Dear Christine: Poems for Christine Keeler

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Dear Christine: Poems for Christine Keeler

Elysium Gallery, Swansea
5th Oct – 9th Nov

I was thrilled to be asked to contribute to Dear Christine this Autumn, a touring exhibition aiming to reclaim and reframe Christine Keeler, a woman notorious for her role in the now infamous Profumo affair, a political scandal in the sixties.

It was wonderful to have the opportunity to envision a woman whose story has been told primarily through tabloids, slander and scathing exposés,  through poetry.

I chose to write about moments in Keeler’s life that struck me as particularly poignant – the often sidelined premature birth and death of her first born son, whom she named Peter, when she was only seventeen; the rounding of press at Stephen Ward’s home once news of the Profumo affair broke; a young woman’s determination to enjoy a long hot summer under the impending threat of nuclear war.

We’re all familiar with Lewis Morley’s photograph of Keeler sitting astride the Arne Jacobson chair, (below) the way she glares fiercely, defiantly at the camera, but what about the woman behind the chair – exposed, vulnerable, and on the brink of infamy?

For me, these poems, and this exhibition as a whole, were a way to explore the Christine Keeler behind the tabloids, behind the barrage of slut shaming and class politics. Once again, Keeler’s story is being told for her, but this time from a place of compassion and understanding. I hope, through our poetry, we did her justice.

Catch Dear Christine: a Tribute to Christine Keeler, at Elysium Swansea until November 9th
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Christine Keeler by Lewis Morley, 1963

 

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