope truly affects their meaning. I especially loved those where I had to search amongst the illustrations to find the words – in much the same way as Gommie has searched across England and Wales to find those whose voices echo through the poems. More affecting still is the way the poet searches for himself along the way. We are all always looking for meaning in life and Gommie’s collection shows that so effectively.
The illustrations add depth and poignancy. I know absolutely nothing about art, but they seem simultaneously to have an intensity and a looseness so that they feel emotional and immediate, as if Gommie has taken the time to look closely at things others see only superficially and record their transience.
There’s something profound about how the ordinary or the marginalised in society have been given a sense of status and, indeed, immortality through I Am Ill With Hope. The collection is precisely of its time and yet also timeless, touching on themes of human connection, mental and physical health, loneliness and love, identity and belonging. I found it touched me deeply. I really recommend others to read it because I think they will find a little part of themselves they didn’t even realise was lost. I did.
Gommie pictured with Emilia Clarke courtesy of Salamander Street
Oliver Gomm is an artist, poet and former actor. Following a breakdown in 2016, he decided to quit acting and began walking the coasts of England and Wales. Starting in Devon, he travelled through Ramsgate, Winstable, Faversham, Sheerness, Pitsea, Southend, Basildon, Ipswich, Felixstowe, Lowestoft, Cleethorps, Grimsby, Hull, Spurn Point, Bridlington, Scarborough, Middlesbrough, Sunderland, across Hadrian’s wall, Bowness-on-soloway, Carlisle, Workington, Whitehaven, Barrow, Whitstable, Lancaster, Blackpool, Preston, Liverpool, Flint and Rhyl.
Gommie won the Soho House Newcomer award presented by Kate Bryan. With lockdown, the walking tour ended. Gommie lost a project, but he gained a method. His work is currently being exhibited as part of the Soho House Collection.