Versions from Rimbaud and Baudelaire
Friday, 27 January 2017 at 19:15
Click below for a link to The Literateur online journal which has some of Cliff's versions from Rimbaud and Baudelaire
The poems are part of Cliff's ongoing translation project French Leave, which also includes versions, perversions, and variations on themes by Gautier, de Nerval, Corbière, Laforgue, Apollinaire, Queneau and Houellebecq.
Some of the Apollinaire versions are on other pages on this webside, together with the Raoul Dufy woodcuts which accompanied the original publication. Other poems by Baudelaire and Corbière appear on The Common online:
Larkin in Poets' Corner
Thursday, 1 December 2016 at 18:55
Philip Larkin gets his place in Poets' Corner today.
Any poet associated with Hull naturally has to deal with him one way or another. I was amused by a review of Wake, which described my work as having "the spirit of Larkin, perhaps, re-emerging, muscular and revitalised". Nice to be more muscular than Larkin.
Anyway, my most recent collection Pilgrim Tongues plays around with some of Larkin's themes, and includes two sequences about him. Here are some fragments from those sequences:
You’d hardly recognise some parts,
though other streets would take you back
between the bombers and the planners.
We needed then, of course, a brand new start;
those times would soon be history, we thought.
The shining future was already overdue
the day you lugged your case of shirts, socks, suits,
books, LPs, spare specs, those Soho mags;
that struggling with umbrella, flapping mac
− all the impedimenta of being you.
We may have lacked the phrase, but, boy, we knew,
before your train stopped shy of our docile buffers,
we were already ready. It was time to move on,
the day you hailed that cab at Paragon.
In the shed, the bike, upright
with honest crossbar awaits: bolts tight,
chain oiled beneath the trouser guard;
wheels ready to slice
off-days into dull glitterings: life,
like sun, somewhere between the spokes.
Geoff the Leveller
A February Sunday brings the snow;
crash-landed, sky means soft debris,
tiny mountains, your head at thirty
thousand feet. All that was high brought low.
Forget extinction’s alp, Western Cemetery’s dead flat.
− Not quite: the hallowed ground is riddled, holed;
headstones so intent on touching base they further fall
where earth is truant, plays hide and seek with the ground
of our being, shrinks into the voids between drained clay.
Think absences, the waves that drop, the shoreless days.
This is Hull. (Nor are we out of it in Cottingham.)
Acquainted with this great suburban spirit-leveller, did you,
chatting to the grave, yet matey overseer,
finally find your level too?
Sunday, 16 October 2016 at 18:41
“Let Custards quake, my rage must freely runne”
W.Kinsayder (a.k.a. John Marston) The Scourge of Villainie (1598)
(illust. Bacchanal with Silenus - Dürer)
In the Renaissance, an etymological confusion connected satire with classical satyrs as certain writers adopted the persona of a savage malcontent.
“[Satire] is very railing, onely ordained to rebuke vice… The Satires had their names of uplandysshe Goddes, that were rude, lascivious and wanton of behaviour.” Thomas Langley (1570)
I'm just returning to Satyr, a project I've been involved in, on and off, for many years. At Oxford I researched Elizabethan verse satire, and how it attempted to imitate the Juvenalian savagery of classical satire. My main focus was the persona of the Malcontent and psychopathic Barking Satyrist as exemplified by the playwright John Marston's alter ego Kinsayder. I published a chapter or two from my thesis as academic papers, but was more interested in seeing how I could use the material for my own satires, and over the years various fragments and versions have fleetingly appeared. I'm very pleased that John Lucas has agreed to bring a new version of Satyr out as a Shoestring chapbook in the spring - together with illustrations (perhaps some accompanying pen and ink drawings?). There's a great history of satirical art: from Rowlandson and Gillray to Ralph Steadman. Something new for me to think about.
In Satyr, Marston's Kinsayder returns to appraise the modern world. I've tried to replicate some of the oddness of Kinsayder's spiky style with its changing registers slipping from slang to bombast. Kinsayder revels in his anger, while his prurient descriptions of the sexual misdeeds of others hint at the sort of hypocrisy once familiar from the pages of the News of the World. Unlike gutter journalists, however, he seldom makes his exuses and leaves.
Satyr is a sort of companion piece to my Dantean satire Hole http://www.thecommononline.org/features/march-2016-poetry-feature
Here are two brief sections from near the beginning of Satyr. Kinsayder arrives during a seance courtesy of the renowned psychepomp Dr Quodlibet:
Coming in. Coming in...
See them in their bold effrontery,
these Meteors, Gloworms, Rats of Nilus,
with their lingos, winks and elbow nudgery:
slinking through this city without a skin,
jiving greasy guns. O the blatant cockery
of these Nightshades, Chameleons, and Apparitions.
Hoodie-boyos, chaveris, adipose hussies with their open purses,
the Scally jazzing with Blunt and Redtop
till beer o’clock and time to slop
stilton tattoos along brass-top or naugahyde;
his proud shout drilling the barkeep’s dischuffed dial,
unenrapt without pourboire or promises thereof;
then on, with Latvio-Lithuo-Sengali-Ivorian cab-driver
(PhD in Astronomy, Agronomy, Homiletics or Dark Matter).
Drop him the change from one lonely deepsea diver,
then on, always on,
to badly-packed kebabs or bacon banjos.
Takeaway. Takeaway. Graze on the hoof.
Another blunt, a toot, another blow on the bugle:
hoovering the kermit for the last of the Devil’s dandruff
− confuzzled in the karzy, gone completely hatstand.
Carking it on the big white telephone to God,
in technicolour prayer. Thou art translated
to some new Beast. Behold the Bog Ostrich!
O Shapes transform’d to Bodies straunge!
O godly Creatures! O brave new World!
My new-found Land! My Ingerland!
An Aside in which the Satyr Discourses upon his Ancient Art
Both incense and the human reek
Are best described in Attic Greek.
Autre temps, autre moeurs,
Those ancients knew just how to curse.
But way back then in Classic Times,
They thought it vulgar to use rhymes.
However, this barbaric Tongue
Has dealt us Spades for shovelling Dung.
With Rasp & Scratch it hardly sings,
But bang it hard and Iron rings.
As much as any metric choice,
“Iambic” meant a tone of voice:
An ancient and sarcastic focus
(Since Hipponax and Archilochus).
From IAPTO: “to assail”,
Iambicists lampooned and railed.
Between their tragedies, the Greeks
(When Oedipus seemed to last for weeks)
Liked a little vulgar farce:
Carry On Tits, a farting Arse.
We Satyrs mocked the tragic Fates:
Silenus, myself, a dozen mates.
Priapus did a magic trick
And comic stand-up with his dick.
The audience, easily amused,
Kept our goat-skins filled with booze.
No one dared to get their coat,
They knew that would get our goat.
Uz Satyrs can be really snide
– oh yes, we have our nasty side.
You see that when we’ve had a skinful
We take delight in being sinful.
Likewise Man, when he gets pissed,
becomes a snarling Satyrist.
Tuesday, 27 September 2016 at 18:06
Tibor Csernus Ujpest Quay, 1957.
September and back in Hull after trains and heatwave in Eastern Europe.
Highlights included seeing Berlin after the best pasrt of three decades and speaking a little German again. I'm thinking of extending my cityscapes project to include the juxtaposition of neoclassical buildings and cranes in the massive reconstruction going on in what used to be East Berlin. It would mean a few painting trips back to Berlin - meanwhile I'm working through Deutsche Welle's fine free German courses. I was very pleasantly surprised just how easily it is to get into German conversations - not everyone in Berlin can or wants to speak English. One memorable conversation was with "The Blood Brothers" a couple guys who deliver plasma to hospitals and were taking a longish train ride to a training course. We all had booze and they had a sound system.
Much interesting art along the way. I'll come back to some of that in subsequent blogs, but here is a painting I saw in Budapest by an artist I had never heard of before Tibor Csernus (or Csernus Tibor, as the Hungarians have it).
Csernus (1927-2007) is a fascinating artist who, while always remaining figurative, has shifted through styles from hyper-realism, through Caravaggian chiaroscuro drama, to Expressionist paintings based on Hogarth's etchings, and much more besides. Actually, that "shifted through" isn't quite right as Csernus often seems to return to earlier idioms or flutter between them. At times, his figures and energy remind me of the great American realist George Bellows (1882 –1925). Bellows is perhaps best know for his New York scenes, and his boxing match.
For links to paintings by Csernus
Meanwhile, as I've started rediscovering German, here are some versions from Rilke. These were done many years ago, before Reunification, but may be worth revisiting at this time of year.
after Rilke's “Herbsttag”
God, I know it’s now time. The summer was huge.
But already the sundial scowls with shadows
and I hear Your breath in the meadows.
Fill out the last few grapes upon my vines
with just a few more days’ warmth.
Press this year’s blood into the fruit,
ferment the sun into good wine.
Whoever has no house, now has no home.
Whoever has no one, now has a long time alone:
wakeful, reading, writing long letters,
wandering the long rustling avenues,
aimless, restless through the blowing leaves.
Statue of Apollo
after Rilke's “Archaïscher Torso Apollos”
We can’t know this deafened head
with ripe apple eyes. Yet the marble’s
lit from within.The gaze is candelabra
shimmering from inside the dead
block. Otherwise the prow of breast
couldn’t dazzle, wouldn’t ripple
its slow smile down to where cool loins
are slung into the groin’s dark nest.
Else this hard brevity of stone
under the shoulders’ lively twist of bone
wouldn’t gleam like a wild beast’s pelt
– wouldn’t shoot out. These welts
are all eyes. You get daggers.
And now you must change your life!
Exhibition of Cliff's Cityscapes
Thursday, 25 August 2016 at 15:37
Exhibition of Cliff's Cityscapes opens Saturday 27 August, Princes Quay, Hull.
Back to the blog. I've not posted anything for a few weeks while the site was being upgraded. Everything seems to be working fine now, though a couple of later entries have fallen off during the upgrade.
Here's a view from my office window in the Larkin Building, looking out on the construction of Hull University's new medical school. This continues the cityscapes project. I like the idea of construction's busily sketchy outlines, and I plan to do at least one more painting of this construction from another angle. (They've already added another floor as I've been painting the one they were working on last week)
.Construction and demolition now bookend the cityscapes. A previous painting showed the partial demolition of the Clarence Flour Mill at Drypool. It's now completely flattened, a huge nothing by the River Hull. I'll probably return to that site or paint a similar one.
A couple of the smaller cityscapes were part of the Hull in Paint 2016 travelling exhibition, which has been shown at various venues around Hull, finishing this week at East Park. To follow on there's an exhibition of the whole series of my larger cityscapes, and a couple of the smaller ones. The exhibition is only on for a week. If you're in Hull drop in. There'll also be an event on Thursday, with poems to complement the paintings by myself and some friends and music from Roddie Harris.
Cliff Forshaw Hull Cityscapes
Hull in Paint Centre, Princes Quay Shopping Centre, Hull
Saturday 27 August - Saturday 3 September
Saturdays and Sundays 11 am - 3pm
Weekdays 11am-4pm. Closed Bank Holiday Monday.
Event: Thursday 1 September 6.30- 8pm. With poetry, music and some complimentary books.
The exhibition is supported by Hull Civic Society and Princes Quay. Many thanks to Dougie Smelt for much energy and help.
Life study: end of an era
Tuesday, 7 June 2016 at 20:37
Thursday, 2 June 2016 at 23:06
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:
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…