Woodworking tools left by late dad inspire poet’s new project

Carpenter and poet Jacqueline Gabbitas hard at work.
Carpenter and poet Jacqueline Gabbitas hard at work.

A set of woodworking tools left by her father when he died last year has sparked a new artistic journey for a Mansfield-based poet.

The treasured inheritance persuaded Jacqueline Gabbitas to discover more about her family history and heritage, with its strong links to carpentry.

And now she has been awarded £9,974 of National Lottery funding, through Arts Council England, to develop her project.

Through local archives and history books, Jacqueline has made many fascinating finds about her great grandmother, Elizabeth Gabbitas.

For instance, Elizabeth and her husband, master chairmaker John Gabbitas, were responsible for introducing Windsor chairmaking to Jacqueline’s home town of Worksop in the 1820s.

As a result of this discovery, Jacqueline was keen to learn more about her great grandmother’s craft, so she attended her very first carpentry class, and was struck by the similarities used for woodworking to those she used for her poetry.

She said: “I joined a carpentry course to learn the basics of how to cut and work with wood.

“I couldn’t help noticing a real connection between the way we used woodworking tools and the way we craft poetry.”

Rooted in this discovery is Jacqueline’s new project, ‘Dovetail Sonnets: Time To Write’, which the Lottery funding is supporting.

She will receive mentoring from contemporary poet Mimi Khalvati and take courses at the Poetry School and the Faber Academy, both in London.

At the same time, she will research material and techniques through carpentry sessions, and also make visits to UK and international forests, including Sherwood Forest.

Exploring links between poetry, people, the natural world, inheritance, climate change and grief, she hopes to create a series of poems using this dovetail sonnet form.

Jacqueline added: “Traditionally built for strength, the dovetail is also an elegant joint, and I have been experimenting with sonnets, using some of its principles.

“When you create a dovetail joint perfectly, it slots together and makes a sound that is just beautiful. The same thing happens with poetry. You listen to it, and its music tells you when it’s working.”

Peter Knott, area director for Arts Council England, said: “We are delighted that this funding is giving creatives like Jacqueline the space they need to explore and develop their work in new and innovative ways.

“Having time to develop, experiment and grow is crucial to creating great art and culture because it allows artists and creative practitioners to reach their full potential.

“I look forward to seeing how Jacqueline’s journey into the world of woodworking and forestry informs her work as a poet.”