Saturday, 26 November 2011

The Poetry of Margery Clute (12)

 If you missed the first installment, which provided some background information regarding Margery Clute's poetry, you can read it here.



He glowed with beauty like a tree
That reaches up towards the sky.


I dozed: my soul did drift away,
Fearless, to a sleepy land,
Where Wilfred stood upon a cloud,
A golden harp held in his hand.

Motionless he stood and yet
The sweetest music seemed to flow
Down from his aethereal height
To waft around my ears below.

I woke to bitter memory:
Alas! Poor Wilfred is no more!
At one now with the rocks and stones,
Cold, beneath the chapel floor!

 Margery Clute (1824-76)

Winter Sketch

When icicles hang

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Poetry of Margery Clute (11)

A Wayward Thought

A Wayward thought assailed me:
I know this place of yore.
The range, the chair, the window:
I've seen them all before.

Perhaps I dreamt of such a place,
Forgotten until now?
There is no way of telling:
If I did, I'll never know.

Perhaps I lived another life,
Unknown until some potent thing
Disturbed a knowledge, parcelled up,
Unravelling the string?

(Can I be sure? Does Time connect
Each moment to the next?
Such wayward thoughts confuse me
And leave me feeling vexed).

Perhaps this is the place I sat
Before I went outside
And coming back it's still the same,
The place where I reside?

'Tis so, I deem. The answer's clear!
Simplicity itself!
I recognise that book I left
Sitting on the shelf!

 Margery Clute (1824-76)

Monday, 14 November 2011


If you're not up to speed on 7ism, check out Natalie D'Arbeloff's blog:

The aim of 7ism is the creation of Complete and Wonderful artworks, in any medium, within the time frame of seven days, no less and no more, in a continuous procession of seven day periods, ad infinitum.

This is her first 7ist project:

If You go Down to the Woods Today...

Not, I hasten to add, a continuation of the teddy bears theme although it does make me wonder what deep, embedded folk memories gave rise to that song. I recently read a post on The Solitary Walker's blog in the course of which he posted this anonymous 14th century poem:

While leaves were green, I gave
Veneration to my sweetheart's leafy bower.
Sweet it was awhile, my love,
To live under the birch grove,
Sweeter still to clasp fondly
Hidden together in our woodland hide,
Strolling together by the seashore,
Lingering together by the wood-shore,
Planting birches together, goodly task!
Weaving the branches together,
Love-talking with my slender girl.

An innocent occupation for a girl -
To stroll the forest with her lover,
To mirror expressions, to smile together,
To laugh together and, mouth to mouth,
To lie together in the grove,
To shun others, to complain together,
To live together kindly, drinking mead,
To repose together, to celebrate love,
To keep love's secret cordon, covertly:
Truly, I have no need to tell you more.

Did I hear someone on TV the other week (Ronald Blythe?) talking about or did I read in Deakin's Wildwood the fact that in the past romance went on in the woods, there being no privacy in house where many people shared a room? Whoever it was claimed that for centuries most people in Britain were conceived in the woods.

So, perhaps we actually had a "mating season" at one time. Perhaps what people see as an "over sexualized" culture in the West has more to do with general improvements to the standard of living and housing than sexual imagery in the media and all the usually cited causes. (Of course it does, as any fule kno. Seems obvious when I write it). If so, all the usual suspects (however unwholesome they are) may indeed be the effects, the symptoms - rather than the root cause.

No-one would choose a return to Victorian living conditions, but the fact is we were not designed for too much comfort. I find myself wondering what would happen to any animal if you serruptitiously removed it from the natural cycles it took for granted and find myself looking at our own species. Perhaps the process in our case has been going on for thousands of years, ever since our intelligence began to develop and we started to make more and more "intelligent" rather than intuitive decisions. This perhaps created a vicious circle, which would fuel the evolution of our kind of intelligence. I'm imagining that, stepping outside the bounds of instinct and intuition, we create problems that need solving, and need more and more of that intelligence to solve them, reducing our intuition to an advisory capacity. The bigger the hole we dig for ourselves, the more we have to think about how to get out of it - and we started digging millenia ago. How much deeper will it get? And how much more "intelligent" will we get? Will we ever get so intelligent we decide to stop digging?

To put it another way, once cheetahs started chasing prey, they had to evolve to run faster and faster, I imagine, as the also-evolving prey took up the challenge. Similarly, as soon as we began to rely on "bright ideas" to survive, we needed to have brighter and brighter ones to fix the mistakes of the past. I speculate, but if you live on fish and invent a way to fish more effectively, you exhaust the fish stocks and have to think up a new way to avoid starving. If you lacked the intelligence to invent spears and nets you would have to rely on grabbing your fish. Both you and the fish would get by.

Now, what are we going to do about all that nuclear waste?

Saturday, 12 November 2011

The Poetry of Margery Clute (10)

 If you missed the first installment, which provided some background information regarding Margery Clute's poetry, you can read it here.

The Fireside

'Tis night! The darkness closes in.
Without, the raw wind moans and howls.
I sit enchanted, by the fire,
And listen to the hooting owls.

To-wit to-woo! To-wit to-woo!
I'm pleased I'm in here and not out there,
Where ragged clouds eclipse the stars
And leaves swirl wildly in the air.

The darkness of the sky goes on
And on forever, it seems to me.
If only I could sit beside
This fire, for all eternity

And listen to the roar without
While eating muffins, drinking tea.
I cannot think of anywhere
In all the world I'd rather be.

  Margery Clute (1824-76)

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Of Teddy Bears and Poetry

I've been collecting together the poetry I've written over the past few years, selecting the the stuff I'm reasonably pleased with and weeding out the rest. I've put it all together on a page, here for anyone who'd like to read it. There's a link to it, too, below the blog header, above.


I've just been enjoying reading through the blog of Alan Measles - Grayson Perry's teddy bear. I'm seriously tempted to go down to London to see The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman. Whatever Alan's head is stuffed with seems to work better than the grey stuff I've got stuffed between my ears. He says:

Grayson bless him has his ‘art’. He hopes the show will inspire people to take their inner lives more seriously. Seeing world culture through his obsessions and perversities might help people to start out on their own personal pilgrimages and find relics of their own selves laid out before them just as he is coming to realise that the Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman may be a very elaborate inner self portrait.


Saturday, 5 November 2011

24 Hours of Art

It's turning into quite an artistic weekend, here. Last night we stayed up late watching a TV documentary on Grayson Perry's Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman exhibition at the British Museum. Then, this afternoon, we went to the Baltic art gallery in Gateshead, to see the Turner Prize exhibition.

First, the Grayson Perry. This was the remarkable story of how Perry has built a cast iron boat - a tomb, in the spirit of Sutton Hoo, of the unknown craftsman who is, on one level, a symbolic figure representing all the unknown craftspeople who created artefacts the likes of which are now in the British Museum and, on another level, Perry's father, a man who could as Perry put it, 'fix a motorbike and "rewire the television"'. Perry's mother had an affair with the milkman, prompting his father to leave when Perry was very small, leaving nothing behind him but a shed full of tools and a motorbike.

A work of art in the form of a custom built motorbike decorated by Perry and incorporating a shrine for his teddy bear-god Alan Measles, also features prominently in the exhibition. Perry took Alan and the motorbike on a pilgrimage to Germany. The young Perry and Measles had fought many imaginary battles with German soldiers and so, he felt, it was the right thing to do - an act of peace-making. It also, very cleverly I thought, gave the bike a "backstory" not unlike many of the artefacts in the Museum which so interested the artist.

In the course of the progamme, Perry said (I think I've got this right) how although he was pleased to be a part of the 'modern art' world, he was concerned that many contemporary works of art were less interesting than the buildings they were exhibited in, relying on the milieu of the gallery space to confer the aura of an artwork upon them. This was one of the things he liked about the British Museum - the artefacts in it were interesting in themselves. These thoughts were still kicking around inside my head when we went to the Baltic this afternoon. The Turner Prize Exhibition was certainly popular. The queue to get in was twenty minutes long...

The video work on show by Hilary Lloyd was OK so far as it went. The blurb told us that "her films are often displayed using a number of projectors to create a collaged effect of moving images with various angles shown at the same time". This is certainly accurate.  However, it's not so long since I went to the Baltic to see a Robert Breer exhibition. He was doing similar things with animation in the 1960s. I have to say I found his work a lot more interesting.

I thought the work Martin Boyce had on offer, harking back to Calder mobiles, seemed a tad derivative too. I've not seen any of his work before but, judging by photos of it on the internet, I'd probably find much of it more interesting, I suspect, than the work on show at the Baltic at the moment. To be fair to both artists, I'm not familiar with either of them and there is only a small proportion of their work on show here - nothing like enough to draw any conclusions about what they do.

I quite liked Karla Black's work - a landscape that might possibly belong to another planet (not unlike a Star Trek original series set) created from crumpled thick paper, transparent plastic, dry powder paint, and crumbling "bath bombs". I particularly liked the suspended cloud created -I think- from crumpled net curtain. I felt an urge to cautiously stalk around the area with a drawn phaser.

My favourite artist in the exhibition -by a mile- was George Shaw, with his Humbrol model-paint landscapes. To quote the blurb, Shaw (as many people know, as he's getting deservedly famous these days)
paints the landscape of his childhood on a council estate in Coventry using Humbrol enamel... The highly detailed paintings are of houses, pubs and nearby parks, without people but filled with evidence of human activities.
The exhibition quoted Larkin:  "Nothing, like something, happens anywhere". One might equally have invoked Samuel Beckett. Shaw has a penchant for the great title. My favourite picture (and title) of his here was Landscape with Dog Shit Bin. To my mind, this was an artist doing what Grayson Perry wants artists to do. There were overtones of Perry, too, in the preoccupation with the artist's childhood - with regard not only to subject-matter but also to the choice of materials (the Humbrol paint, as the blurb says, "the material of choice for teenage model makers" ). Definitely worth queuing round the block for.

As was the exhibition on the floor above the Turner Prize show: a far less well-attended exhibition of work by the American artists, Mike Kelly and Michael Smith, A Voyage of Growth and Discovery. This featured videos of Mike Smith performing in the role of his famous "Baby Ikki" character, an ambiguous mute figure dressed as a baby, wearing sunglasses and sucking a dummy. There were definite overtones of Grayson Perry again, I thought, with his preoccupations with childhood and the way it reverberates through life as a whole. There is even a motor vehicle -in this case, a drab, dilapidated camper van. There are teddy bears, too. Smith's vision, though, is bleak and minimal where Perry's is lush and Rococo. (I enjoyed both).

For now, the Grayson Perry documentary can be seen here:

You can read brief bios of the Turner Prize artists here:

The Poetry of Margery Clute (9)

 If you missed the first installment, which provided some background information regarding Margery Clute's poetry, you can read it here.

The Ploughman

Were we but to follow
Like the tiny sparrow
The ploughman as he turns his furrow
With no thought for the morrow!

Time turns our thoughts to higher things
As ploughshares turn the hefty clods
So that we are left at odds
With this material world, that springs

From that same instinct that inspires
The tiny sparrow's song!
O, that we need not wait too long
To kindle the immortal fires!

Margery Clute (1824-76)

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Back from Wales

Just back from 10 internet-free days in Wales. Had a great time, even though it rained a lot. There's no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather, as they say.

Karen took a lot of photographs including this one,taken from the back of the house we stayed in which is on a hill overlooking  Borth y Gest.

Found some interesting places we've never been before, even though we've been going to that area twice a year for about fifteen years, including two medieval houses -Ty Mawr and Penarth Fawr- that are open to the public.

Wrote a poem:

Borth y Gest

it's cold and you can smell
the woodsmoke on the air:
it's late october. the tide is in
and in the blue dusk the sea
laps against the harbour wall.

if you try to feel unworldly
it's easy to fall into the trap
of thinking you're succeeding -
yet when you feel grateful
by the harbour wall you know
it's not as easy as all that
(if indeed it is desirable at all).

We tried to fix up an internet connection but couldn't get it to work which, I thought, turned out to be a good thing. It meant I read more and found time to write stuff other than blog posts! I'm currently ploughing through Iris Murdoch's Nuns and Soldiers. Found two or three good second hand book stalls too. It seems to me that they're harder to find than they used to be these days. I picked up a few books I've not read, including The Crow Road by Iain Banks and Virtual Light by William Gibson (I've never read any William Gibson). I also found a copy of Selected Poems by Edwin Muir which -although I like his poetry- I didn't have.

Being on holiday meant I got time to read the paper. Read a very interesting article in the Guardian by Jeanette Winterson about her childhood.