Month: June 2018

What I am doing…

I wrote this statement in 2010. Nothing has changed.

I am using this ‘credo’ as the basis of my new ‘great leap forward’ with the Thames art and technology idea..

 

Delineation of ‘Theory’: An artist’s personal statement

Throughout my ‘art-working’ life some things have remained stubbornly, one might even say obsessively’, constant. Be it in digital images as recently or in drawing or poetry and song I have remained constant in delineating a clearly ‘map-able’ terrain. This terrain extends about 5 to 20 miles in radius of my hometown of Didcot in Oxfordshire, England. Always the poor relation of the illustrious centre of learning that resides but a stones throw away.

There runs a hard core of intention throughout which draws on politics, ecological thinking and that obsessive returning to notions of ‘place’ and ‘landscape’. I regard my work as being a mapping of constant themes which recur sometimes years later. The River Thames is one theme and the Berkshire Downs another.

Local folk tales and oral literature mined from local libraries another. A recent song ‘Hanging Puppet’ drew on one such ‘tale. In fact one could describe it as artistic ‘Anglocana’ to differentiate it from Americana. I have written well over 2000 songs over the years. Mostly these are recorded in lo-fi versions and only really coming to life when in the hands of other more talented musicians (see the Moon Over the Downs CD 2003).

Poetry has appeared in various magazines and in the Scottish anthology The Ice Horses (1996). I currently have at least 4 unpublished complete books of poetry on the shelf. One could describe my work as multi-disciplinary with a strong streak of green politics colouring the waters beneath.

I have drawn on some clear influences in writing and art. Seamus Heaney’s concept of a personal ‘Hedge School’ going back to John Clare is one thread. My forebear’s personal involvement in Agricultural Unions is another (see Skeleton at the Plough poems). I also am influenced by a ‘working class’ sense of writing picked up form Carver and Gallagher and other dirty realists. In song almost any Americana act would suffice.

I am not American but I have strong American influences going back to Thoreau and Walden lake. To try and build an alternative ‘English’ approach I have increasingly been drawn back to the English Civil War when the notions of science and arts were more fluid and interchangeable. As an example I would cite Robert Plot’s Oxford a marvelous Natural History of Oxfordshire from 1677.

In it one finds specimens such as ‘Stones that look like Horses’. I draw heavily upon cultural geography theory post Williams and Berger and am heavily influenced by Patrick Keiller and David Matless.

It is this kind of merging of scientific natural history and folk-lore terminology that I now most interested in both in poetry and artwork.

Fishing in Fog

FISHING IN FOG

A winter Sunday, fog and frost

Two figures climbing a stile

Boots crunching crisp grass underfoot

Head toward the Thames at Clifton

 

My father not yet seventy, still working

And I back home for a day’s fishing

Struggling with tackle and reels in the cold

Sit expecting nothing, no fish bite in this weather

 

Talk about things, my grandparents

The cost of renting, share a flask of tea

Steam rising across his face as he pours it

Lines taught in the brittle air, disappearing

 

Then slowly the sun starts to lift the fog

The opposite bank starts to appear

A moorhen skirts the bank, swans drift by

Beyond the fog a dog barks endlessly

 

For a few hours we hold on to hope

Stare back into the white eternal glare

Of mist along the river looking for a bite

Staring at futures unseen, but clearly there

 

Now and again on a misty morning

Crossing the Trent I see father and sons trudging

Through the mist and rain together, silent

Sharing thoughts, hopes, jokes, together

Their lives unravelling like lines in the air.

Back on TRACK? : Oxford and Nottingham

Back in 2010 I started off with the title Track for a multimedia M.A. that finally did not happen. However the seeds of some kind of project centred around the impact of the railway on the movement of people and ideas started then. This is now bearing fruit as a double project centred on my local history research in two cities close to my heart.

So now we have…

based around the recent Lost Nottingham poetry project and

Based around the concept of Backwaters and Branch Lines

Maybe two separate collections or two bound together in one ‘TRACK’ volume.

Here was the original version from 2010

Original ‘Track’ M.A. Proposal 2010

New Poems

 

 

ROOM FOR POETRY

 

I have a room for poetry

Two bookcases of neatly filed books

Arranged by region of course

Then chronologically

They have been gathering dust for years

Unread, unopened, a wall of doubt

Twenty years I have been a closed book

 

Until today the penny dropped

The dam burst, the Bastille fell

Words started pouring down

Cascading down the shelves

From Shakespeare to Auden

A waterfall of words

For you

 

They poured around my bed

Lifted it up like a boat

Some took off battered the windows

Like a murmur of starlings

Blinded my eyes

Choked my throat

I have made a room for poetry

I rock on a bed at sea

 

Calling out to you

In the silence

 

 

THE INVISIBLE AUDOBON

 

Somewhere deep in the bowels

Of my past life in Oxford

I am crouched with a naked flame

Above an original copy of Audobon

 

Subscription edition, worth millions

And hidden from mere mortal gaze

In a secret location

Its own room in the Bodleian Library

 

In this dream my life rolls backwards

Towards the Minotaur under the trees

Holding each precious page

Hurt and pain unwound too

 

Alongside Alfred’ jewel, lost treasures

Leonardos and Raphaels all mine

I load them on to Tradescent’s cart and

Wheel them back into the light

 

I start a new enlightenment

Shine a light into the dark with these beacons

Light a series of fires across the downs

Burn away the hurt and sorrow, the business plans

 

Start a new University in the air free of charge

 

 

FORGED

The ignition came unbidden

A firefly at dusk, drifting

Across the estates like a wayward lantern

That some bright spark in Mansfield

Decided was a UFO

And called 999 twice

Or three times

 

No I didn’t want to start again

I couldn’t help it

The materials were there

Lying around the forge

Dusty with neglect, unloved

Then the molten heart leaked

A salamander

 

Here it lays, stronger, steely

Coated in black armour

For black times

Come slings and arrows

Normal misfortunes are ten a penny

In every A&E you’ll find them

Forging ahead or burnt and gone

 

You cannot fake emotion

 

SOUTH AND WEST

I sit on a Nottingham bound train

At Derby Station

And note the platform signage

‘South and West’

 

My wife is south and west

Of here now following her own path

I am headed north without due reason

My life has always been south and west

 

Until nearly twenty years ago

On a whim I headed north

And met her due south

On a grey thundery London evening

 

She was headed west even then

It just took her a lot longer to reach her destination

Which for now is between stations

Hanging in the air like bird song

 

I hear her now and then, hear her true voice

Growing fainter on the wind

Standing in a siding blurred with weeds

Somewhere south and west of here

 

In twenty years

We will both be gone, long departed

Down the lines we can still see

Singing

 

 

 

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