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One For The Road

Saturday, 9 December 2017 at 18:58

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Smith/Doorstop brought out an anthology of poems about pubs a month or two back One for the Road, edited by Helen Mort and Stuart Maconie. The shortest poem in it, a haiku about a Hull pub, was mine. Here it is, below. I did a little reading for the launch at the Bridlington Literature Festival. Reading a haiku, even with a title of almost as many syllables, doesn't take very long, so I filled out my reading with a little section from Satyr (Shoestring 2017)  ,"Drilling the Zinc". Here, also is another take on Hull pubs, with Philip Larkin sitting in.



Ex-Trawlerman’s Beermat Haiku at The Whalebone, Hull

Wine-dark sea? Think beer:
let fish-finings load your pint
with light. Is that clear?

Drilling the Zinc

Ingerland: foreskin of a Friday night.
DJ, eyes worn by distance, smoke,
eavesdrops the future down the bone,
thumbs the next track into the stripper’s zip,
wastes imported vinyl on the drongos of this Dead Zone.

Thud and blunder from the back-room.
Click of a black rolls the last pony into the pocket.
You trouser what you can of the chink,
stand your wingman a chaser, and one for the bludger,
stuff a brown lizzie in the burly-gurlie’s biscuit.

Out into the bladdered, the Filth with their hoolivan,
faces like bulldogs licking piss off a nettle.
Everyone, everywhere’s angstin or bustin for knuckle.
And it’s a jive life. Jive life. Jive life.


Outside in bum-fuck Egypt, garyboys burn rubber,
gunning kevved-up GTs twerking twocked Zondas.
You go down manors icky with gum and spilt claret,
rug like a pub floor that sticks to the sole.

Past glassy piss-factories, vitrines of vertical drinkers,
smokers and vapers, smartphones flipped, juggled on the flop,
the jig and jag, the jokey rib-punch, joshing on the step,
the middling men paunching untucked shirts.

Past face-aches, blue-rinsers, tranked Neds and jellied Nellies,
the liggers, lounge-lizards, the bilious prannets with previous;
over the vom, coffin-dodgers, pavement pizzas.

Past Halal taxi, Polski Smak (Scag? S&M? Happy-slappers?)
Through carparks, ruinous estates, urinous underpasses
carpeted by bozos, piss-pants and crusty-white rastas.


Up there the bunker: rachitic saplings on a raw-estate,
the boarded-up shops, bars on barwindows. Inside asboids,
pickled eggs, pork scratchings, Britain’s Hardest Landlord,

ripped leatherette and coughed-up stuffing.
It’s all argument, argot and grot; booze, palaver and pants.
Give me your piss-poor, your pilchards, your pillocks.

Think back to the old blokes, the smoky Snug, the snecklifter;
the art-college year, the one you dropped out for the boozer till 3,
Somali Club afternoons, and back again for early doors.

That urgent note drilling the zinc, ringing out loud
–ah the paintings you’d paint, the poems you’d write! –
as you emptied all your warmth in the singing pissoir.

Philip Larkin Dreams of the Myth Kitty at The Cock and Bull

It was never dull in mythological Hull,
but no one was ever quite who they seemed.
That bloke in the pub: half-man or just half-mad?
And your dad, but of course, that stud claimed to be half-horse,
and was then his other half half-mare, mer-, or just barmaid?
We were half-fish, tadpole, toad (we put the crap in crapaud),
shape-shifting higher and higher up our wish-lists.
Listening to each poet’s shaggy tales we did the maths,
remained one hundred-and-ten percent non gullible,
all of us full, full to the gills with cock and bull.

Hull Cityscapes

Monday, 20 November 2017 at 17:53

View from Holiday Inn

Here is the latest in the Hull cityscapes series: a view from the Holiday Inn overlooking Paragon Station, with the glass surfboard jutting out over St. Stephen's Precinct. Something a little Edward Hopperish about the bus arriving in the deserted city. The painting is 40" x 50 (102 x 127 cm) .

Nine of the cityscapes are being shown at Smailes Goldie's offices, Ferensway, in Hull, with a launch on Wednesday 30 November. The launch will include an excerpt from my collaboration with the composer Deborah Pritchard and the trumpeter Simon Desbruslais, Voyage for Solo Trumpet.

Hull to Iceland and Back at the Humber Mouth Festival

Tuesday, 10 October 2017 at 11:33

Hull to Iceland and Back at the Humber Mouth Festival

from a review by Kerry Evans on her City of Culture blog:


October 8, 2017

Wednesday at the Central Library did not disappoint. With barely time for a coffee after meeting Melvyn Bragg I found myself with red wine in hand chatting to different kinds of people from wide areas of the UK all here in the Food for Thought café for a writhing sea of art, poetry and music to follow. First we were visually informed by local artist Cliff Forshaw’s Hull Cityscapes where I was joined in conversation by a Town Planner from Richmond, London, who was at City of Culture to attend a maritime convention which amongst other things would forge links between Shetland and Hull. Something that interests me as I lived on Shetland and am writing a book about the links between the whaling ships and Hull and the Greenland fishing grounds in the 1800’s, The Hanged Man of Grobsness.

Cliff stood in front of his paintings in the cafe describing some of the views. Throughout the week I have interviewed people as they sat and ate surrounded by his work, asking volunteers, the retired, people from all walks of life what they thought. Over the week I came to realise how much it meant to local people that the history of Hull’s landscape was being recorded by someone locally rooted with such accuracy. The colours are both bold and smoky and give the feel of a working, steam smoking maritime centre with the blades at Siemens beckoning future prosperity in one piece for a city once reliant on whaling and fishing for survival. You can contact Cliff on his website if you want a piece of history hanging on your wall.

There was a large gathering who followed Cliff and trumpeter Simon Desbruslais into the room next door where our eyes and ears were nourished with a slick and well synchronised performance. The music was put together by composer Deborah Pritchard’s and entitled Voyage, which celebrates the twin “voyage” statues, one pointing to Vik on Iceland near The Deep in Hull and the other towards Hull in Vik. The audience travelled with them. Artist Steinunn Thorarinsdottir captured the essence of the sea, grey and for ever in motion, by leaning the statues forwards as if the communities in Iceland and the Humber are reaching out to each other. Cliff is working on a piece at the minute which reinforces links between Hull and other fishing communities.

This evening we were treated to a slick and well synchronised performance by Simon and Cliff. I have reviewed CD’s of poetry in performance for national magazines, some of which can be outlandish and irrelevant, but Cliff spoke of mermaid statues, whales and maritime themes close to my own heart as I have carried out extensive research on whalers like the Truelove for my whaling book. His words were interlaced with relevant language which hit you like a bullet. You can tell he is a well-travelled man there was a piece packed with Tasmanian words which rolled off the tongue. I loved the way Simon would lower his trumpet and look towards Cliff to interchange music with words. It created an eerie atmosphere. One of peace before the storm. The lights were lowered and purple reflected off the trumpet as the haunting, slowly delivered notes swam to our ears. I did feel like I was in Shetland looking out to sea wading in snow again. It also made me want to read more of Cliff’s poetry. The collaboration worked.

Later in conversation Cliff told me the exhibition could be moving to the St Stephen’s precinct. Details are still to be finalised. Carrying the legacy of 2017 on.


Saturday, 30 September 2017 at 09:59

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A Humber Mouth Literature Festival Commission 2017

Wednesday 4 October HULL CENTRAL LIBRARY,
Albion Street Hull HU1 3TF

6pm Drinks and Launch of Exhibition of Cliff Forshaw’s Hull Cityscapes,

Food for Thought Café, Hull Central Library

7pm Performance of Voyage for Solo Trumpet.

Poet and painter Cliff Forshaw has collaborated with the synaesthetic composer Deborah Pritchard and trumpeter Simon Desbruslais to celebrate the twin “Voyage” statues created by Icelandic artist Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir in Hull and Iceland.

The world premiere of VOYAGE FOR SOLO TRUMPET took place during John Grant’s North Atlantic Flux: Sounds from Smoky Bay, as part of Hull UK City of Culture 2017. The piece continues to develop and Deborah, Simon and Cliff have since performed it at Vik in Iceland.

The exhibition of ten of Cliff's large Hull Cityscape paintings in the Cebntral Library Café will continue until 14 October 2017.



Voyage performed in Vik

Sunday, 20 August 2017 at 16:18

Cliff, Deborah, Steinunn, Simon in Vik,

Cliff's collaboration with the composer Deborah Pritchard and the trumpeter Simon Desbruslais was performed in Vik, Iceland, on Sunday 13 August.

Cliff read his poems and Simon played the new extended version of Deborah's composition Voyage for Solo Trumpet under Steinunn Thórarinsdóttir's Voyage statue, in front of an audience which included the Mayor of Vik and the British Ambassador to Iceland.

The statue is the sister version of the one in Hull, where they performed on May Bank Holiday as part of the John Grant Atlantic Flux Festival.

Many thanks to the Mayor and people of Vik, and to Steinunn and her husband Jon, for their generous support and excellent hospitality.

Here are Cliff, Deborah, Steinunn and Simon under the Voyage statue in Vik.

Voyage to Iceland

Sunday, 20 August 2017 at 15:28

Cliff and Simon onstage in Vik, Iceland.

There will be another performance of Voyage at the Humber Mouth Literature Festival in Hull on 8 October, to coincide with the launch of Cliff's exhibition of Hull cityscape paintings at the Brook Street Gallery. The collaboration continues to grow, with new sections composed by Deborah, accompanied by new poems on the maritime themes and connections between Hull and Iceland. The plan is to record the completed work towards the end of the year.

Brook Street Gallery Exhibition

Wednesday, 28 June 2017 at 19:38

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End-of-Year exhibition at Brook Street Gallery

Wednesday, 28 June 2017 at 20:02

Our End-of-Year Show continues at Brook Street Gallery, Prospect Shopping Centre, Hull HU2 8PP. The gallery is open Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 1- 5 pm.  Here's my most recent cityscape, a view over the Deep, the River Hull and out across the Humber. It's one of several of my cityscape paintings in the show along with lots of other good work by my colleagues.

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