70th Birthday Picnic

eric70picnic2 008

It has been a while since I’ve posted here due to my working on my book. You can just make out some of us playing French cricket in the background! I had about twenty guests – not a bad turn out for a semi-recluse! The weather was sunny on Sat 6 August and it was good to see everyone enjoying themselves. Friends came from my Yoga group and Writers’ group.

The poem is a bit of intentional semi-doggerel, if there is such a thing! (I was rather pleased with the rhyme for ‘cricket’- in the last stanza.)

 

Birthday Poem at 70.

The day dawned like any other day;

I’m still standing and not yet lame.

Seventy circuits of the earth around the sun,

I hope I’ll never need a Zimmer frame!

*

My daughter asks what’s it like to be seventy,

I reply no different to being sixty nine.

A friend writes keep the child within alive,

keep writing poetry and you’ll be fine.

*

Lets give thanks and salute the sun today,

play French cricket in Saltwell Park

eat chocolate, Barack Obama and samosas

before our journey into the dark.

*

If I live to be a hundred, I wouldn’t want a plastic heart

In all honesty I don’t think I could stick it;

I wouldn’t want Botox or any replacement part;

I’d just like to be able, still to play French Cricket!

*

Note: Barack Obama is what I called barm brack cake.

Referendum

stock-photo-95725121-brexit-flags

 

Dear Agony Aunt

I believe I’m losing my mind

I’ve started to believe in nightmares

Boris as PM and Gove Deputy

These nightmares are becoming daily prayers

The first one landed on my bed and pinned me to the sheets

at precisely 6am on 24 June

Please can you prescribe an anti-inflammatory

Please can you section me

Please can you confine me

to this green and pleasant land

The Morning After

sf image

I am busy writing a book for publication so will not be posting so often from now on. I will try and post something once a month though! ‘Weddings’ was the topic for my writers’ group this week.

I can’t remember any church bell

but imagine we drank many a toast.

You danced and pranced like a young gazelle

but I recall snorting candy the most.

*

I can’t remember giving you a ring

but can see your purple wedding dress.

You said you didn’t want a freaky fling

I said these days we couldn’t care less.

*

I admired your beautiful blue eyes,

you said you’d travelled fast and so far,

I wondered if you often told lies,

we sped home in a spanking new car.

*

I caressed your shapely malachite ears

but wondered how you saw with three eyes,

you told me you’d travelled ninety light years

from a world of terrible red skies.

Paulo Uccello Replies to Vasari

800px-Paolo_Uccello_047b

This is another in my Vasari series which I hope to include in a book. Giorgio Vasari published the 2nd edition of his famous book Lives of the Artists in 1568 in which he comments on 160 artists and architects. I can highly recommend the edited version published in Penguin Classics Translation by George Bull.

*

I knew you’d like my triads how I posed

three characters, made the cave triangular

and lanced the whole composition

into jousting triangles. I knew you’d like

my hint of supernatural powers broiling

in the cloud top right corner of the canvas.

Not forgetting the stylised dragon of course.

I knew you’d highlight my fallen soldier

deftly foreshortened; my speciality you wrote

and the way the lances disappear at a vanishing point.

* * *

But why must you spread rumours with your gossipy pen!

I didn’t stay up all hours unravelling the mysteries

of perspective and foreshortening; I didn’t tell my wife,

“What a sweet thing perspective is.”

And why did you go on and on about that abbot

feeding me cheese as if I was a mouse. Yes, I know

I wrote in my diary, “If he went on any more I wouldn’t

be Paulo Uccello, I’d be pure cheese.” But I don’t want

to be remembered as the ‘cheese artist,’ it was a joke!

* * *

Although I honour your veneration of artistic perfection

I find it difficult to forgive your epitaph – that throwaway

line after writing that Paulo painted animals, the first man

and woman in a beautiful accomplished style, that he depicted

ploughed fields, furrows, meadows, trees and other details

of country life, “in that dry and hard style of his.” In short

Giorgio, you’ve got things out of perspective: I’m shocked

you think I squandered my time and energy in obsessive

compulsive experiments with multiple vanishing points.

I’m disappointed you depict me in two dimensions living

in disgruntled old age in a hovel at the end. It’s just

not proportionate – not measured, not a balanced picture.

Blaydon Races

Blaydon races

An Extra in the Blaydon Races; a Painting by William Irving

This painting is displayed along with a key and sound commentary at the Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead.

I’ll be reading this poem of mine as part of the Late Shows on 14 May at the Shipley.

*

I told him I wanted to be recognised, immortalised –

why he painted that bloke with his upside-down pipe

and starving whippet on his arm beats me.

He’s stealing my thunder, elbowing me out of the way,

I’m barely visible. I told him to paint my new hat

with the betting slips prominent but I’m too far away, more

an extra rather than a leading player. Surely as manager

of Spencer’s Iron Works I should be in the foreground.

My nether regions have gone; obliterated, why I don’t know

my legs and feet are up to scratch, I’m only half the man

without my twill trousers and brown leather shoes.

It’s just not on; he should have shown me his sketches

before lashing out in oils. Anyway sitting here isn’t fun

the bairn behind me’s bawling its head off; The Punch

& Judy man’s slipped in the mud for the third time.

That’s Nancy in the pink dress sitting on the grass

with her bairn asleep on her lap; hope she doesn’t

recognise me – she can talk the hind legs off

the proverbial. A newspaper’s handy that way – you

can hide behind the small print. Why did he have to

have so many bumpkins -look, there’s goggle-eyed Mally

and Fester the Jester doing a jig; centre stage please note!

There’s some right low life here, a pick-pocketers

paradise to be sure. I don’t trust that card sharper

or the Dick Turpin character on his horse. I wish

the Scots Piper would go and blow his bags

somewhere else or leg it back to bonny Scotland.

*

It’ll soon be time for the three o’clock – I’ve backed

William Irving three ways, lets hope I win some notes!

As a betting man you can bet your bottom dollar

I won’t be recognised in fifty years’ time; no I’ll just be

another extra – a portrait in oils my foot!

Giotto Replies to Giorgio Vasari

st-francis-receiving-the-stigmata

I’ve been reading and re-reading Giorgio Vasari’s remarkable Lives of the Artists. It is often described as among the most readable and influential art history books ever! Click on the painting to enlarge.

Although Vasari often gets dates wrong and some of his stories are embroidered he writes in a very accessible style. In fact it is his humorous anecdotes about artists that appealed to me first of all; they are a mixture of revealing information about the artists’ methods and projects and more questionable dealings with cardinals, popes and other artisans.

I have started a number of poems – imagining some of the artists replying to Vasari. This gives a lot of scope for different ‘voices’ and I may delevop the poems into a book. Here is the first one.

As I am persuing the book idea I won’t be posting any more poems in the series here because of copyright.

 

Giotto Replies to Giorgio Vasari

You said the illusion of three dimensions

started with me. This was a heavy burden

to shoulder but I bowed to your good taste

and decorum and the manner

in which you encompassed my perfect freehand circle.

It was more than enough for the tondo 1who asked,

“Is this all you can do?” Thanks to you everyone

can see the child Giotto scratching a sheep on a rock

his father’s flock nibbling nearby. Cimabue saw me

too and took me under his wing, the pupil soon

to outstrip the master so you said. Yes, I was ahead

of my time – your refrain became my guiding star.

* *

When the king of Naples watched me at work

he thought I was so ahead of my time he offered

to make me the first man of Naples. I told him

I already was as I lived next to the city gates

where my name went before me.

* *

Correct me if I’m wrong but didn’t you talk

of my stunning sense of colour and excellent technique,

again so much ahead of my time, although I seem

to remember something about a sea fret making

the pigments run; you know those frescoes on the walls

of Campo Santo. My fourteen foot angel in St Peter’s

was so ahead of my time you thought it sang, you

saw it levitate, you thought it was made of ethereal paint.

* *

Giorgio, I am honoured you thought I was created

to shed new light on the art of painting. That I was

ahead of my time; but, you know that painting

of St Francis? – you forgot to mention the laser beams

zapping the stigmata onto the saint’s hands and feet

*

1Tondo in Tuscany can mean both a circle and slow-witted.

CAT HAIKU

misty on window

The prompt from Haiku Horizons blog is ‘cat.’ Traditionally haiku  references the seasons and has 17 syllables but the syllable count is pretty flexible when writing in English. And there are many modern haiku that have nothing to do with seasons! There should be a change of direction, a turning point in each haiku, usually at the last line.

I have punned on the word ‘pause’ here but not sure if it works. The slo-mo is referring to those nature programmes which slow the movement of an animal down to extremes.

 

your slo-mo hop

onto the window sill

pause my runaway mind