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Hygge Feature #21 Responding to Art

Art in itself might not feel very hyggelig (the adjective for hygge, which is a noun), because it is often viewed in galleries, which are not homely. However, it is the way we respond to art, the emotions it can give us, when we look at it, that can give us that warm happy feeling. . These two poems express that notion very beautifully.

THE ART THIEF

Some night, when I’m marooned in Scarborough,
and dusk falls early, and the town
shows hardly any sign of life, because
the year is on the ebb, tourists long gone –
only chilled foam lashes the promenade,
only the sea, withdrawing, can be heard –
I’d go to one particular old house
whose door would magically open,
walk through the dim rooms with my torch,
ignore the hallmarked silver,
go to the fireplace, where it’s hung
for eighty years, and steal the Atkinson Grimshaw –
you won’t know him – the half-forgotten painter
of moonlight, clouds, dark water.
The view is complete.
A port, the moon, ships sunk in profound sleep.
This picture wouldn’t be wired; it would
come off the wall quite easily.
And then I’d hug it under
my coat, sneak home, leaving the north of England
without its greatest treasure.
In my dreams, the theft always ends quite happily.

Merryn Williams

 

 

 

 

On Looking at Monet’s Water Lilies

Fading sight bade him search
behind human vision
for impressions of changing time,
dawn and eve, noon and night. A diffusion
of green, blue and lilac in the air –
leafy pads in violet, viridian, blended soft
in madder lake. The endlessness of water,
sky, light, their reflections above
and beneath. No definition of where
a horizon should begin or end,
nor where you should stand to view it.
A capturing of shifting qualities,
A feeling of growth –
the permutation of elements
in front of, and behind
The mind’s eye.

 

Jane Burn

 

 

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Photo of a mixed media collage of a thrush, by Angela Topping

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Hygge Feature #15: The Goodness of Fruit

Today’s photograph is of a painting by Gloria Jeffries, used with permission from the artist. It made me think about the goodness of fruit. It’s simple food, often used as a winter treat, and so has cosy connotations. 16252022_10158125653360274_7108546111645859513_o

Oranges

There were never oranges
like the one you peeled for me
that first night, paring the rind,
removing with a surgeon’s skill
every trace of white.

Zest filled the air.
You watched me sink my teeth in,
laughed as I posted a segment
into your mouth. Afterwards
you lit one of your father’s cigarettes.

I closed my eyes and breathed in
smoke, the scent of oranges, you.

Carole Bromley

 

Poem with a Satsuma in it

There is no sunset can rival
the particular shade of its skin

no sunrise the pimpled texture
no noon-glow the zing.

There can never be too many
satsumas in poems,

each segment a stanza,
every metaphor a pip.

I open a book of them
and my mouth waters

even before I’ve tasted
the opening line.

My grand-daughter
can’t say the word,

just points
more, more, more

 Carole Bromley

first published in The Stonegate Devil (Smith/Doorstop)

 

Pomegranate

For Jan Dean 

Five pointed star, my pentacle,
how I would lift your jewels
from their case, one by one
on the pin’s point, before
I found a better way.

Now I bite into your leather
with greedy teeth, devouring
your firmaments, your rubies.
Time’s a thief and so am I,
seizing everything I can.

Time enough for picking out
your treasures one by one
when days begin to bleed
one into another like washed
watercolour sunsets.

Even Persephone could not resist
your glowing fairy-lights.
I garner your seeds for my journey,
draw on clean parchment
my pentacle five pointed star.

Angela Topping

First published in Paper Patterns (Lapwing 2012)

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StAnza 2014: The Lightfoot Letters

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We set off on Tuesday morning, with all the art work for the exhibition, ‘The Lightfoot Letters’, neatly stacked in the car. Wednesday morning was spent putting up the exhibition in the Preservation Trust Museum, assisted by the curator, Sam, who was a fantastic help. It took over four hours but we were very pleased with how it all looked. A lot of people came up to me during the week wanting to discuss the exhibition, which was lovely. It really was an amazing co-incidence that Maria Walker had purchased the letters long before she met me and we had both produced work on the family prior to starting to work together. As I said at the artists’ talk, in a sense both of us were collaborating with the letter writers as well as each other. Maria often used words from the letters as a title for a work, or included the words on the art. I referenced the letters a lot in the new poems I had written for the project, for example, in my poem about my grandmoher Ada Lightfoot, nee Woodward, whom I never met as she died in 1933, I synthesised details from her marvellous letters.

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We managed to hang these large versions of the letters, scanned and printed onto cloth, above the door lintel in the Preservation Trust, with sterling work from my husband scaling tall ladders to screw the battens in. One of my grandmother’s letters is on the right. The one on the left is from my grandfather, and includes the words about the hot pot supper he is attending: I will have to use a knife and fork but I would rather have a spoon’. He always liked his food, but was tall and slim all his life. Maria produced two stunning pieces inspired by his words; you can just see the spoons piece to the left of the doorway. 

Maria had not yet done any work on the theme of skating when we met, as one of her main research interests is women’s lives. But my dad wrote three letters to his older sister during this intense 3 month period when she was away from home, and in all of them he is obsessed with skating. I worked hard at a poem to do him justice, and Maria found it a good way in to produce several wonderful pieces about skating, culminating in the amazing hanging she made, which appears to be floating from a typewriter.

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Eleanor Livingstone, the Director of StAnza, suggested that my poem, ‘Father, Skating’ be displayed on a window in The Byre, as a trail to the exhbition. It’s the first time that the poem has not been in large vinyl letters in the actual exhibition, but there would not have been space in the actual upstairs room where everything else was shown, so this was an inspired idea. I am grateful to Anja Konig for noticing it as at that point I had not been up to the studio theatre, so I hadn’t actually spotted it. 

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It was gratifying to have pointed it out to Paul Muldoon as we were walking past it discussing his masterclass, though I did not of course mention the fact that I had submitted the poem to The New Yorker, with a disappointing result! It’s more important to me that people tell me they love this poem, and the main thing for me is that my dad skates on between the lines and is still 12 years old and carefree.

This was the first time the exhibition has been shown outside of Cheshire, and it is also the first time it has featured at a Poetry Festival. Maria and I will always be grateful to Eleanor for noticing the art and poetry collaboration in this way and inviting us. She is truly a director with a finger on the pulse of poetry. We would love it if other poetry festivals would take up the exhibition. We also offer an artists’ talk and workshops if required. And of course I love performing the poems in the sequence, which appear in my book Paper Patterns (Lapwing 2012) and the chapbook The Lightfoot Letters, which also includes the text of some of the letters themselves (Erbacce 2011). Maria and I still dream that a big publisher will one day be interested in publishing a book of the letters, poems and artwork. The letters themselves are amazing social history and there is still a lot in them to be mined.

 

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The Lightfoot Letters in Northwich

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The collaborative exhibition, The Lightfoot Letters, which Maria Walker and I created together, is currently visiting Northwich, in a brand new town centre art gallery. Maria likes to use text in her work and we decided to collaborate so she could use my poems. Maria had already created some pieces inspired by some 1923 letters she had purchased in an antique shop, and I had already written poems about stories my father had told me about his childhood.

A few months in to our collaboration, we met up again to see some of her work in an exhibition. It was then we made the amazing discovery that the letters which had so impressed her had in fact been written by people in my family, including my dad. This lent our collaboration new wings and we both created further work. The suitcase installation was my idea and we made it together, and Maria also taught me how to collage and how make button bracelets. We bounce off each other really well and love working together.

The exhibition premiered at The Brindley in Runcorn in 2011, and will be showing at The Waterside, Sale, later in the year. It came as a wonderful surprise that Visual Arts Cheshire wanted it to be the very first exhibition in their new gallery, which unfortunately might not be staying open long, as the space is only on loan. 

It is a wonderful space and the exhibition has created a buzz in the town, the like of which I have not seen for a long time. The opening night was packed with people who were interested in either aspect or both. There have been a lot of people with the surname Lightfoot (my maiden name) coming in to check out the family history aspect. Maria gave an artist talk, I read poems, and we are both doing workshops to pass on our skills. I was amazed to see John Hegley attending the opening – and he made some very supportive and enthusiastic comments, which I really appreciated. Poet Lindsey Holland came as well, which made me really happy.

On World Book Day/ International Women’s Day, there will be a poetry reading with me, Sean Body, Lindsey Holland and Gill McEvoy, starting at 5pm. This is a perfect chance to come and see the exhibition outside its usual opening time, and to listen to some contemporary poetry from carefully chosen guests. 

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Embroidered

 

Silk Bookmark of line from my poem Two for Dad

 

The wonderful company Sumptuosity have offered to use my words on their bookmarks, with the likes of William Shakespeare, Jane Austen and Robert Burns.

This is the poem the above one is from:

Two for Dad

Blackberry…

In it together:

conspiring against bramble,

holding down a spray

of beauties for me to pick,

showing how leaves

hide choicest fruit.

Finding docks to cool

nettled flesh, stained,

battlescarred, spoils dangling

in baskets, on handlebars,

we ride our triumph home.

…Pies

We dare not go through the kitchen

when you bake. There is

deftness, artistry at work.

The pies are crammed

with blackberries, plump

with pleasure at being picked.

a line of flour on your jumper

from rolling out.

The pinched edges of pastry

seal the boozy juice.

You cut large slices

to offer me.

The second one is from this poem:

From The Wendy House

Peter Pan: The Opera House, Manchester 1988

“Cramful of adventures” he’d promised, but this place

is packed with scruffy boys who can’t stop

walking planks and smoking peace pipes –

games they think too rough for me, their Wendy-bird.

They want me for Mother, darning socks, sewing pockets,

worrying what to cook them for their tea.

Peter doesn’t really want to hear of Cinderella’s bliss,

would have her picking over lentils,

peeling spuds forever, never find her Prince.

It wouldn’t be so bad if he’d play with me

but he wants to be one of the boys, not prepared

for Fatherhood. Why is it me that must grow up?

Yanking me from a warm nursery for this!

Whizzing my head with dazzling words, making me

feel light enough to soar between the stars.

 

Lines from From the Wendy House

 

I am delighted and hope the project is beneficial for both parties. I will be selling these at readings alongside my books. They do a range of different colours and lots of different items such as lavender bags, groovy notebooks, and the cutest range of brooches I have ever seen. Their goods can be bought here:

http://www.sumptuosity.net/home

I have been a customer for a while now and everyone comments when I wear one of their brooches. Lucky me – that’s two textile artists I work with now, Sumptuosity and Maria Walker. Maria and I are currently putting together exhibition proposals for the work on the lost Lightfoot Letters.  Exciting times.

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