Colin Hambrook

Knitting Time (2013)


Colin Hambrook grew up in a loving working-class family that moved from inner city London to the metropolitan suburbs. In a powerful series of poems, Hambrook recounts the story of the day the Jehovah’s Witnesses came to the door, his mother’s conversion, and his experience of growing up in a household dominated by millenarian beliefs, where the world was scheduled to end in 1975.

Hambrook charts his mother’s deterioration as she descended into psychosis and delusions, and was finally expelled from the JWs. She was institutionalised, given ECT, and went on to develop tardive dyskinesia, the so-called ‘Largactyl Shuffle’, caused by the psychoactive
drugs she was prescribed. At the heart of this uncompromising collection is a short memoir written in simple and stark language that contrasts powerfully with many of the hallucinatory poems.

A series of striking black and white drawings by Hambrook complement the texts, adding extra depth and dimension to this compelling collection. With echoes of William Blake, Ted Hughes, Spike Milligan and Jeanette Winterson, Knitting Time provides powerful insights into millenarian-ism, psychosis, and the bonds of love when they are tested by trauma and loss.

ISBN: ISBN 978-1-906742-65-2 Category:

Praise and Poems

Colin Hambrook stitches back the torn patchwork of an upbringing in a decade of radical change against which his mother’s fledgling Millenarianism glared incongruously. A doorstep conversion by Jehovah’s Witnesses cast a spectre over her psychical stability, in turn shadowing her son’s. For Hambrook, this was not so much the Swinging as ‘Witnessing’ Sixties. He depicts his mother’s neuroleptic meltdown —at the decade’s hallucinogenic end—uncompromisingly. Swooping throughout are avian leitmotivs of an ornithophobic symbology: wings, rookeries, and ‘Crow’, a Hughesian grotesque multiplied to whited-out beaks scratching into one of Hambrook’s stark illustrations. These are startling additions to art brut—a tradition as vital to the texture of art as grit to a tarmac road. The poetry bristles with a ‘proletarian’ spontaneity—W.H. Davies, Francis Ledwidge, and contemporaries Peter Street and Tom Kelly, spring to mind. Knitting Time is its own act of Witness to the struggle of the ego against the weight of religious intransigence.
Alan Morrison

Colin Hambrook is a strong a visual animal as he is a writer, combining fabulously dark,
surrealist line drawings with words that echo and caw.
Simon Powell, Creative Future

I started reading and could not stop. Hambrook really does take the reader on a personal and painful family journey through three generations with strong yet careful guiding hands. His homespun storytelling is easy yet highly revealing to the eye and the surges into phantasmagorical language are exquisite.
Ivan Riches

Hanging Out To Dry

She’s pegged out to dry
on a washing line
no guessing how the wind
will feel; rising ghost-like
as cloud shapes twist
and the weather
bursts in a mythical sky
where stars refuse to shine.

She looks for the garden
below; whispers to the lawn
as religious fervour threatens
to conceal the Holy Bible
fading to grey against
the brightening plane
where each blade of grass glows;
her last thought light as chlorophyll.

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