Sunday, July 27, 2008


BRITAIN'S ART COLONY BY THE SEA, by Denys Val Baker (pub. George Ronald, London, 1959). What a steal! Mine written all over it tho' it was Alan Pose first spotted it. Told me I'd certainly be interested unless I already owned it. Well, St Ives is a sacred site within one of my key areas of interest. Of course I recalled the title but have never seen the book. Should have been his, then, but he passed. (The article on collecting will be written anon!)
A beautifully made book (missing dustcover? --no matter, leaf-green hard-back), pristine after half a century. Denys Val Baker states that it's "not a book of art criticism" but an "introductory survey" of St Ives art & artists, hoping that "more exhaustive studies may follow". Quite obviously written by such an enthusiast as the ex-editor of the Cornish Review would have to be, no jargon, plenty of reproductions of paintings, sculpture, pottery, & fine photos of the artists in situ (John Wells, paint-spattered Peter Lanyon, Barbara Hepworth in her now famous, tho' scarred with personal tragedy, Trewyn studio, John Pecks, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham in dramatic silhouette painting above the bay, Bernard Leach, Sven Berlin sculpting with mallet & chisel outdoors). The black & white plates arent the compromise they'd be in a contemporary publication; black & white is the colour of the historical one could say, and besides, the b & w reproduction is positive as colour, not for a moment denoting its absence.
Although there is a St Ives history & the history that takes one there, just one visit is sufficient to appreciate the rare reflecting-mirror of art & place. It's one of those locations in the world where the iconic pictures recall the place and vice-versa. Therefore there's a continuum and an ever-current expressive potential within the equation of art & place. (Because of Georgia O'Keefe, prime amongst others, Taos & the New Mexico desert would enjoy similar status I guess...) It adds up to tradition by now... The book, by extension, is both historical & current.
The frontispiece photograph is the quintessential evocation of the scene (--altho' morning or afternoon tea isnt quite the St Ives legend; and in whose studio I'd love to know? --could work it out via identification of the paintings in the room, especially the harbour scene on the easel with its sketch behind), after all, whom better to represent St Ives in the Fifties than smart jacketed Peter Lanyon, raising mug of tea to mouth, long skirted Wilhelmina Barns-Graham standing over the low table of teapot & jug & crockery (playing mother perhaps, the Fifties after all, and therefore her studio?), and could be Winter rather than manners, the straps of the skirt over long sleeve jumper, the men dressed warmly (and is that a tall sock over Lanyon's trouser leg or a trick of the light?)... On the other side of the small table is Sven Berlin, in fisherman's beany, Augustus John-gypsyish, with pointed black beard, flamboyantly cut jacket, mug in hand and behind W B-G's elbow is John Wells, hands about his cup (it must be Winter!), the most reserved by expression. They're listening to Guido Morris, mostly hidden by Peter Lanyon... Typical clutter of studio, "Peinture Moderne" poster on wall...
One can never know everything and though a b & w reproduction of an egg tempera, Cornish Scene, cant say it all, I'm as struck by the luminous high terrace & steps overlooking ocean by Stuart Armfield ("traditionalist" Val Baker describes him in long list of same, John Park, Leonard Fuller, Bernard Ninnes et al), --and perhaps it's the wild flowers occupying the right foreground balanced by the large gulls & the scudding clouds--, as I am the familiar Tunnard, Hepworth, Wallis & Jewel... Another name to investigate! The painters, the sculptors, the potters (-- lovely photo, "Bernard Leach discusses the merits of a pot with his son David and apprentices at Leach Pottery"), a late Fifties' snapshot...
Denys Val Baker's book is like a travel guide for artists & art lovers, documenting even as it solicits custom! Personally, I cant wait to get back there --some years now since Bernard & I visited, staying with Kel Bowers & Dooz Storey, renewing acquaintance with Bob Deveraux at the Salt House gallery, etc etc, rolling around heaven all day... Until then, employ book as magic carpet!

In passing, I picked up Mervyn Levy's little monograph on Ruskin Spear (Academy Chicago Publishers, 1986; first published W & N, UK, '85) in Bendigo recently. I happened to mention it to George Hartley (the Marvell Press George Hartley, friend & publisher of Larkin) at Collected Works the other day, in the context of wonderful finds in second-hand bookshops. The less famous English artists, he said, that's my interest too. Touche! He said he'd never ever seen anything on Ruskin Spear and would have snapped it up himself! I hadnt realized it was hard to get. I mentioned the frontispiece painting of John Betjeman, Poet Laureate Afloat (c1974, oil) : Larkin had done a television programme with Betjeman, complained about the filming & all in his usual way, but he loved it really, George said. Never got to meet him myself though, he added.
To be continued...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

THE MERRI CREEK : POEMS & PIECES, #3, June/July,2008



"A red Daedalion on the timid Earth"
Al Aaraaf; E A Poe

As you are outside to my necessary ark
and yet inciteful - time being what it is
We eat stars and look north you say
as if Hesperus bothered us no more
though I the egg and tomb of it all
am unlikely to move that way or this

Uraniborg - you set yourself up
gilded - and it's your move now!

[7 February, 2004]



"all things as they were"

He gathers twigs
to ponder haystacks
like beehives in grey fields

His book is one of pine needles
threaded with the sentiment
of moths set free

The lichen on his branch
is a sign to place
where crust and core are one





dust quickens
like spice
in the mouth, lace
and the forest of millimetres
between us


eastern avenue

moon's hangover
hits the street in a splash of white,
outside the window
the transformer
is like a gargoyle, sitting
halfway up the electricity pole,
either too old
or too lazy to climb higher.


indian ocean

at scarborough beach
crows bark all morning
and gulls
fill car parks, like
beggars pecking for coins.




The banker

Here lies a bank manager
Who lost interest

The politician

Here lies a politician
Lying still

The train driver

Here lies a train driver
Among the other sleepers

The bookkeeper

Here lies a bookkeeper
Entered in the books of the lord

Joseph Smith

Of Mormon fame lies Joseph Smith
Progenitor of kin & kith


Shakespeare lies beneath this sod
Poetry was his only god

John Milton

Here lies John Milton who told of his blindness
His other works were short on kindness



for Peter Temple

Just like another powerless person in polar fleece
living outside the zone of influence and legitimate thought
taking over from nature, the characters of the weather,
applying the lessons as idiomatic law onto current events
rather than skulling the menu in a team-suburb;
it's a type of new pastorale, a wind's free field
refilched, thinking through bends in a clear stream
with, it has to be said, a romance that visitors will arrive.
But it's so invisible, as numerous and hidden as circuit boards:
take the freeway exit ramp, drive east, cross the railway
and follow the cypress wind breaks till the grey letterbox
like in crime fiction, because the independence is criminal,
being innocent is sneaky, and critical's just another rainy day.



(to Liam Frost)

In front of the overhead projector's
Prophetic spidery lines
He precisely pronounced each syllable,
Controlled each pause, released each small word
Like a bird from a cage.

After the applause he sat
With a flick of hair at his pituitary
Smouldered & surveyed the future,
Whining like a helicopter
Just below the bare white ceiling.

Then, when the third eye
Burst into flame,

He skipped down the stairs with his mother
Into the damp garden.

There the shivering palm trees
Whispered sweet promises
& prophecies of savage Africa.


The beautiful young woman beside you glances back, into the past, into the tunnel. She turns and smiles. She would like to stop and make love beside the slow moving river past which you are now driving smoothly, but she knows that you must continue the quest. You are a man in search. Despite her eyes and the movement of her taut body, you ignore your growing erection. She sighs deeply, perhaps one of those soft light orgasms with which women express at once their love and disillusionment. The world is full of sparks and fire. The police sirens shriek from the distance but the city waits, wallowing in a future that is already gone.

Violence is deeply disturbing and stimulates you, despite your knowledge of the technological artifice in this ballet of our time. Cars and helicopters writhe in the flames. What use is metal, except as a metaphor for the heart or the body?

The road is limitless. It carries on, beyond the borders of the city, the badlands. The deserts are left behind, congealed into the dark spaces of mass and time of the last frontiers. She goes down on you. Despite the delicious sensations of her tongue around the button of your prick, you continue to hold the wheel firmly. The Ferrari shudders when at last you approach the forked lightning playing on the round hill and the sulphurous mango coloured light.

There is absolutely nothing to it, nothing at all.




Be happy if the wind in the orchard
floods you again with life:
here where a dead tangle
of memories lies buried,
this wasn't a garden, it was a reliquary.
The whirring you hear isn't of wings
but a stirring within the eternal womb:
look how this solitary stretch of land
is turning into a crucible.
A blaze rages here against the sheer wall.
If you keep going maybe you'll encounter
the phantom that will save you;
this is where those acts and histories are composed
that are cancelled as the future is played out.
look for a broken thread in the net,
that binds us, leap through, run for it!
Go! that's my prayer for you - my thirst
will be lightened then, my bitterness less sharp.



C.D. BARRON lives in the Mountains outside of Melbourne where she continues her studies in the Mysteries.
ASHLEY CAPES co-founded Egg (Poetry) in 2002, which sadly ceased publication in 2006, He is currently studying Arts & Education at Monash, while co-editing the literary web-site His first collection of poetry, pollen and the storm, 2008, published with the assistance of Small Change Press (Queensland).
EDDIE CREANY lives in Melbourne. Long-standing servant of local poetry organizations. Delivered his Epitaphs at the June reading at the Eco-House in St Kilda (where your editor snapped them up).
GREGORY DAY is a writer, poet & musician living on the southwest coast of Victoria. His latest novel, Ron McCoy's Sea of Diamonds (Picador, '07) was shortlisted for this year's NSW Premier's Prize for fiction.
RAE DESMOND JONES is a much published poet, short-story writer & novelist of the 70s, 80s, & 90s. Edited the little mag, Your Friendly Fascist. After an extended period as a literary enfant terrible, he paddled through a dour but eventful middle age as a Councillor & Mayor for Ashfield, an inner-Western municipality of Sydney. He has since decided to return to his original calling. There are a few more years of fun beckoning yet, as an old fart terrible. He can be disabused on
ANDREW TAYLOR's Collected Poems were published by Salt Publications (UK) in 2004. In that year, during a Residency at the BR Whiting Library in Rome, courtesy of the Literature Board of the Australia Council, he translated a number of Eugenio Montale's poems, which have been broadcast on Mike Ladd's ABC radio programme, Poetica. Teaches at Edith Cowan University, WA.