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Saturday, 11 April 2020 at 20:02

Graveyard, Sigisoara, Romania

"There is no antidote against the Opium of time, which temporally considereth all things; Our Fathers finde their graves in our short memories, and sadly tell us how we may be buried in our Survivors. Grave-stones tell truth scarce fourty years: Generations passe while some trees stand, and old Families last not three Oaks […] to be studied by Antiquaries, who we were, and have new Names given us like many of the Mummies, are cold consolations unto the Students of perpetuity, even by everlasting Languages."

Sir Thomas Browne, Hydrotaphia or Urne Buriall, 1658

This seems a good time to be thinking about elegies. My mother died in 2011. I was in Romania at the time; coincidentally, that day I'd gone to a graveyard in Sighisoara I'd visited several years before. The graveyard served the German-speaking community and I wanted to check a quotation I thought I remembered from one of the tombstones. Sighisoara claims to be Count Dracula's birthplace. When I arrived back in Borsec, the dilapidated Transylvanian village where I was staying on a writing residency, I heard about my mother's death back in the UK.

Since then I've been working on and off on Elemental, a collection of poems,that starts with my mother's death, and moves on to consider loss in a more general way. The collectiion plays variations on the sonnet, in tighter or looser ways, or, as here in the opening poem, echoing the form to build a longer sequence.


In Transylvania when I got that call
– had been that day to Sighisoara, drawn
to that famous undead batman’s place of birth.

Think: the Saxon cemetery high up the hill.
Carved gothically upon one stone, I’d seen
Ruhen in fremder Erde! Written it down.

Lie still in foreign soil – but you never can:
(stone blunts, moss overwrites your name)
the earth remains cold and strange.

As do you. Whoever you were, laid low
in the lie of the land, you are now (whatever now might mean)
your own remains – Just let the world, its weather,

drain right through your tongue, your ribs,
whatever stubbornly persists of you.


Up here, we are all overwritten with rain.
Names blunt. Down there, bones do too,
as they acquaint themselves with fault and aquifer,

maybe to discover they’ve finally found their level,
worked on darkly in the water table,
worn and wearing through those other scribbles

written in the water’s cursives,
its accommodations with gravity, geology,
the terrain’s almighty sloth. Post humus:

they’ve gone beyond mere ground. Now who could tell
just what is rain and what it is that comes to rest
at that watershed where land and weather shift?

Between headstones and puddles – what will you later find
in that shimmering absence where sun now burns off mist?


We’ve all been sieved by weather, land,
but now it seems one’s bones might pan
for flecks of something bright to stick

between the breastbone and the floating rib.
Count yourself lucky, can you, through the zero
of this ground? Be less than the gravedigger’s distant grunt?

Just something seeping, molecule by molecule,
ghost-borne through lime, past worm, through strange soil,
through walls tabled into water, a name glossed

across the mahogany of a dull séance. Grund.
Ground. And the mills of God grind exceeding small.
The old grind that did for you. (Now you’re hallowed,

hollowed out, just like the ground.) And that’ll do.
Will do for me what did for you. Will do for all.

Life Drawings

Friday, 10 April 2020 at 15:29

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Life Drawings

Friday, 10 April 2020 at 15:26

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I've added a few more drawings to the Life Studies portfolio, and started a new portfolio Life Drawings. Both are accessible from the Painting page.




Tuesday, 7 April 2020 at 12:28

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Tuesday, 7 April 2020 at 11:37

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I've not got round to the blog for a while. Now with the corona virus lockdown in its third week, with more time than I need on my hands, I thought I should get back to it.

I've put a few drawings up in the Life Studies portfolio. There are a few hundred drawings tucked away somewhere. As an experiment I've just picked a few that were close to hand and that photographed reasonably well. Many of the lighter sketches wouldn't work, but I'll look through the other portfolios and see what might translate to screen.

Life drawing in one of the things I've missed lately, but maybe it's time to get the pencils out and draw the wildlife in the garden. The tadpoles are wringgling, and the pond will soon be hopping with froglets. The birds are nesting, and it won't be long before the fledgings are out.


Cityscape Paintings in Ferens and Beverley Open Exhibitions

Friday, 14 February 2020 at 10:46

Passengers at Paragon Station, Hull

Two of Cliff's large cityscape paintings on a railway theme, Passengers at Paragon Station (left) and King's Cross Station, appear in the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull 2020 Open Exhibition. The exhibition opens 15 February and continues until 26 April.

Another painting, Fountains, Queen Victoria Square, Hull is in the Beverley Open Exhibition, which opened in December and continues until 29 February. Both exhibitions are free.

Frost Fair at York

Friday, 29 November 2019 at 13:32

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Mary Aherne and I are reading at York Frost Fair, at 12.30 pm.

Sunday 1st December.

Do come along if you're in York. It's free! Mary and I will bring some of our books for sale. And also some freebies, including the latest issue of The Critical Fish.

Thin Ice Press Frost Fair

Sunday 1st December 2019, 10am – 4pm

King’s Manor, University of York, Exhibition Square, York YO1 7EP

Thin Ice Press invites you to our first festive Frost Fair, hosted in the historic King’s Manor. Join us to celebrate York’s printing heritage, find out more about historical adventures on the frozen Ouse, do a little bit of pre-Christmas shopping — and try your hand at letterpress printing.

In 1715, a London Frost Fair boasted nine-pin bowling, ‘Cripple Atkins roasting an Ox’, boys sliding, a printing booth, a music booth, a shoulder of mutton roasting in a string, a tavern, a rolling press, a geneva (gin) booth, a gingerbread stall, a goldsmith, ‘Huffing Jack’, and a husband-and-wife team of poets, ‘rhyming on the hard Frost’.

We’ve done our best to recreate that spirit. Join us for
– letterpress printing from Thin Ice Press and The Print Project, including a chance to print your own souvenir of the day;
– lino prints from Joanna Lisowiec, who has been working on some magical new prints for the occasion;
– gorgeous jewellery from Karen Ward;
– a pop-up bookstall from Fox Lane Books, with titles chosen by University of York English Department staff and students;
– gingerbread made to an eighteenth-century recipe;
– ninepins, children’s activities (including story times), poetry readings, and talks;
– the King’s Manor refectory, open from 10-4; serving mulled wine, mince pies ánd other refreshments.

Programme for Talks and Readings
11.00am Children’s story time I
12.30pm Poetry reading from Cliff Forshaw and Mary Aherne
2.00pm Talk on frost fairs and ephemeral printing from Professor Gillian Russell
3.00pm Children’s story time II

King’s Manor is off York Exhibition Square, next to York Art Gallery. The Frost Fair will be held in the Huntingdon Room and Anteroom.

Tables are free and we do have a couple of spaces still available. If you would like to know more, please email

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