Friday, October 16, 2015

Fundamental Wordings

This news story has materialised, delightfully, six weeks before I am due to return to the Ettington Park Hotel.

Ultimately, there were several instalments to the work inspired by my visit to Ettington. I am re-publishing two of them here, because they mark the particular juncture where I first began to connect with the work of the painter Andrew Salgado.

Interestingly, in the first piece, I used the word “storytelling” before I was aware that Andrew had given his 2014 solo exhibition at the Beers Gallery that title. The imagery in the second poem’s development centres on the temple, and again I did not know that he had already completed a painting called “Temple”.

The parallels have continued. Earlier this year, I wrote a poem called “The Quiet Man”, while Andrew was thinking about calling his forthcoming exhibition in Miami, “A Quiet Man”.

Once he had announced his title, I decided to write a further poem in which I use the phrase, “a quiet man”. An excerpt from this poem, “Lines for Farkhunda”, is now to be included in the catalogue for his exhibition, which will take place in Miami this coming December.

Here, below, are the two instalments, the first preceded by introductory passages:

I started writing a poem for Halloween this morning, whilst I was staying with my family at Ettington Park Hotel, reputed to be the most haunted hotel in England.

It is inspired by a discussion I had with my daughter yesterday evening, in which, in an effort to stop her from feeling frightened, I told her of a secret people, operating furtively and with humour between the cohorts of Believers and Sceptics. "Do not fear, nor dismiss, be a Storyteller, like the night manager who told us of the screaming lady, stage phenomena, like the concierge who, before it was stolen, periodically pulled out Walter Scott's book and left it open at the same page on the library's floor."

Before going to bed, my daughter and I climbed the stairs where there have been sightings of a murdered female servant, walked hand in hand along detergent-smelling corridors, the carpet sibilant under our feet, pushed heavy doors that squeaked as they closed slowly behind us, lingered outside room number 7, where guests have reported being awakened by another apparition trying to gain admittance, before sneaking into the darkened Long Gallery.

The small round tables looked like they had been arranged for a conference, and on one of them we placed an early draft of the following lines in an open book of French sonnets. "How long", I said, "before the night manager is telling new guests of the time the cleaner found enigmatic words, my words, in a book of Italian sonnets?" "It was French sonnets", she answered. "But that is how hearsay works, publish through hearsay and there's no need to be frightened or cynical. Be a storyteller."

Lines on Ettington Park Hotel, published through hearsay

Whosoever stole Saint Ronan's Well,
For to piously arrest the spell
That holds The Library, or to can
It to insert into a less than
Grand shelf, in some prosaic study,
Threatens lore and the art of story-
telling, the night manager, alas;
And Narnia would be clothes moth frass
But for a book of Italian
Sonnets, and the verse lying therein,
Incongruous English verse,
                       in the Long Gallery.

Lines on Ettington Park continued

When I was drunk and fingery in a clinch,
Athwart my wife’s flesh with the same reverse-pinch
I use to enlarge things on my iPhone's screen –
Dissolute, nails untrimmed – my eyes were not keen,
Wont to hide as one who feels undeserving;
But now I sit with her in the Great Drawing
Room of the Ettington Park Hotel, where in
Celadon surrounds a strategy to win
Salgado’s painting at auction emerges,
And something inside me reaches out, surges
Out from my temple and into the sour
Air: a child's pronated hand, or art’s power
To reconcile, disincarnate before me,
Limpid, in phase with my own precarity.
Disincarnate art’s power to reconcile,
Is my soul, divested of body, tactile
To your touch? Outside of life and odious
Culture, out of phase with death and Proteus,
You remain a child in perpetuity:
Is your hand an aura, tantalisingly,
Of my own hand, or if lowered, might it feel?
For so long, for so long, I have felt less real,
And now, by your presence, this sense is affirmed:
Have I cheated constant changing patterns termed
Of Proteus forever, or will I go
Back? The intermediary, Salgado,
Shall not suppress what is colourful, nor I
Suppress those sparks in shade cast memetic by
Ong’s arboreal hat that moves bough to bough,
Bowlering. Milestones, attained, are worthless now,
As you glide, wizened, not stepping, nor speaking.