Chelsea Cafe Project # 21


by Lily Harriman

Monday 16 May – Tuesday 12 July 2016

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Café Project #21 features the work of the young poet Lily Harriman. Lily is currently gallery assistant at CHELSEA space while taking a year from reading English Literature and Creative Writing at Kingston University. She will be completing her final year in 2017.

The following questions were posed to the poet:

What inspired you to do this series of work?

I was in Singapore recently and one night we swam in a rooftop pool at night, amongst the tops of the skyscrapers and lights – it was such a poignant experience. I think water can really inspire freedom and can take away your inhibitions, I am interested in what water symbolises in different contexts. So when you are in control water can give you a sense of unlimited freedom but when water is control it can overpower you and that conflict of meanings is really interesting. I am also intrigued by the classic dark mermaid myths, particularly the ones that explore revenge and heartbreak.

What are your main influences?
I draw inspiration from so many different places, so throughout the last few years Allen Ginsberg and the Beat Generation have been a significant influence on my work as it showed me a way of writing without any limitations. But this project was more of an experiment, partly inspired by Hunter S Thompson, and as mentioned, old mythology. Mythology and spiritual symbols have always popped up in my work.

Do you work with any other art forms / mediums? How does this compare to writing poetry?

Predominantly, I write poetry and lyrics but I also paint. In this project I included some of my own photography alongside pictures by a photographer, named Marisse Caine, who actually inspired a lot of the work itself, in her curiosity about life and artistic approach to new projects. At the moment, I am in an exploratory period as I have never combined mediums before but poetry will always be the focal point of my work, and often I write a poem and create a painting inspired by the subject of the poem – but I think of that as more of a part of the creative process.

How do you see your work developing in the future?

I want to experiment with the visual aspect of my work. Ultimately, I think some of my work will be predominantly visual but that is something I have to work on and develop. My current focus is on creating a community and online space for budding artists, poets and photographers. I have just established a website that encourages people of all ages to submit work and discuss ideas with each other. I hope that this will be incorporated in my work in the future.

If someone doesn’t know anything about poetry who or what would you recommend?

It depends on the taste of the person but when I first began exploring poetry I began with some of the classics. I love the work of John Donne, not only for his language and risqué subject matters, the context of his work and his life is very interesting. A right of passage for poetry lovers, I believe, has to be the writers of Beat Generation. The 1950s was a crucial time for the development of poetry, I would definitely recommend Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg. Finally, someone that I would always recommend is a modern poet called Adam O’Riordan. O’Riordan was the youngest Poet-in-Residence at The Wordsworth Trust and if I was to suggest one poem by him. His collection of poems, In The Flesh, are incredible and his piece, Silver Lake, is an all time favourite of mine.




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About the project

The Chelsea Cafe Project is a series of displays of work by students and staff from Chelsea College of Arts. These changing displays are a chance to see some of the talent here at Chelsea from across a diverse range of disciplines. The series is curated in collaboration with CHELSEA space (opposite) as part of the Public Programme.

For more information please contact Cherie Silver at or in person at CHELSEA space.