Friday, 22 November 2019 at 11:17
The second issue of The Critical Fish has just swum off. It is free, in that it has been liberated from the printers, but also in that it costs nothing. The journal is an artist-led collaborative project which promotes critical and accessible writing about the arts and visual culture. It's centred on Hull, but also looks outward. The Fish supports creativity throughout the region and invites contributions and ideas from further afield. The second issue is "Brill"... each issue is named after a fish... and has a couple of my poems in, one accompanied by my painting of Paragon Station, the other by my aquatint of the Truelove sculpture.
The Critical Fish is interested in creative, critical and collaborative writing. Insde you'll find essays, painting, poetry, photography, illustration, interviews and conversations.
The commissioning editors are Jill Howitt and Lauren Saunders, and you can get in touch with them via thecriticalfish on facebook or at hello@the criticalfish.co.uk
Sunday, 3 November 2019 at 15:41
Smart Devices, an anthology of 52 poems from The Guardian website "Carol Rumens's Poem of the Week" has just been published by Carcanet. Each poem appears with Carol's original commentary. She's been choosing the poems, noting how they achieve their effects and leading lively discussions on them for over a dozen years. As the cover puts it:
"Do the maths: that's more than 624 blogs!" No wonder she has a large and devoted following. She's a poet reader, not an academic. She is fascinated by the new, but her interest is instructed by the classic poems she has read. They make her ear demanding: when it hears that something, it perks up. She perks up."
I'm very pleased to have my poem about the Tasmanian Tiger ,"Loop", in there, alongside poems by Peter Didsbury, John Ashbery, Denise Riley, WS Graham, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Yves Bonnefoy, John Kinsella, Marilyn Hacker and many others.
For Carol Rumens's Poem of the Week:
Ink, Sweat & Tears: vote for a poem
Thursday, 10 October 2019 at 19:49
NEW PAINTINGS 1: Fountains, Queen Victoria Square, Hull
Thursday, 10 October 2019 at 19:00
I've not posted anything for a while, so here are two new paintings. First, the view of the Ferens Art Gallery across Queen Victoria Square, Hull, with its relatively recent City of Culture fountains. It's another large oil (102 x 127 cm) in the cityscape series, I'm thinking now more of people within urban environments... and also moving away from the focus on Hull.
One of the reasons I've fallen behind with the blog is that I've just started a new post as Royal Literary Fund Fellow, based in the English Department at York University. This, together with other commitments, means I'm spending a fair amount of time travelling, often at railway stations. The second of my recent paintings is of King's Cross, though I think York, its station, the university or town, might start to figure in new work.
NEW PAINTINGS 2: King's Cross Station Concourse
Thursday, 10 October 2019 at 18:28
I've been working on this view over the concourse of King's Cross Station for a few months on and off. It's a sort of companion piece to, and the same size (102 x 127 cm) as, my painting of passengers at Paragon, the Hull station from which I leave and return to at the other end of the line.
I started this very early in the year. During the time I was working on it, the large TV screen at the end of the departure boards was added. I noticed this almost by accident as I passed through the station in a hurry to get somewhere else. The light also changed dramatically as the days lengthened and cast stronger patterns on the brick. I added the screen and made much more of the light on the brick. The biggest challenge throughout was rendering the almost organic structure - part-tree, part-web - that rises up and spans the roof.
Now I want to think more about people, singly, in couples, families, or crowds, in public spaces. Perhaps aiming at a sense of flow as people move past and through large urban structures. Maybe more stations, but also streets and parks.
French Leave 1: Baudelaire
Thursday, 22 August 2019 at 12:09
I've just come back from a trip to France: a couple of days in Paris and a week in a little village in Burgundy near Chablis, with the obligatory trips to vineyards for tastings.
I've been thinking again about French Leave: versions and perversions. This project of loose translations and variations on French poems started a few years back on a residency at CAMAC at Marnay-sur-Seine, and over the years I've added the odd piece. At the moment it moves from Théophile Gautier (1811 - 1872) to variations on themes in recent work by Michel Houellebecq, and includes work by Gerard de Nérval, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Tristan Corbière, Jules Laforgue, Apollinaire and Raymond Queneau.
A couple of variations on poems by Baudelaire and Rimbaud originally appeared online in the Literateur. Unfortunately that publication has now disappeared, so I'll post them here and add them to the porfolio pages.
It seems apropriate to start with Baudelaire, in a version considerably more wine-stained than the original.
two variations on Baudelaire’s “Sed Non Satiata”
1. Vendange d’outre-mer
Odd goddess, whose skin’s a smoky musk
still redolent of opium and Havana.
You may be some obi-man’s opus, some savannah
saviour’s ju-ju, or child of the Bayou dusk.
Forget your Grands, your Premiers Crus, your Nuits;
for tenue, what lasts long on my tongue’s your mouth.
You are my full-bodied beaker of the South;
you slake, yet provoke thirst better than any Burgundy.
I note the rich robe, as you hold me with your eyes:
the worm goes through the cork, I’m mesmerised
to breathe the botánica’s bouquet and, as I taste
your voodoo vin gris-gris, too late, I’m lost;
my palate echoes with santería; head
with your blanc de noirs, those lives I never led.
No wine is fine enough; no drug can do
the tricks you (turn and) do, my wine-dark sea,
my nest of mermaids, my girl in every port,
the witchy Circe of this odyssey
who dulls all thoughts of fine Penelope.
My mind’s your glass. You take my stem and twirl.
I’m half a world away: moly, oily swirls
of sea-serpents, sargassos. Shipwrecked, all at sea,
washed up on some calypygian Aphrodite’s
shore, whose wily Calypso I discover to be you.
Have we lived and loved in other lives?
You always my stormy siren. Me, saoul
…drunk, rudderless, compass-less, (compassionless
for that good – still faithful? – wife.) Lost. Déjà-bu.
French Leave 2: Rimbaud
Thursday, 22 August 2019 at 12:00
Here's the second selection from French Leave.
Again, I've taken considerable liberties with the text; this is also much shorter than the original.
For more of my versions from Rimbaud and other European poets, see the Translation portfolio.
A Mixed Bunch of Poet’s Flowers
after Rimbaud’s “Ce qu’on dit au poète à propos de fleurs”
On the poet’s list one bloom is top,
For trembling by the topaz seas:
O Lily, long the poet’s prop,
O enema of ecstasies!
But in this age of sago pud
And heavy labour on the farm,
Your lilies grow from soul, not mud,
Exuding an oddly pious charm.
Your lines are gilded with lilies, lilies,
Which, day-to-day, are rarely seen.
Farm-folk will find such verses silly:
Why do they tremble? So what’s that mean?
When the Poet takes a shower,
His shirt’s on the line with his meagre kit:
A fluttering common or garden flower,
With yellow deodorant-stained armpits.
And if the Poet decides on roses?
He pens them red, inflated, blown.
O laurel stem! The question posed is:
Where on earth are such roses grown?
The poet snows his roses down:
In bloody great red drifts they lie.
– Imagine the snow-red rosy ground!
Red snow? Red mists this reader’s eye.
French veg is ugly, gnarly, crabby
– Pissed on by weasels, rats and hounds.
French verse abhors the low-down shabby
Tubers prised from stony ground.
O Great White Hunter in the wild,
Tracking prey through the Fields of Pan,
You paint yourself as Nature’s Child
– But botanic ignorance reveals the man.
Sometimes even exotic species
Can’t outweird your mythical blooms:
Stuff that feeds on unicorn faeces,
Or craves the shade of Pharoahs’ tombs.
Your verse turns over good French earth,
And weeds out all its native plants.
The poet’s now a floral flirt
Wearing orchidaceous fancy pants.
3. Green Shoots of Recovery
I know you’re taken by the tropics,
But try to be more down-to-earth.
Add economics to your topics:
Think what those foreign fields are worth!
Time now to praise the great plantations
– Sugar, cotton, coffee, tea.
No need for slavish imitations
Of do-gooder eco pieties
– Screw them and their sanctimony;
Freedom means the Market’s free.
What’s truly holy is the money.
The freshest growth is GNP.
The future’s here and tapping rubber
For Mackintosh’s waterproofs.
The whale at least gives up its blubber;
You blub liberally but stay aloof.
Your antique mythic scenery’s
(Asphodels gathered by Venus and Cupid)
Just creaky stage machinery.
It’s all about the economy, stupid!
Lose the amaranths, such plants
Obscure just what is really plain.
Your mystic visions are worn-out, pants.
The drowsy poppy’s for killing pain.
Tradesman! Colonist or Medium!
Your rhymes now gutter pink and white.
Forget your midnight oily tedium:
Turn on the bud of electric light!
Sing of useful growing profits,
Laud workers set to tasks like ants.
Forget the floral; be the prophet;
Hymn the blooming industrial plant!
Our seasons now have all grown hellish.
This is what the future’s for.
Just describe it, don’t embellish,
The flowery rhetoric’s a bore.
The future’s bright, now listen to it:
Electric wires begin to hum,
Those old-style poets were deaf and blew it;
Think four-stroke metre and banged oil drum.
From your dark poems, new lights must rise:
Illuminate those reds, blues, greens;
Pin swarms of acetylene butterflies;
Write of things as yet unseen.
La Ville Lumière has banished night:
– No Baudelairean Flowers of Evil,
It’s time to rhyme potato blight
With noble rot and the flour weevil.
Lose the muse of bucolic lies,
The dawn’s new chorus trills alarms
As other horrible workers rise
To man the aisles at factory farms.
Progress means increasing yields.
Irrigation! Drain what’s sodden!
Bogs and deserts turned to fields!
One must be absolutely modern!