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Sunstone

Thursday, 2 June 2016 at 23:06

No Text Back to Spanish. Here's the first serious attempt I made to translate a Spanish poem. After a year or so in Spain, I found myself in Mexico City for New Year 1980, where I lived on and off for the next couple of years. I remember how Mexico was so important to me, and how much I loved that country. Awful to hear what narcopolitics and the rest has done. Anyway, I haven't been back for almost 25 years. Maybe time to do that now. Meanwhile, here's a version of a much longer poem. Even as a fragment it's long; maybe I'll look at it again, cut down, but I think this unedited versions still contains some of that long-form mythopoeic energy I admired in Octavio Paz's original. The image is the Aztec calendrical sunstone the poem takes off from.

Sunstone

a fragment after the Spanish of Octavio Paz, “Piedra de Sol”


willow of glass, black water poplar,
tall spray bow-sprung by wind,
a deep-rooted tree – dancing,
a passage of river which twists,
advances, recedes, circles, always arriving:
peaceful passage
of star or unhurried spring,
water trickling prophecy all night long,
unanimous presence in swell,
wave upon wave until everything is swamped,
green sovereignty without decline
like the dazzle of wings
opening in the heart of the sky,

a passage rifling the thicknesses
of the coming days and the damned radiance
of the cursed like a bird whose song
turns the forest to stone
and the imminent joys
between disappearing branches,
light hours which even peck at birds,
omens escaping the hand,

a presence like a sudden song,
like the wind singing in the flame,
a glance hanging in the air,
the world with its seas and mountains,
body of light filtered through agate,
thighs of light, belly of light, bays,
solar rock, body coloured by cloud,
colour of fast day jumping,
the hour twinkles and has body,
already the world is visible through your body,
transparent through your transparency,


I go through galleries of sound,
I flow through resonancies,
I go through transparency like a blind man,
a reflection erases me, I am born in another,
o wood of magic pillars,
under the arches of light I penetrate
the corridors of a diaphanous autumn,

I go through your body as through the world,
your belly a sunny plaza,
your breasts twin churches where blood
officiates in mysterious parallels,
my looks cover you like ivy,
you are a city that the sea assails,
a wall that the light splits in halves of peach,
a shrine of salt, rocks, birds
under the law of amazed midday,

dressed in the colour of my desires
you go naked as my thoughts,
I go through your eyes as through water,
tigers drink dreams from those eyes,
the hummingbird burns in those flames,
I go through your forehead as though through the moon,
like cloud upon your thought,
I go through your belly as through your dreams,

your maize skirt sways and sings,
your skirt of glass, skirt of water,
your lips, your hair, your glances,
all night long you rain, all day
you open my breast with your water fingers,
close my eyes with your mouth of water,
you rain over my bones, a liquid tree hides
its watery roots in my ribs,

I go through your waist as through a river,
I go through your body like through a wood,
like a thin path on the mountain that
ceases in an abrupt abyss,
I go through your sharpened thoughts
and just at the exit of your white forehead
my fallen shadow is destroyed,
I gather my fragments one by one,
continue fleshless, grope blindly,


endless corridors of memory,
doors open onto an empty room
where all the summers rot,
jewels of thirst burn in the depths,
a face disappears when remembered,
a hand crumbles at a touch,
coiffures of disturbed spiders
over ancient smiles,

at the exit of my forehead I search,
search without finding, for an instant,
a face of lightning and storm
running under night trees,
face of rain in a darkened garden,
stubborn water flowing at my side,

I search without finding, writing alone,
there is nobody, the day falls, the year falls,
I fall with that moment, fall into the depths,
invisible transit over thicknesses
which repeat my destroyed image,
I walk over days, stepped-on instants,
I walk on the thoughts of my shadow,
I walk on my shadow in search of a moment,

I seek a live time like a bird,
I seek the five o’clock evening sun
warming ion granite walls:
the hour’s cluster matured,
opening to loose the girls
from its rosy entrails and they
relaxed in the stone courtyards of the college,
tall as autumn went walking,
walking in light under the arcade
and as space girdled her it dressed her
in a skin more golden, more transparent,


tiger the colour of light, cloud-grey deer
on the outskirts of night,
girl glimpsed reclining
on the green balconies of rain,
face of adolescence – numberless,
I have forgotten your name, Melusina,
Laura, Isobel, Persephone, Mary,
you have all the faces and none,
you are all times and none,
you are like a tree, like a cloud,
you are all birds and a star,
you are like blade of a sword
and the goblet of blood from the tormentor,
ivy which advances, embraces and uproots
the soul to divide from itself,
fire writing across jade,
fissure in the rock, queen of snakes,
steam column, fountain in the stone,
lunar circus, eagles’ crag,
aniseed grain, tiny thorn
that’s mortal and gives immortal pains,
shepherdess of the submarine valleys
and guardian of valley of dead ones,
liana hanging from the gibbet of vertigo,
creeper, poisonous plant,
flower of resurrection, grape of life,
lady of the flute and of lightning,
terrace of jasmine, salt in the wound,
bouquet of roses for the shotgun-blasted,
August snows, gallows moon,
the sea writing over basalt,
the wind writing over desert,
testament of sun, grenade, spike of wheat,

face in flame, face devoured,
adolescent face pursued,
ghost years, circular days
which lead to the same yard, the same wall,
the instant burns and they are all one face,
all faces are one face,
all centuries one instant,
and through the centuries of centuries
a pair of eyes close upon the future,

there nothing facing me, only a
rescued moment tonight, against a dream
of an assembly of dreamt images,
sternly sculpted against dream,
uprooted from the emptiness of tonight,
pulled out by hand letter by letter,
while beyond time the world
with its butcher’s time-table
hurls itself to batter the doors of my soul,

only an instant while the cities,
the names, the flavours, the vivid lives,
crumble in my blind brow,
while the night’s grief humbles my
thoughts and my bones and blood
stroll more slowly and my teeth loosen
and my eyes cloud over and the days
and years collect their empty horrors,

while time closes its fan
and there is nothing behind its images
the instant plunges and floats surrounded
by death, threatened by night and its gloomy yawn,
threatened by the babble of lively and masked death
the instant plunges and penetrates, like a fist closing,
like a fruit ripening inside itself
and it drinks and spills itself

the translucent instant closes
and ripens inwards, springs roots,
grows within me, fills me,
pushes me out through its delirious leafage,
my thoughts are only its birds,
its mercury throbbing in my veins,
a tree of mind, fruits the flavour of time,

o life for the living yet already lived,
time returning in the swell
and slipping away without restoring the face,
whatever happened wasn’t but is being
and is silently spilling into
another vanishing moment…





Chiaroscuro

Wednesday, 1 June 2016 at 23:05

Dark studio, orange lightbox Darkened Studio / model with cold light from device 


  A set-up I worked on late last year. How do you paint light? How can paint, a reflective medium, imitate a powerful light source? How can you mix colours in semi-darkness that you want to be appreciated in full-light? Here, in a darkened studio, we have the intense orange filtered light-box; the model coldly front-lit from her tablet / device; floor lamps and a wayward window light.


This was one of Andy Fairbank’s conundrums. Thursday morning life classes at Hull College's Park Street building with Andy (a great admirer like myself of Euan Uglow) have always set particular problems. Here it is light. The drawing is difficult, the forms are distorted by the contrasting lights. The light itself changes as your eyes become accustomed to darkness, see greens to compensate for intense orange; notice tonal harmonics on the edge of the light-box. All this, and then you look at your palette and see only mud.

Sir William Wilberforce looking out over Hull, again.

Tuesday, 17 May 2016 at 21:22

No Text I've been working on a couple of large (3 X 4 foot-something canvasses). The exact dimensions have been determined by the efficiencies of dividing how to cut up store-bought lengths of 2x4 wood for stretchers by what can fit into the car.

For previous paintings in this cityscape series I've been very influenced by Euan Uglow's theories of canvas proportion and have thought about and tried golden section (5:8 ) and root two (1: 1.4 something )....  but the size of the car is absolute. The car, I hasten to admit is not mine ...more on this (Euan Uglow, a sense of proportion, why poets tend not to drive, and why I haven't driven since attending driver re-education school in Doncaster several years ago) - soonish... or laterish.

Meanwhile, I've returned to the statue of William Wilberforce overlooking Queen's Gardens from the tower at Hull College. I did a few paintings of this statue early on in this project, and one of them appears on this website's pages. This one's not quite right yet and this little picture (I'm limited to 400 pixels width) can't quite give much more than a sense, but I hope it catches something of what I'm trying to do with the cityscapes.











Rilke: three Sonnets to Orpheus

Sunday, 10 April 2016 at 19:41

Rilke









Here are three recycled versions of poems from Sonnets to Orpheus by Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). It's something of a shock to realise that these must've been written the best part of twenty-five years ago after I'd spent a few months working in Germany.

These poems appeared in a chapbook Strange Tongues (1994) which consisted mainly of translations and poems about language. The first also appeared in the Forward Prize anthology 1996.








A God Perhaps

“Ein Gott vermags”, Sonnets to Orpheus I.3

A god perhaps. But it’s not that simple
for a man to follow himself through guitar strings.
His mind is split. Contradictory strivings
are his heart’s paths. At his crossroads is no temple.

Song, you teach us, it’s not about desire,
not about asking for what can never be asked.
Song is being. For a god that’s an easy task.
But when are we live? When does he trip the wire

that turns the earth and stars towards our being?
It’s not enough, young one, that you love, that voice
bursts through, blooms upon your lips. Try remembering

to forget. It means nothing, whatever you’ve sung
so far. Real singing – the truth – is another breath.
Breath of nothing. Gust of god. The wind’s lungs.



He Needs No Gravestone

“Errichtet keinen Denkstein”, Sonnets to Orpheus I. 5

He needs no gravestone. The rose’s
yearly bloom becomes him best.
This is him. his metamorphosis
through this or that’s an endless quest

for himself: Orpheus. No other name. His song
echoes through all art. He comes, he goes
through everything. Whether he stays as long
or as briefly as the petals on this rose,

it has to be enough. He also fears
to lose this world. But he cannot stay.
His words go beyond and he disappears.

His wrists are not tied by humming strings.
You will not find him now. He, too, must obey.
And this is how – by overstepping everything.



Be Ahead of all Parting

“Sei allem Abschied voran”, Sonnets to Orpheus II.13.

Be ahead of all parting, as though it were
already behind you, like the winter just gone.
Know that, among these winters, is one
so endless that the heart, unsheltered, must out-winter.

Be forever dead in Eurydike. – Yet rise and sing.
For it is praiseworthy to be raised proud.
Here, in our entropic realms, be loud
like humming crystal that, even as it shatters, rings.

Be – and yet still know Unbeing, the void,
the empty cavern in which you first heard
yourself echo. Just this once, fill it with your shout.

To the sum of all the second-hand, tinny
and worn-out things on Nature’s inventory,
joyfully add yourself. Then wipe the total out.




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