January 21st, 2012 Doug
This post is part of the River of Stones guest post series, our mindful writing challenge. Properly notice one thing each day, and write it down. Click here to find out more. Our guest post series features writers talking about the art of noticing, writing and more…
Today we’re delighted to host Douglas Robertson…
Douglas writes: I’m trained to see, that’s what I do for a living.
One of the purposes of the River Of Stones project is to encourage people to pay attention, to be more aware of their surroundings and build up an awareness of the space in which they exist.
As part of this I’d like you to take a bit of time to discuss and understand how you see.
‘What?’ I hear you say, ‘but I can already see, the man’s a fool!’
What I’d like to talk about is the difference between looking and seeing. People often look without seeing, not fully understanding the space that is around them, what makes it what it is, and how it also makes them who they are.
This sense of place is an important element of any artist or writer’s work. The colour, mood and personal connection to a particular area, and an understanding of your role in communicating this to your audience, is made so much easier if you can see it clearly.
Many writers and artists have developed this skill by understanding and seeing the spirit of one dear familiar place. Throughout history, writers, artists and musicians have strived to communicate their subject matter clearly, and we can learn so much from the makers that have preceded us.
One particular area where clarity of vision and communication with the audience is reached is in the Japanese art of the Haiku and the Haibun. One of the greatest exponents of this style of prose poem was Matsuo Basho. In his work, Basho takes his readers on a journey, using words and phrases as markers or sign posts which enable the audience to understand not only what Basho is seeing, but through using their own vision and experiences, reconstruct and see the journey in their own way.
By the careful structure and use of language, and by not ‘telling’ the reader what they see, the poet creates a world in which his abstract ideas and situations can be understood clearly by the audience. And through the use of this method, they are allowed take their own emotional and mental journey, seeing their version of Basho’s world.
So, how can we try to ‘see’ more clearly, and apply this to our own work?
Ensure clarity in words and images. Your vision of what you are trying to communicate to your audience should have little or no superfluous language. Create your journey through the work carefully, placing the markers and laying the path for your readers.
Make work about what you know. You will always find it easier to express ideas of what is familiar and close to you, and it will bring honesty to your art and vision that will make it easier for you audience to follow your journey.
I’ve worked as a visual artist for the last twenty years, and I have tried hard to ensure my vision and the art I create come together to communicate the ideas to my audience. Visitors to an exhibition, or readers of a book bring with them their own set of experiences and personal tools that they will use on the journey. I work on making my art open enough for the viewer to see their path through the concepts and ideas, and by giving them the signs and markers they need make the emotional and spiritual connections all the more poignant.
Thank you for your time, and here’s to seeing more clearly!
Many thanks to Fiona and Kaspa for their friendship and support. Please take some time to browse their excellent website at http://www.writingourwayhome.com/
May 21st, 2011 Doug
More new poetry inspired by the Pocket Noost, and featured on the Writing Our Way Home group ‘Poetry From Art’.
The poets are (in order of appearance) Christopher James Heyworth, Jules Paige and Barbara Boethling.
CHURCH FLATTS FARM (Prose Poem)
Norma, the daughter, would tease Trevelyan about how he’d fish
for the tobacco tin from the poacher’s pocket deep within his coat.
“Why’d'you rattle, fisherboy?” she’d prod, her finger at his chest.
He’d half-hide the tin from her until she consented to a peck on the
cheek, then let it rest on his palm while he opened the lid. “Pa said,”
he’d say, revealing the bed of rounded pebbles, “to carry home with
me everywhere. These are from Padstow Strand,” of the bed of tiny
pebbles, a perfect miniature rowboat resting on them, in the tin’s base.
And in the lid waves painted real as if the boat could float. “Pa’s work,”
Trevelyan said, “right here in landlocked Derbyshire, my sweet.”
Note: according to Ordnance Survey, Church Flatts Farm near Coton in
Derbyshire is the point on the British mainland furthest from the sea.
My dad he was a Navy man
Long before I came along
I only know he loved the sea~
Eventually his ashes were spread there
Perhaps that is why I too love the water so
If I had gills I’d join the mere-folk in warmer climes
My dad he was a Navy man
I’ve photos of him in his white sailor cap
And for his wedding he wore his dress blues
Though in sepia tones it’s hard to tell the hue
Perhaps because my ol’ man loved the water so
I’ve got a creek near my land that I try to claim as my own
My dad he was a Navy man
Then so young and free
Served in a peace time behind the scenes
Eventually land and responsiblity claimed him
Perhaps that is why he resolved to say little
Lost on the ground, his heart still afloat
My dad he was a Navy man
Long before I was born
I only know he loved the sea ~
Eventually his ashes were spread there…
The old boatman’s blades
sliced through each wave
and for the briefest space
the angry brine, surprised, was beaten down,
Terrible strength restored,
the next great oscillation of that stormy ocean
lifted the unlucky craft upon another crest
and propelled it along the path
of the squally wind which roared
from out of the towering clouds on the dark horizon.
Undaunted, he fought the sea alone,
his chosen weapons straining muscles, good oak oars,
and his salty persiflage with he who was in charge,
Unexpectedly, he found he had gained
The rain soaked shingle of his own home shore,
So turned his practiced weather eye skyward,
Winked, and with a sigh felt grateful
He’d survived once more.
May 18th, 2011 Doug
As part of the Writing Your Way Home website, I have created a group to encourage the members to use art as the stimulus for writing new poetry.
For the first post, I used my Pocket Noost assemblage as the start point for the poets. This piece has been used by award-winning poet Pascale Petit in her Poetry From Art workshops. Here is the first poem, written by Jem from The Sound Of Splinters blog, based in West Sussex.
in high winds
the boat tin rattles
eager to release
memories held within
the sound of hail
on a caravan roof
a choosing a poem
about the sea
for her to read
at her mother’s funeral
her mother always
chewed a nutmeg
kept ever-ready in her pocket
swore it did her no harm
while mine took blue pills
except on that school trip
up the Thames and back
where she embarrassed me
Watch out for regular updates from the Poetry From Art group, here on The Net Mender.
April 30th, 2011 Doug
My assemblage from the Stations sequence, ‘Spring Lament’, is feature with two poems by Anne Berkeley and Caroline Carver
on the prose and poetry webzine, Ink, Sweat, and Tears.
The magazine, edited by poet and visual artist Helen Ivory, regularly features excellent poetry and prose by many of the countries leading writers.
Follow this link to view the ink, Sweat, and Tears webzine.
April 24th, 2011 Doug
This weekend I have had the pleasure of being the guest contributor on poet Kona Macphee’s blog ‘that elusive clarity’.
Click on this link to read the two features, ’six things’ and ‘Sunday best’.
They were great fun to do (more difficult than you would think) and really got the old grey matter workiing!
And if you can, please take some time to follow the link to Kona’s website, featuring her excellent work as a poet.
I would highly recommend her recent collection ‘Perfect Blue’.
Click on this link to view Kona’s website
September 12th, 2010 Doug
One of the interesting benefits of the internet has been the increased opportunities to see the work of artists from around the world. Through the use of websites and blogs, artists, writers, musicians and other makers have been able to bring their work to the widest possible audience.
In a recent blog post, South African artist Robyn Gordon discussed the use of boat motifs in a selection of artists work, including my Pocket Noost assemblage.
Robyn’s own fascinating work is layered with symbolism, both personal about her own families story, and of more traditional images and objects depicting South African history and culture
” As a child on the farm I loved the outdoors. I loved to touch and feel nature in my hands. The smoothness of acorns and pebbles, the roughness of pine bark, the hollowness of birds nests …. anything tactile under my fingertips. At a young age I commandeered my mom’s unused carving chisels and I found that I could create many tactile qualities in the wood by chipping, gouging, whittling and sanding. This was a thrilling discovery!
Now I carve wooden totems and panels, incorporating wire, beads and found objects. Through my work I tell the story of my life in South Africa. The niche carvings hold objects that are of the land, symbols of Africa and symbols of my British ancestry. The totems “speak” of legends that have been passed down from one generation to the next. They are meditative pieces which bring me a great sense of peace. It is an added joy when other people feel this quality in my work. “
It has been a pleasure to see Robyn’s work; there are may common threads and images that I can recognise in my own art. Her work has a very strong sense of place, and I think that is why it will speak to many artists from other parts of the world dealing with subjects that tap into our shared life and cultural experiences.
To see more of Robyn’s fascinating work, follow this link to her website
Robyn’s blog can be read at http://artpropelled.blogspot.com/
January 4th, 2010 Doug
One of the highlights of 2009 for me was being involved in the cover design for Donald S. Murray’s new book, Small Expectations’. The book is now available for pre-order from the Two Ravens Press website. Copies ordered from the purchase link below (at a discounted price of £7.99) will be sent out from the 1st of February. Click on the book cover below to order your copy.
‘Small Expectations is a collection of linked short prose pieces and poetry. Digressively and figuratively, it tells the story of a character born on the Outer Hebrides, steeped in myth, history and Gaelic, who is then educated for work on the mainland. The character’s life thereafter has two poles, and Murray cleverly juxtaposes these strange attractors, bringing the power of ancient myth into the modern world with imagination and great humour.’
Praise for Small Expectations
This is an edgy, unsettling, fragmented collection of poems and prose – satires, twisted myths, darkly humorous fictions, poignant reflections on language loss – through which Donald S. Murray explores the uneasy space between Gaelic and English, between the strengths of an island community and its limitations, between the lives we have and the possible lives that escape us. It’s fine, assured writing, full of contradictions, dichotomies and ironies, and we should cherish its courage and honesty.’
– James Robertson
‘This is a very fine collection of stories and poems full of imagination and humour – the humour ranging from the hilarious to the sardonic. There is a finesse and craft to the prose and poetry which rings true to many an islander’s experience. This is a writer who has been and seen. The collection is a tour de force, a distillation, arising from a living imagination of Hebrideans’ experience at home and as émigré. The reader will never look at porridge or mackerel in quite the same way again!’
– Maoilios Caimbeul
Short extract from ‘Small Expectations’
Scenes from a Hebridean Boyhood
My parents fed me with so many fish that, when I was around eight, I began to grow gills. These first revealed themselves in the shape of miniature double chins forming on either side of my throat. They were the same shade of silver as much of the rest of my skin, the tiny fins that had appeared one morning to replace my hands, and the oddly shaped head with eyes peering out from the forehead that formed above my neck and shoulders. Later, I began to have trouble walking, tumbling each day under the weight of scales. Mum and Dad grew alarmed at this and decided to starve me, in an attempt to restore me to my normal size and shape. However, their diet went too far. I became a sprat, a sliver of fish, not much larger than plankton. My parents looked at me with dejection and dismay. Eventually, they decided that there was nothing for it but to use me as bait. They thrust a tiny steel hook down my throat and cast a long, nylon line far and deep into the ocean, hoping that I might bring more worthwhile spawn to shore.
It was when I reached the age of ten that my parents decided I was such an embarrassment to them that there was little alternative but to hide me in a peatbank. I remember watching them as they stripped away a patch of turf from the moorland, digging through heather with the sharp blade of a spade. Later, they both grinned as they cut deep into moist, dark peat, working till they laid bare the layer of rock and stone hidden by its depths. They lifted me then, lowering me into the great and empty hollow they had made. ‘You’ll be alright,’ they kept saying as they packed me in its chill and black decay, burying me below its surface. ‘You’ll be alright.’ I lay there till the following summer when they took me out again, drying the peat which had crusted around my flesh. After they had turned me round a few times, ensuring that every inch of my body had been burnished brown by the sun, they hoisted me on their shoulders and carried me home. It was there that they performed the final act of my existence – tossing me on the household fire.
I realised how much my parents cared the day they kept urging me to rest instead of helping them, sparing me from all the hard effort of trying to scratch some pathetic excuse for life from the thin soil on our croft. ‘Go and lie on the beach,’ they said, shaking their heads when I suggested I should join them. I was still resting there some four hours later when the tide rolled in, washing all around me a vast counterpane of kelp that wrapped around my flesh and bones, binding me to the foreshore. Later, the sea began to rumble, pounding my skull, cracking my limbs, transforming my long curly hair into fronds of dabblelock, my arms and hands into oarweed, my legs into brown stipes of cuvie. A jewel of anemone became fixed to my chest where my heart had been; bladderwrack trailed around my groin. And when all that happened, my mother and father gathered their broken son on their backs and carried me to the field that had defeated all their strength and labour, casting all that remained of my once strong and youthful body onto the field they had ploughed and dug over, preparing my corpse to fertilise their land.
My parents were delighted the morning I began to possess hooves. They took me down to the village blacksmith, providing me with the first gift I ever received from them: a pair of golden horseshoes. ‘Run,’ they told me. ‘Show me how quickly you can race.’ And they boasted of my speed to their neighbours, sent me on errands across the moor to warn the people who lived there of thunderstorms or strong tides that had affected our side of the island. Eventually I grew tired of this, and headed in the direction of a sea-loch a mile or two away. I concealed myself in its depths, allowing the water to roll over my mane, waves to tumble across my flanks. I hid there for years, only emerging when the local miller came to the loch-shore, asking for help to turn the mill-wheel that he owned. It might have been his loose talk that brought my parents to the loch. They called my name aloud as they stood on its banks. After a while, I decided to answer them, stirring the dust of the earth as I towered above their heads. ‘How handsome you are,’ they declared. ‘Will you give us a ride on your back?’ I did as I was told, going faster when they urged me to do so, slowing down, too, when their heels dug into my flesh. And so I went on for hours, racing across the moor like they had asked me to do in my youth, my hooves thundering, tail flashing back and forth. Eventually, I decided I had done it long enough. I turned in the direction of the loch and drowned my parents in its depths.
Extract published by kind permission of Two Ravens Press
July 17th, 2009 Doug
A sequence of poems written by former Edinburgh Makar and dear friend Valerie Gillies.
When searching through some old sketchbooks for reference materials, I rediscovered poems written by Valerie for my one-man exhibition in the Netherbow, Edinburgh. The poems were composed to celebrate the show and were read by Val on the opening night.
SEVEN HAIKU OF THE ELEMENTS
- a sequence for Douglas Robertson
The wanderer’s song:
the sun rises over one ridge
and them another.
is heavy with one stone
from the island.
A stormy morning:
the grey clouds are standing still,
the sun zips about.
On the tower roof
between stone slabs and blue sky
I write, star-brushing.
Windy this morning;
clouds branch out as they travel along,
creaking like trees.
Tides bring seawater in
underground to the pot blow-hole,
hiccup of the earth.
This flint arrowhead
is a cockerel’s footprint
from the dawn of fire.
Valerie’s latest book ‘The Spring Teller: Poems from the Wells and Springs of Scotland’
is published by Luath Press, and is available from Amazon.
For more about Valerie’s writing, visit he website at www.valeriegillies.com
Poems reproduced with the kind permission of Valerie Gillies
June 28th, 2009 Doug
Guest post of a poem by Rob A. Mackenzie, from his new collection ‘The Opposite of Cabbage’.
One day they will surely betray me.
For now, they seem content to drowse
resolutely without wit or purpose
like autistic sharks balooning
through seaweed, rock and sand
of fish cities deep in blackout.
While I’m trying to trust, one breaks
the Gareloch’s surface and fixes
its stunned gaze on the mirrored sky.
Things are as they should be -
the clouds, the flotsam, the stranger
peering from the shore with my face.
The second it drops, I no longer exist.
It has no memory, no plans.
The water rises, the sky falls,
and I am as blue is to the fish.
Song Of The Clyde (mixed media construction)
“I’ll sing you a song of the beautiful Clyde”. I spend most of my time in Scotland on the Clyde coast or islands. I have a love/hate relationship with the area, and one of the dislikes is the nuclear presence on the river. I find the enormous power of these black ships one of the most frightening things I know.
Due to several incidents with fishing boats on the west coast, the submarines now have to enter and exit the Firth of Clyde on the surface. Previously, they would submerge in the river, or as with the first experience I had of one, pass with only the ’sail’ showing. I was drawing on the west shore of Great Cumbrae on a typical misty dreich day when this black object passed silently offshore, before disappearing below the water. It was almost like witnessing some kind of mythical sea creature coming up for air.
“There are other towers on the Sound
mocking the tower that fell
from the top of Castle Rock,
towers worse than every tower
that violence raised in the world:
the periscopes and sleek black sides
of the ships of the death”
extract from ‘Screapadal’ by Somhairle MacGill-Eain
Perhaps on day we will be able to write new lines as we ‘Sing you a song of the beautiful Clyde”
Many thanks to Rob for permission to post his poem. Rob’s book ‘The Opposite of Cabbage’ is available from www.saltpublishing.com, or from any good bookseller.
Read Rob’s blog Surroundings at www.robmack.blogspot.com
June 25th, 2009 Doug
It is a great privilege to welcome Scottish poet Andrew Philip to the blog,
as he drops in for a blether about his Hebridean Thumbnails as part of
The Ambulance Box Tour.
thumbnail n. concise and brief: he did a thumbnail sketch
Every now and again, you pick up a new book that immediately excites and transports you to a world
inhabited by your thoughts, language and spirits.
Such a book is Andrew Philip’s debut collection ‘The Ambulance Box’.
islands buried in the sky’s white sands
DR: A warm virtual welcome to you, Andrew!
AP: It’s great to be here virtually, Doug.
DR: When I first picked up your debut collection, I was sitting in the coffee shop of Blackwell’s Books in Oxford.
Normal ritual with a new book; hot mug of Americano, comfy seat and read carefully the titles on the contents page.
But this time I got no futher than the first poem, Hebridean Thumbnail 1. The title resonated with the themes of my own art, and when I opened the page I was immediately struck with the simple, beautiful, and consice form of the poem.
As an Artist, the concept of the thumbnail sketch is a familiar one and in the case of my own work, it is used as a vehicle for one-off, intimate landscape studies.
How did your sequence of thumbnails come about, and why did you choose to use this form?
AP: I’m glad it made such an impact, because it felt like a risk starting the book with a one-line poem.
There were two main triggers for the sequence. The most obvious one was that my wife and I had recently returned from a holiday in Lewis and Harris. The second was more mundane: Julie Johnstone, editor of Essence Press (http://www.essencepress.co.uk/), was looking for monostiches — one-line poems — for a special edition of island magazine.
Something else that fed into the creation of the sequence was a comment by a writer friend, the poet Siriol Troup, that she’d like to see me do more writing about landscape. The single line seemed like a good form to approach that challenge. Not only does it require intense focus but the form evokes the horizon and shoreline, both of which are prominent features in Lewis and Harris.
I love the concision of the form too. I’d been interested in short, compressed forms for a number of years, so writing monostiches seemed a logical step to take.
sligean air an traigh
all the bonnier for being briste briste briste
DR: Isn’t creating art always about taking risks? Just the act of putting your work out into public view alone would seem like a risk to some.
Siriol’s suggestion was certainly a good one, and choosing the form of the single line was an apt move, both aesthetically and contextually.
I’ve been working for a very long time to develop the ‘less is more’ attitude to drawing, and when working on a subject such as coastlines or sea horizons, studying brevity is essential.
It is interesting that you said that one of the start points was that you had recently returned from a holiday in the Hebrides. Had you written any notes or created any thumbnail sketches (either on paper or mentally) that you used on your return to Linlithgow?
AP: Yes, you’re absolutely right about risk. It’s integral to making art. Perhaps that’s part of what makes a positive audience response so gratifying, especially when the work is as personal as many of the poems in The Ambulance Box are.
I don’t think I’d written any notes while we were in the Hebrides, but there were plenty strongly visual memories and we took a good number of photos. Although my notebooks come with us whenever we go away, I tend not to write anything on holiday.
DR: That’s interesting that the work is done from memory and recall. I always find it amazing how much, if you have tuned your eye and your brain in carefully, you can remember of a place, person or event.
Possibly the physical and time distance helps you to absorb what has been happening around you, and through your intuitive poetic sense or conditioning, naturally edits downs the information to fit with your own language or themes.
In these poems you started with a short line of Gaelic, for instance the opening ‘fo cheo’.
What prompted you start the poem with the language of the islands?
AP: Distance — whether physical, temporal or emotional — from the subject is often very useful in making art, don’t you find? Distance from the work is also an essential part of the process, and I try to build that into the writing.
There were, again, a couple of spurs for the use of Gaelic. The most obvious one being the setting, which provides a clear context for using the language. I’m also interested in the aesthetic possibilities of bringing together Scots, Gaelic and English in various ways, and this sequence seemed a good opportunity to do that.
The Gaelic phrases are also somewhere between a (sub)title and an extra line, though they lean more towards the former. In a way, they gloss the poems’ ostensible subjects. (I say “ostensible” because the emotional reasonances are deeper and wider than straightforward exploration of the landscape.) I wanted to provide that gloss, but not make it too obvious.
Besides the aesthetic considerations, there is a subtle political element to using Gaelic. By giving it equal weight to the English and Scots — or possibly more: without it, you’re guessing what the subject is — I’m saying it’s of equal value.
solus na stoirme
where sky and land split a fragment of grief flickers
DR: The distance theory is very true in terms of focusing on what you want to use from an experience, and also in how you will then communicate the thoughts or emotions to your audience. You have then got to hope that the audience bring along their shared experiences and have the necessary vocabulary which will allow them to engage with your work.
Using the Gaelic (sub)title does add an extra dimension to the poems. I have tried through the years to use Gaelic or Scots titles in many of my works, where it not only has relevance to the subject matter, but adds another ‘key’ for the audience to use to unlock the narrative behind the work.
I would love in future to incorporate more texts into the work somehow, but want to avoid the normal typographical tools and tricks. I’m going to keep looking at words especially in Scots and Gaelic, and by studying their shapes and structures, find a way to embed them into the visual elements.
For some, the single line (or occasionally single word) form of poetry is considered to be inferior in quality and artistry to the normal concept or perception of what a poem should be. Books such as Atoms of Delight, and the work of writers like Thomas A. Clark challenge this opinion.
Where would you say the strength lies in work such as the Hebridean Thumbnails, and do you find it more or less difficult to express and communicate your ideas in this more compressed form of poetry, say compared to using a more formal structure.
AP: I’d have to say that anyone who considers the single-line poem inferior in artistry doesn’t know what they’re on about. The line is the fundamental unit of poetry, and the form focuses your attention on that fact. Its strength is in the intensity of focus, both in form and subject. There’s nowhere to hide. For it to work, it has to be good. In a poem of more standard length, you can get away with less striking lines — sometimes you might even want them to heighten the impact of a cracker of a line when it comes — but everything has to work harder when there are no other lines to lean against.
Simone Weil apparently said “Absolute attention is prayer”, and the monostich has something of that quality. If it works, the white space around it on the page becomes resonant and alive. It’s really hard to do that justice in performance, so I seldom read them.
Atoms of Delight is a fabulous book. That’s where I first came across the monostich, if I remember rightly. That and Gael Turnbull’s marvellous “spaces” poems, which eventually helped to inform “Notes to Self”, which is one of the longer pieces in my book but also emerges out of that pared-down aesthetic.
I’m not sure whether I find it easier or harder to express my ideas in this form. To an extent, that’s because ideas can often be found or, at least, clarified in the writing, so the form is part of discovering the content. The best lines are often the ones that surprise the writer and leave you thinking, “Now where precisely did that come from?” I guess you find something similar happening in your art. It can be a fairly organic process.
(image to follow)
comhradh a’ chladaich
after all this time, what has the beach left to say to the tide?
DR: Yes, your right. Often I’ll start out with an idea or image in mind. It’s not until you make the first marks on the paper that you can truly say where it is going. Often the simplest of ideas can turn out to be the ones with most power and interest.
The white space on the page and it’s effect on the line or image is something I have been fascinated by for a long time. I created a small series of drawings a few years ago called ‘Meith’, after a conversation with Gaelic poet Kevin MacNeil about brevity and the beauty and intensity of poetic forms such as the haiku. The image was of navigation markers, transected by a small fragment of island or shore, creating a horizon and the allusion of distance and perspective. The overall effect was to create an icon or cruciform motif.
Sketchbook study for ‘Meith”
But what gave it the real strength was the white space, further enhanced by mounting the work. It was an interesting challenge to make, paring the image down to its barest essential elements, which as you said with the single line motion, left it with no other means of support or hiding places. It was a real learning process for me, one which I still bring into play when creating my work today.
Interesting you should mention Gael Turnbull. I had recently been reading one of his poems which typifies the fundamental power of the single line. The poem was ‘Near Sloc Dubh, South Harris’, collected as part of Carmichael’s Book. The visual impact of the poem is very interesting to me as an artist. The ten lines of the poem are spaced on the page giving the impression that as well as being read as a whole poem, each line has been constructed in a way that when read singly they can stand alone. For example the last three lines of the piece are,
Silence inhabits the glen.
Remembering is our tomorrow.
Forgetting, what won’t come again.
Truly beautiful and inspiring, like much of Turnbull’s work.
You said that poems like the Hebridean Thumbnails don’t work well live. It’s intriguing and somewhat magical that the silent space around the poem as it is read cannot match the resonance of the whiteness of a page.
AP: I could be wrong about that, of course. It’s often hard to tell what works for an audience. You’ll get people coming up to you after a reading full of praise for a poem that you didn’t think had gone down that well. However, as a listener, I find the short forms hard to enjoy as much in a reading. They need so much space around them and readers never give them that space. After all, they might well have a paying audience in front of them. It takes a huge amount of self-confidence to be silent in public!
DR: That’s very true! I think the amount of self-confidence and receptiveness of the audience also goes for minimalism in the visual arts.
I’ve been chatting to you about a very small part of what is an excellent, moving collection of poems. The book takes the reader on a journey through a whole spectrum of emotions and self-questioning. I find myself traveling back and forth through the book, reading and re-reading the poems and finding new layers of thoughts and images each time. I’ve been particularly taken by the Pilgrim Variations.
Personally, from an artists point of view, the book (like many of Salt’s titles) is a beautiful object. The vision and colours, strengths and fragility, and emotional trials and joys we all face in our lives are realised throughout your poems. A real workout for the eye, heart and mind.
To take a line from your ‘In Question to the Answers’ -
9. What is the next line in this sequence?
What next for Andrew Philip?
AP: On Monday, I’ll be reading in London along with fellow Salt poets Rob A Mackenzie and Katy Evans-Bush as well as the eminent Chinese poet Yang Lian. It’s a real honour to read beside Yang Lian, and I’m hugely excited about the evening. We’ll be at Lemon Monkey, Stoke Newington High St from 7 pm on Monday 29th. The cafe is licensed and the event is free.
The virtual book tour continues, of course (details on the Cylcone page: http://saltpublishing.com/cyclone/?p=350), but this summer is largely going to be taken up with a significant family event.
I’m still looking for direction for the next collection but, at the moment, I think it’ll be a bit more outward looking than The Ambulance Box. Some of the recent poems I’m most pleased with certainly have that quality to them.
DR: I would think it is rather like the period after a one-man art exhibition, a time for gathering your thoughts and a wee bit of directional ’stocktaking’.
I’m sure like me, there will be many people looking forward to the next direction and collection of your work.
Thanks Andy for allowing me to provide you with this stop on the Ambulance Box Tour, and I hope you have enjoyed our virtual blether as much as I have. It’s been an honour and a rare privilege to have you here.
Look forward to hearing yourself, Katy, Rob and Yang Lian read at Lemon Monkey on Monday.
AP:It’s been real pleasure, Doug. I look forward to meeting you in the flesh at the reading.
You can buy a copy of The Ambulance Box directly from Salt’s website at www.saltpublishing.com, and also from Amazon.
Andrew’s blog is at www.andrewphilip.net.