While the world has been celebrating niche author Charles Dickens’s 200th anniversary, another big 200 has been (comparatively) far less marked. London-born Edward Lear, perhaps most famous for The Owl and the Pussycat but responsible for a large number of other, wonderful, nonsense poetry, as well as a magnificent beard, was born on 12 May 1812.
The Poetry Cafe in Covent Garden is marking his 200th birthday with an exhibition of work inspired by Lear’s poems and himself, with several featuring the aforementioned splendid beard. There are more than 40 on display by artists and illustrators including Simon Pemberton, Ceri Amphlett, Times cartoonist Morten Mørland and Vaughan Oliver, who created all the artwork for the Pixies’ albums. It’s a mixed bunch: some are literal interpretations, some abstract, some fantastical, but all interesting.
A perfect opportunity to see the exhibition is coming up on Thursday, when the Poetry Cafe hosts a Nonsense Night. Bring your favourite Lear poem (we have a soft spot for The Pobble who has no Toes) or a nonsense poem of your own devising, and see Shanta Acharya, Simon Miles, Diana Mavroleon, Tara Woolnough, Clare Waters, Clifford Bevan and Sioux Bradshaw perform. There’s also talk of a something from Harry Secombe… but we can say no more.
Happy Birthday Edward Lear exhibition runs until 8 June at the Poetry Cafe, 22 Betterton Street, Covent Garden. Edward Lear Nonsense Night is on 24 May, 7 for 7.30pm at the Poetry Cafe. Both events are free.