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Looking Back Down the Road

Thursday, 16 August 2018 at 17:16

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Working on a long poem using material from my Kyrgizstan visit and putting together a collection of translations, versions and perversions from French has meant there's not been much time to add to the blog over the last few weeks. In order to keep up a fairly regular flow of posts, and add material to the website, I thought it might be a good idea to put up older poems. This variation on two Rimbaud sonnets seems an appropriate place to start glancing back. I'll be adding poems to the portfolio pages over the next couple of weeks, but I'll also post some of them on the blog. For more versions and variations, please see the Translations page, accessible via Poetry or Other Work.

Looking Back Down the Road

loosely after Rimbaud's "Ma Bohème" and "Au Cabaret-Vert".

1. Taking Off

Those days, I'd split without a second's thought. Hit the road.
Just take off. At seventeen, I'd tramp for miles, hitch a ride
no place special. Leather jacket like a scarred second hide.
Signposts for sonnets, truckers' long-load tales for odes.

Service stations, greasy spoons, thumbing cars, cars, cars.
Wind finding new holes in the knees and arse of my strides.
Blacktop, humming rubber, Autobahn-piste-strada.
Crashed out dead in graveyards, dossing under skidding stars.

Sat at the roadside, under creaking trees, the huge race
of clouds. September nights, dew sparkling my face.
Swigging lager from a stolen can: clean, cold, sharp,

conjuring up visions from shadows. Hidden in secret places,
I'd twist feet up close to my heart, pluck the laces
of my wounded boots, entire body tuned to (canned music) - Harp.

2. At The Green Café, 5p.m.

A full week on back roads, dusty mountain tracks.
Old Chinese canvas shoes were shagged-out shreds.
I hobbled into this one-camel-town, back
of beyond, saw the green sign, smelled fresh baked bread.

Splashed face at the pipe, dragged fingers through hair.
Inside, this girl looked up - big tits - cracked me a smile;
flicked a rag over the green oil cloth, dusted off a chair.
I stretched my legs out, took in the shiny painted tiles.

She looked good around the eyes, not shy at any rate.
Fetched me slabs of bread, butter, thick folds
of home-smoked ham on a brightly-coloured plate.

Pink and white, delicious, garlicky. For something cold,
she foamed up this huge mug. Getting too late
for the border, a quirky ray of sun turning beer to gold.

Moving Studios

Monday, 2 July 2018 at 18:09

Old Town Studios

Well, it seems the Professional Practice, along with all the other Hull College access course, will be moving again. We've been in Hull High Street with the river just outside for the last two years, since we moved from the much-loved old art school premises in Park Street. Now we may move into the main Hull College building... let's see. I loved the space here - not immediately, after Park Street, but the location was great and it took me a while to find my corner. Here is my space, abutting the great rock painter Phil Entwistle's bit.

Time now to collect our stuff and move.

Hand Made End-of-Year Exhibition Prospect Gallery

Monday, 2 July 2018 at 17:43

Energy Works - painting Cliff Forshaw

I was away for the launch of our end-of-the year exhibition at the Prospect Gallery, Hull at the end of June. There is some continuity with the previous exhibition, but the works exhibited have mostly changed since we featured Sandra Holle's exhibition a few weeks back. My Tidal Barrier and cityscape paintings are gone, replaced by this work (possibly still in progress) - the Energy Works construction site at Wincolmlee.

I think I've probably said all I want to say in terms of Hull cityscapes (but who knows when a project is really done?) and I think I want to book-end it with some ground-level construction scenes, maybe to echo, in a messier, more down-on-the-site way the construction of the Hull University medical building I did from my office, maybe also to allude to the demolition of the Clarence Flour Mills which happened as I was painting them.

Anyway, I'm still not sure this is finished, but, when I came back from Kyrgizstan I found Andy Fairbank had taken it from the easel and put it in the exhibition. If Andy says it's finished, then that's good enough for me.

Hand Made will continue for the next couple of weeks at the Prospect Gallery, Prospect Centre, Hull.

Group Photo, Issyk Kul, Kyrgizstan

Thursday, 28 June 2018 at 15:25

Group Photo, Artists, Issyk Kul, Kyrgizstan

Here we are on our last morning at Issyk Kul. From left to right:

Mary Aherne, Ivana Ognjanovac, Regula Schelling, Laura Arena, Cliff, Peter Srager, Goran Hudec, Florin Dan Prodan, Mare Suljac.

We had a great time. All the very best. Hope we all meet up again!

Kyrgiz Musicians

Thursday, 28 June 2018 at 15:01

Kyrgiz Musicians

Here are the Kutt family, who came and performed Kyrgiz traditional music in the main yurt. For the most part the instruments seemed appropriately ancient, though they did also bring out an accordian which became popular during Soviet times. Madame Kutt is wearing an impressively feathered hat. The men have these white hats, though they seemed more popular in the the south. I got one myself in the great bazaar in Osh, and intend to wear it when (and if) I perform my Issyk Kul poem - a sort of fragmented epic of the power struggles around contemporary Central Asia. The Great Game goes on... as indeed does the other game and its struggle for international superiority. Here and there, signal and electricity permitting, we managed to catch a couple of the World Cup matches.

Mid-Summer Performance, Kyrgistan

Thursday, 28 June 2018 at 14:35

Mid-Summer Performance, Kyrgizstan

For the mid-summer solstice, we had a performance on the lake. There was poetry from our group of visitors, as well as a performance by a family of Kyrgiz musicians and a short recital of an episode from Manas - the Kyrgiz national epic poem which has been called "the Iliad of the Steppes". Necessarily short: this collection of tales is twenty times as long as the Odyssey. 

The super-hero is the Khan Manas, and the narrative revolves around his exploits in carving out a homeland for the Kyrgiz people in the face of hostile hordes. There are references and monuments to the epic throughout the country; even the capital's airport is called Manas.


Tuesday, 26 June 2018 at 15:06

Outside my Yurt

I've not posted anything for a while as I've been in Kyrgizstan with Mary Aherne, staying mainly in this yurt on the shoes of the great lake Issyk Kul. The lake is huge and sandwiched between two mountain ranges, bordering Kazakstan to the north and China to the south and east. The lake was off limits to foreigners in Soviet times and was used by the navy to test torpedos and much else. There is also a decommissioned Soviet plant which manufactured heavy water on the shores of the lake. It has been decontaminated now - just as well, as we could see it from our yurt.

We were there with a group of artists, invited by my Romanian poet friend Florin. I'll post some more pictures over next couple of days.

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