Edvard Munch Paintings

I went to an art gallery recently and bought an old exhibition catalogue titled Munch & Photography. (cost £1!) Munch used a camera and based some of his paintings on the photographs. He also got some strange effects with double exposures and with people moving on a long exposure.

Munch is of course the supreme artist of alienation – not many of his paintings are uplifting, or at least not many have the exuberance of colour and energy of, say, Van Gogh’s. They do however reflect the existential awareness of the modern era and Munch was among the first artists to do this. His first paintings were done in the 1880s.

I thought I’d try a series of poems triggered by his paintings. Here’s the first two. I’d welcome feedback as I’m not sure about continuing! There’s a good blog about art history here:


Self Portrait between Clock and Bedmunch between bed and clock


The old artist stands between

a clock and a bed;

symbols of death the art critic said.

The paintings he’s painted

cover the walls, plastering over

the threatening days.

The artist’s face is gaunt and

the clock-face is painted out.


Weeping Girl


See time leaking from

the mantelpiece as Munch

opens the camera

shutter for Weeping Girl.

See a foggy figure behind

the bed: an ectoplasmic blur


toward the weeping girl

and us.

The Monuments Men Film

2006AT8379Madonna of Bruges by Michelangelo

The Monuments Men

Director:  George Clooney.

During WW2 the Nazis set up special departments for the seizure and storage of objects of cultural value. They plundered hundreds of thousands of works of art; from Germany, France, Russia and Belgium and other countries. Many were destroyed. They also destroyed thousands of Synagogues, Catholic churches and Russian Orthodox churches.

The Monuments Men was a group of international volunteers from public art services. There were over 300 members drawn from the Monuments Fine Arts and Archives organisation. How many of these were actively involved in recovering works of art during the war, I’m not sure. In any case, the film, The Monuments Men, focusses on a small group of only 7 men charged with recovering works towards the end of WW2. Much more work in this recovery process was done after the war ended, in the following years.

More information can be found on:



I went to see the film last evening. It told the story well enough but I’d have preferred less ‘Hollywood’ sheen. There were the clichéd bits of dialogue too- you could almost hear the American constitution being recited in the background.  Given the context of the war setting, there was a surprising lack of plot tension.

The occasional voice-over narration sounded dated. The scenes of the paintings and sculptures hidden in the various mines were among the best. The statistics about how many works of art were destroyed, as well as recovered, were staggering.

The film is worth seeing just for the story: I’m sure the book on which it’s based would be worth reading. (Monuments Men, by Robert M Edsel)

Ten Tips for Writing Poetry

Ten Tips for Writing Poetry

I’d like to share some creative ‘practice prompts’  which should get you writing whether you’ve got writer’s block or simply need a new angle. Please comment and post your poems!

  1. Write a poem using the titles of books. See my tribute poem to Colin Wilson on my blog.
  2. Create a list poem. Using a food recipe as a model, list the ingredients which make up a fulfilling life; or the opposite. Or make a numerical list of instructions for attaining contentment and happiness. A variation is to list what your pet does during a typical day. Anthropomorphising animals is a long tradition and there have been some very eloquent dogs and cats lurking in literature!
  3. Write a poem from another point of view. A bit like number 2 but you could choose something inanimate. Traditionally the elements (wind, the sea, the sun) have been personified. Or how about a wild animal? Or a building?
  4. Write an eco-poem. Write about something in the environment you feel strongly about. It could include habitat loss, extinction or climate change. See my poem, Tread Lightly.
  5. Choose a painting you respond to. Write a poem bringing in all the senses and try and relate the painting to something happening in your life.
  6. Syntactical Repetition. This is when a poem repeats a certain sentence structure to emphasise meaning and feeling. My Tread Lightly poem is an example. You could use a familiar phrase or something you’ve overheard someone saying.
  7. Write a haiku. Traditionally this is a three-line poem consisting of 5-7-5 syllables but it’s fine to vary this. A haiku should portray a strong image and/or mood. One of the lines should be a ‘turning around’ line – a sort of realisation or surprise. See my efforts!
  8. Parody. Take a well-known song or verse and parody it. John Betjeman’s Harvest Hymn parodies the harvest hymn, changing the first lines from, We plough the fields and scatter/The good seed on the ground, to, We spray the fields and scatter/The poison on the ground, in a satirical poem about exploitation and greed.
  9. Erasure Poems. Find a text, say in a magazine, and randomly delete words until you have 30-60 words left. Can you make a poem just with these words? See www.thedailyerasure.com for examples. A found poem is similar where you use text from a printed source.
  10. Concrete poems/alphabet poems. A concrete poem is in the shape of its subject. (A poem about a cat would be in the shape of a cat.) With different software it should be possible to shape poems into a variety of shapes. An alphabet poem starts each line with a letter of the alphabet. An acrostic poem has the initial letters of each line spelling out a word.


A couple of books I’d recommend: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Writing Poetry, by Nikki Moustaki, and, The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron.  A good poetry website I’ve used is: www.poetrybusiness.co.uk   Good luck!


Anniversary Dr Who

Any Dr Who fans? Any comments would be welcome.

Anniversary Doctor Who

Do you remember
your journey through space and time,
JFK slumped in the rear seat
(Yes, you remember your space-time coordinates then)
-the impossible dimensions of TARDIS
echoing your own body/mind conundrum,
The Ghost in the Machine?

After the atoms began to dance
who’d have foreseen
the special effects,
the synaptic pyrotechnics,
or villains of the peace?

Enter the Time Lord Superheroes!
William Hartnell, Patrick Troughton and
Jon Pertwee (united against a common enemy)
regenerated from disassembled selves.

The Amazing Story of Your Regeneration!
Can you find
Your Own Original Face,
shake hands with your cameo roles:
one peeping at daleks from behind the sofa,
one colliding with that impossible catch at silly mid on,
one shivering in shackles,
one reaching for the stars?

Later Tom Baker
popping jelly babies
in times of danger,
confounding Time’s Arrow.

Remember, remember,
Thatcher’s Britain; time-slipped
into a mutant phase of consumerism,
strikes and candle-lit teas.
The glug-glug noise of alien monsters,
the polystyrene peacemakers,
the ping-pong goggle eyes.

Will you ease yourself
into the cinematic roller coaster,
over and over?
When the horror show pales,
will you lead your fathers
to the land of clover?

You, You and You!
Can you stop:
step out of your TARDIS
and be where the dance is?

Mallorcan Day Trip

This is an extract from my diary.

Mallorca: 27/04/13 – Pollenca, Rain, 14 centigrade.
Heavy constant rain; think of the Lake District on a rainy day! I got the coach to Pollenca and visited the municipal museum where there was an interesting collection of paintings, pottery and sculptures. The highlight however was a Tibetan mandala sand painting. In this traditional Tibetan/Asian art, coloured sand is channelled down tapering hollow pipes to draw incredibly detailed shapes. Usually the images are destroyed after completion, presumably to emphasise the impermanence of life. This relatively permanent example was displayed under gIass horizontally. I spent about half an hour absorbing the ‘presence’ and Buddhist symbolism. Most of the few visitors gave a cursory glance at this supreme work of art and walked out of the small room. Everyone to their own taste; I’ve done the same when looking at some paintings! This work of religious art was donated to the museum by the Dalai Lama.
Of the paintings an Antilio Boveri (early 1900s) had a room to himself. Some were pale Van Gogh-influenced landscapes but others captured the Mallorcan seascape/landscape vividly. According to the notes he also wrote short stories and was Argentinian.
After seeing round the museum and photographing the building which was a former monastery I walked to the main square and went inside the Lady of the Angel’s Parish Church. A visitor from another planet would no doubt get the impression that humans gain some sort of pleasure from gory crucifixtions and gloomy alcoves. The main altar was very ornate with predominantly dark gold colours. The much vaunted rose window looked poor in comparison with Durham Cathedral’s
It however, was the only bright, uplifting, redeeming feature in an otherwise dismal display of baroque over statement. The English version of the tourists’ leaflet provided some unintentional amusement, for example: “There are two graceful piles of holy water and some objects. . . remembering different events.”
From the church I headed to the 365 Calveri steps which I climbed in the steady rain. From the top the panoramic views were swathed in low cloud and drizzle. As the small chapel was closed I retraced my steps and stopped for a latte coffee in the Café del Calvari which provided welcome shelter. In the guide books a popular walk along the Ternelles is recommended; this was not much of a temptation for me considering the weather! Re-reading the guidebook on my return I realised I could have visited another museum/art gallery; the Marti Vicenc.
The coach back was punctual, as was the outgoing one and cost 3 euros return. A worthwhile trip for a rainy day!

Calvari Steps Municipal MuseumOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



Three Haiku

Haiku poems are difficult to do well. I think getting the ‘turning point’ of the mood/realisation is more important than sticking to the 17 syllables!
Here are my attempts anyway. Feedback is always welcome. 🙂

Three Haiku

Basho’s life was hard –
what have I to complain of:
all mod cons and a bus pass!

Cat pounces at a shadow –
Can I tell
shadow from substance?

The roof not leaking –
Is this as good as it gets?
Body and mind fleeting. . .

Eckhart Tolle

My thought for the day 🙂

When you recognize that there is a voice in your head that pretends to be you and never stops speaking, you are awakening out of your unconscious identification with the stream of thinking. When you notice that voice, you realize that who you are is not the voice — the thinker — but the one who is aware of it.”

Eckhart Tolle

Krishnamurti’s Notebook

Krishnamurtis NotebookKrishnamurtis Notebook by Jiddu Krishnamurti
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Krishnamurti’s ‘message’ is essentially the same as Eckhart Tolle’s. The uncompromising leit motif is the limitations of thought. His descriptions of being present uses vocabulary such as ‘immensity’, ‘benediction’ and ‘silence’. It is a familiar problem – how to use words to describe spiritual experience. His descriptions are sandwiched between descriptions of village life and his itinery. Very moving. Meditative reading!

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Moorland Earth

I spend a fair part of my time walking in moorland where I can enjoy such sights (and sounds) as curlew, golden plover, lapwings, buzzards and hobbies.

Moorland earth

My feet squelch as I stride
in slow motion over and into
the dark peat, purple
and green earth.
One woman’s up to her knees,
but she’s got short legs so it’s a bit of a joke.
We pull her arms and she gurgles
like an emptying sink!

All this commotion stirs up
an ancient smell of carboniferous trees
and prehistoric smoke.

The Monuments Men

The Monuments Men was a group of men who saved works of art during WW2. The film The Monuments Men is directed by George Clooney. Hitler called most art of the time, degenerate art. This is something I wrote after reading about the ‘degenerate art’ exhibition.

degenerate art

this painting is degenerate the sky is green the fields are blue. this artist of our heroic country has contaminated our culture with blatant primitivism. what we need is beauty and draughtsmanship of the highest order. this is not a poem. in this painting the artist has used an imbecile as his model. just look at her face. this is not a fitting subject for high art. this primitivism must be purged otherwise how are we to retain purity of race. ideals of harmony and beauty must prevail. this is not a poem. as a symbol or representation of all that is abhorrent in modern art look at this portrait of a soldier in which he stretches forth the bloody stump of his right arm. the eyes are empty hollow and dead. the glowing red colours and the yellow nude suggest aggression which has no part in the best traditions of western art. this is a product of a diseased mind anyhow let us have an exhibition of the worst of these daubs as ridicule is the best weapon of the truly cultured. all proceeds will go to the fatherland. this is not a poem.