His work hangs on the gallery wall.
We hear its buzz.
We’re in its thrall.
Each piece still humming with the thrum.
As strong as when the work was done.
That clay was soft and took the mould
Of artist’s hands and brush strokes bold
Laid down their layers one by one
Upon the canvas taut as drum.
And so lives on the artist tutor.
Who has a past as well a future.
Whose work transcends the passing years
Through others’ eyes and hands and ears.
We hear the echo loud and clear.
The artist lives! Ne’er shed a tear.
These words came to me after attending a preview of the Man and Light exhibition running at Gallery 131 on Corve Street in Ludlow until March 19th. The exhibition celebrates the work of the Midlands artist Arthur Berridge (1902 – 1957). Opening it the sculptor Stephen Cox RA explained how Berridge was underrated – both as an artist and as a teacher. It struck me then that echoes of the creative compulsion that drives artists like Berridge and Cox reverberate indefinitely: directly through their work (and more loudly when many works are brought together in one place); and indirectly through the work of others they’ve taught.
Now as the dusk is drawing in
Around these weathered cottage walls
The birds sing out an evening hymn
Their last before the darkness falls
And carried on a gentle breeze
Which shimmers through the grass and trees
A haunting curlew calls.
Farmland and hills soon disappear
Shrouded beneath the cloak of night
And Springtime flowers held so dear
Are safely hidden from our sight
By day the golden tulip blooms
Reflect the warmth within these rooms
Now bathed in candlelight.
Comforting chair by fireside glow
When daylight struggles once more cease
Thoughts that surround us ebb and flow
More mellow as the flames increase
The fiery dance directs our gaze
Enveloped in the tender blaze
We find refreshing peace.
This Shropshire home is sleeping now
Beneath a starry, jewelled sky
While somewhere on a moonlit bough
A lone owl hoots his lullaby
And lying still we long to hear
Piercing the darkness plain and clear
Another bird’s reply.
I’ve only just rediscovered these wonderful lines. They were composed after the poet stayed at Crosshands with her family a few years ago. Written in a neat hand on a scrap of A4 they’d been tucked inside a book for safe keeping. And that’s where they might have stayed if I hadn’t been leafing through the book (by Clive James) for some inspiration. I hope you’ll agree it’s a cracking poem. And I like to think the Aussie wordsmith wouldn’t have minded keeping it safe all this time. But then I’m biased. The poet is my sister. Proving that our father, Brian’s, love of words rubbed off on both of us. Thank you Joanne, thank you Clive and thank you, most of all, dad.
He wore the words like a necklace.
Each silent syllable a bead.
Pearl by pearl, a string of unspoken sentences.
His favourite book steepled on a sunken chest.
Treasure without end.
I wonder now what page my mother chose.
What verse she hears that he cannot.
Echoing for eternity.
While you were sleeping
The Plough cut a furrow across the field of night.
Owls hooted and screeched in it’s wake
Feasting on the shiny seeds of light that Orion cast from the pouch hitched to his rhinestone belt.
The snow was mostly gone. But it lingered in the tramlines where tractors had trodden two months earlier. Then the ground was sticky and the tyres left what, from this distance, looked like the parallel prints of a finger painting.
We followed one of the grooves towards a drift of sheep. For the first half-mile they appeared as white woolen flakes sticking together for warmth and huddled against the hedge line for protection from the easterly wind.
But close up they resolved to a slushy grey. Winter coats tie-dyed with a combination of red clay streaks and blue woad farmers’ marks. Worsted darned with threads of bramble from close encounters with the field boundary. A woven landscape of which we were a part. Warp and weft.
Across the valley, behind a curl of woodsmoke, in a patch of the cloth with the sun still on it, the sheep were scattered. Pearls from a broken necklace rolled across a green carpet.
And in the field at our feet a stooped apple was festooned with mistletoe and garlanded with wool. Nature’s Christmas tree for anyone bothering to wait a while. There, under a priceless chandelier of white berries, we kissed.
Hands held. Eyes locked. And in that one moment physical and emotional landscapes entwined.