Tag Archive | Poetry

Invisibly Visibile

If it wasn’t for a friend who lives nowhere near me, I would never have known about a little art exhibition currently running at the Everyman Gallery here on Beech Road, Chorlton. In fact, it’s directly opposite my living room! Funny how you can continually walk past something interesting right on your own doorstep; as if proximity conceals, or makes less remarkable. In the Gallery, up-and-coming poet painter Harry Matthews was showing 9 or 10 oil paintings on canvasses full of light and explorations of colour – appropriately enough titled “The Art of the Invisible”, in a nod to Johnathan Swift.1 While we made the most of the complimentary wine, he also treated us to an impromptu reading of some of his poetry.

Matthews’ paintings deal with traditional Romantic themes of nature, transcendence, the hidden, and the sublime, some in beautiful shades of spring green and yellow, others in watery blues or lilacs. Bold impressionistic brushstrokes and thick layers combine here and there with childish animal or human figures cheekily sketched and concealed almost like little palimpsests among foliage or hills or waterfalls. A Christian God is also very much present, more obvious in some places than in others. For me, there was something reminiscent of John William Waterhouse in a few of the works and of course, the spirit of J.M.W. Turner.

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Roses, water, visions, the ethereal. Matthews plays with styles and forms and with the relationships between the abstract and the more specific lines of subjective experience or interpretation. A boy? A girl? A wolf or a fox? A lake full of reflections or a hilly landscape? As the artist, who was sitting casually to one side (with only a faint whiff of opening night nervousness) told us more than once: “Everyone has been seeing something different. We see what we want to see”. In the gorgeous smoky clouds of Earth Dragon, Matthews, quoting Rainer Maria Rilke, suggests that “Only he who can expect anything, who does not exclude even the mysterious, will have a relationship with life greater than just being alive…Perhaps everything fearful is just helplessness that seeks our help“.2

1If anyone knows the source for the quote about vision please let me know!
2An alternative translation, by Stephen Mitchell.
But only someone who is ready for everything, who doesn’t exclude any experience, even the most incomprehensible, will live the relationship with another person as something alive and will himself sound the depths of his own being. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.

The Pen is still mightier

Last night I went along with some friends to a poetry recital at the Nexus Arts Cafe in the Northern Quarter. The event was called “Big Writing for a Small World” and was the showcase for work produced as a result of a creative writing workshop led by professional writer John Siddique and funded via English PEN. The authors were diverse in terms of nationality and also in terms of style, coming from Iran, Zimbabwe, China, England and Rwanda and reading work on a variety of themes – some light-hearted, others poignant and deep. Many of the authors are refugees or recent immigrants to the UK. As Mr Siddique pointed out in his introduction, sometimes being “milked for their stories” seems to be the entry fee for admission into Britain. His workshop was therefore about inspiring the writers to find and express them selves rather than creating something directly derived from whatever conflict or trauma they may have borne witness to.

Heaps of creativity...and sandwiches

All of the writing was very impressive, particularly the work of Elmi Ali, who is just 20 years old but whose poems have the wisdom and sensitivity of someone far older. Having grown up surrounded by sisters his instinctive poetic voice is, he says, a very female one. It’s an interesting challenge then to try and write from a “masculine” perspective – at the same time as embracing what he learned from his female relatives. Mahboobeh Rajabi‘s “My Maria”, a tribute to her sister, was genuinely touching, and Yinka Akintayo‘s “The Bag” (using the imagined voice of an over-stuffed handbag) had everyone laughing out loud. This morning, reading the anthology produced to celebrate the work of all “Big Writing” participants nationwide, I’ve found many more gems. If you want to discover them for yourself then you’re in luck – English PEN have uploaded the full collection to Scribd! 🙂