VERITY

Verity’ by Damien Hirst, Ilfracombe, Devon … Photograph … WHB – 2015

‘VERITY’ is the name given to a stainless steel and bronze statue created by Damien Hirst, the English artist, entrepreneur, and art collector. He is the most prominent member of the group known as the Young British Artists, who dominated the art scene in the UK during the 1990s.

The 20.25-metre tall sculpture stands on the pier at the entrance to the harbour in Ilfracombe, Devon, looking out over the Bristol Channel towards South Wales.  Hirst lives close to the town. He describes his work as a “modern allegory of truth and justice”.  The statue depicts a pregnant woman holding aloft a sword while carrying the scales of justice and standing on a pile of law books.  Half of the sculpture shows the internal anatomy of the pregnant woman, with the foetus clearly visible. (adapted from Wikipedia)

VERITY

Pregnant,
Opened up, exposed,
Exhibit Number One

I am birth corroborated,
Prying eyes sated,
Privacy crushed

Paraded for the populace
To ponder,
To pity

They ogle,
Excoriate,
Turn witty

Solicitudes are rare;
Their taunts I bear;
Reproofs I must abide

And yet, I am the truth
About how it is
To be free

My brandished threat
Repays the debt
My innocence holds

My stance, defiance,
Thwarts compliance,
Demands a voice

But to keep hope alive,
Live long, survive,
I must be exposed

Must confront
The brutal sea,
The relentless incoming tide

No chance repose;
What end my woes;
Torment inside

My frightened stare
Torches the tides,
Seeking solace

Whilst emblazoned in light
Against the torrid sky
The world gawps

I must bear
The stares
And cry

I am torn apart;
My pain is there
For all to see.

In a world that demands
To know,
To know everything

The truth is there
For all to see,
To verify that I
Am VERITY

Poem by WHB . . . 2015 Copyright

‘Verity’ by Damien Hirst, Ilfracombe, Devon … Photo WHB – 2015

The Man In The Iron Mask

Photos . . . WHB – Canterbury

THE IRON MASK

by Sian Napier

snapier@thekmgroup.co.uk

The huge mask which stood outside Canterbury’s Marlowe Theatre from 2003 until it was demolished in 2009 has returned.

Bulkhead, to give it its real name, was moved back to the theatre in The Friars on Friday but now stands by the river in the newly-created outdoor seating area.

The mask is the work of sculptor Rick Kirby and arrived in the city as part of a sculpture festival called Blok.

It was so popular that Canterbury council bought it and had it installed by the old theatre’s forecourt where it stayed until the Marlowe was pulled down.

It was then removed to the council offices in Military Road where it remained outside until Friday.

Marlowe Theatre director Mark Everett said: “It’s wonderful that the Marlowe mask has returned to its rightful place and it was great to see it settling in to its new home by the riverside.

“The mask was always very popular with theatregoers and we know people will be delighted to see it return.”

THE IRON MASK . . . Poem by WHB

The authors in these lines of verse

Are from a distant time

From ages past into the mists

Of tragedy and rhyme.

Dumas was steeped in history

He set himself the task

Of counts and musketeers to write,

The Man in the Iron Mask

Kit Marlowe’s plays were tragedies

Of complex anguished beings

Of Tamburlaine and Faust he wrote

Portrayed their tortured feelings.

The Mask is that of Tragedy

The Greeks performed their dramas

It brings to mind Marlowe’s great themes

Which glimpse life’s endless traumas.

To me this linkage then arose

Between the two famed authors

Take or leave it for what it’s worth

It’s what this conceit proffers.

REGRET

And now the past pains the present again
Those vivid re-lived passages smart
So I try to disengage my memory
And the sorrowing sobs do not reach my heart.

But the regret will end, it always does.
Nothing retains its sting so long
That memory can’t in time evade.
And what is left … is bitter, bitter circumstance.

THE FORSAKEN MERMAID


Photo: WHB – taken in Aberporth, Ceredigion, on the West Coast of Wales, facing towards Cardigan Bay and the Irish Sea

She emanates wistfulness
melancholy, sorrow
bound to her rock
out of sight of her sea.
Andromeda’s prison
awaiting her Perseus.

She thinks of the sea,
beseeching the ocean,
to roll in and take her
to wash her away
to be lost in the waves
to swirl with the kelp
in that pellucid world
in those welcoming depths
to join the white horses
to laze in the rock pools
bask on the corals
where once were her friends

No coteries here
no sisters, no mermen,
no one to favour her –
offspring or lovers.
That whirlpool which bred her
the spray which had bathed her
sequestrated and gone now
no longer her milieu.

Is this always and ever
is this life’s stricture
retribution for what?
For loving her kingdom
her aquatic birthright?
Or for being in form
not fish, fowl nor fiend?

For living a life
half tide-borne,
half earth-child,
hermaphrodite, epicene,
ambiguous, undefined,
a shadowy being,
crippled, malformed?

Her joy now –
the sunlight,
the breeze
and the dew
the song of the seagull
the far sigh of the sea.

Only these now remind her
of when she was free.

Poem: WHB (Copyright)

THE JOYOUS DEAD

The souls of the dead are out for the night;
Relieved of life’s burdens, no cares in their world.
They’ve cast off their dresses, their suits and their coats.
They’ve shed their repressions, their shrouds now unfurled.

Yes, the souls of the dead are alive in this graveyard
They relish their freedom from exigent life.
It’s a long time since spirits were body and flesh,
And bound by a lifetime’s perpetual strife.

Their skulls and their cross-bones – now symbols of joy;
No more are they bound up by sinews and  flesh.
At last they are free to enjoy independence,
Instead of entangled in life’s viscous mesh.

The gravestones that tumble aren’t suffering from age,
But signs that life’s shadows from death have arisen,
And now are quite free to enjoy their repose;
No longer locked up in Life’s sepulchral prison.

‘Tis weird to think that those re-incarnated
Are liking their life in the desolate grave.
They’re loving their freedom to scare and to haunt
To curdle the blood and to panic the brave.

The ghosts of the past are there in the air
And hugely enjoying their spirited life
Their terminal death has brought to an end
Their fear of the gun, the rope and the knife.

They’re dancing on graves where their bodies were buried
Carousing as though not a netherworld care
‘Tis different from life all bedevilled with worries
Less urgent and pressing than work to be fair.

They hide when the day comes of course, as you know,
They do need to re-charge their unworldly spirits
To ready the next bout of haunting and mirth
For them now there aren’t any rational limits.

Crepuscular light is enough for their congress
With help from the thunder, the wind, and the lightning,
They frolic and haunt, enjoying the moment;
The wraiths, spooks and demons intent on their frightening.

The banshees and devils all join in the fun,
The shades and the vampires, the ghouls and the phantoms,
The wraiths with the zombies, kelpies and ghosts
Give vent to their passions in furious tantrums.

So do not despair when you‘re laid in the ground
A new life will certainly sprout from your ashes
A life full of spirit, of new spectral bliss
A bonus when mortal life finally passes.

The photographs used to illustrate this poem were all taken by me over a period of several years at churchyards in Surrey and in Devon, U.K.

Secrets

‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil’   (Photo – WHB)

A fuller description of the story of ‘The Three Monkeys’ and of the various interpretations of the maxim ‘See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil‘ is given following the poem below.  The idea for my verses was prompted by my acquisition of the above figurine, and are an attempt to get inside the mind of someone with secrets to keep.  I deny any relationship between my versified thoughts and my own reality.

SECRETS

“Ask no secrets, please”;
“Tell no lies indeed”;
For if you break these rules,
Then hearts will blanch and bleed.

“Never tell a secret”
Or so the saying goes.
So hold on to that rule.
Never the facts disclose.

“Your secret’s safe with me”
I’ve heard that said before.
It never is the case;
They always ask for more.

“I won’t tell if you won’t”
I said that as a child,
But what I had to hide then
Was relatively mild.

# # #

But now life is more complex;
I have more sins to hide.
Such damning indiscretions
I never could confide.

My secrets, now I’m older,
Are surely on the rise.
‘T would border on disaster;
To tell would not be wise.

The priest in all his wisdom
Receives confession now.
I cannot dare to tell him
Of  where and why and how.

# # #

But then, again, I wonder
What life would mean to me,
If all my peccadilloes
Were there for all to see.

Perhaps they’d view my sins
As Walter Mitty copies.
As venial casual slip-ups,
As minor paltry follies.

As commonplace as foibles;
As lethal as a pin.
Hardly ‘mea culpa’
And not Original Sin.

# # #

If others think them simple,
Not worthy of reflection,
Still to me they’re weighty
And threaten with detection.

I ask these questions blithely;
I truly want to know.
Do you have secret longings
That you will never show?

That you will never tell;
And let no one discover;
Let no one even guess
You’ve got a secret lover?

I would tempt fate and listen
To what you say and feel,
But I really fear the outcome
Of what your heart conceals.

Such secrets are forbidden
To all but you and me;
Unknown to friend or rival,
 And that’s how it should be.

# # #

Please keep your secrets from me;
We say we’ll never lie.
We tried to keep that promise,
To keep it till we die.

But when  with life we’re parting
We’ll lay them at our feet.
Our secrets are the same now –
No more, no more, deceit.

So only at the end
When all regrets must cease,
Perhaps we’ll be permitted
To find a kind of Peace.

# # #

CLYTIE

‘Clytie’ Sculpted by G.F.Watts … Pen & Ink sketch: WHB

In the verses below, I attempt to express Clytie’s plight when she finds her love for the Son God, Helios, rejected, and she is committed to watch his daily flight across the heavens in his winged chariot .  Eventually she is transformed into a sunflower or heliotrope , condemned for ever to follow the sun’s movements across the sky.

C L Y T I E

As dusk takes over from the day
I stand on Helios’ shore and weep.

Light for my soul,
Lust for my life;
These no more can I strive to keep.

Yet there is hope because the night
Is followed by expectant day.
The sun will rise
With hope intact,
And I’ll revive my destined way.

The languid sun will lift at dawn
Over the shimmering tranquil sea.
It is my dreams,
My Holy Grail,
And promises new hopes to me.

The sun renews its daily task.
As Clytie, I still strive to meld
Lovers’ aubade,
Their serenade.
With this till dusk my life is held.

Time’s chariot, its path I trace;
Helios arcs across the sky.
Till evening ends
In blood red  gore,
And once again I die.

But then again the cycle breaks
When dawn extends to dusk its kiss.
It’s carmine clinch,
Crimson caress,
Herald again life’s feud with bliss.


Coffin of Iron

iron coffin1

Photo:  WHB – Somerset, 2019   ©

COFFIN  OF IRON

He had died of his wrinkles
Liver spots and age lines
Gnarled and creviced skin
Dusted and singed
By his Lifetime’s fevered furnace
His lungs smoke-charred
Legacy of a thousand undoused fires

As old as the hills he trod
As the bubbling beck he bled
I see six stalwart pall bearers
Hard as ancient twisted nails
Arise from their bed of iron
Raise the dead-weight anvil
His final ferrous coffin
To shoulder height
Begin a steady passage
Through the leaden winter streets
Beneath those snow-clad Northern Hills
Their shrouded clouded sky
Seemingly forever draped
Atop the silent iron tomb

Carried through the dark gate
To its final resting place
Fitting memorial to a smith’s life
Gifted again to the ironstone earth

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In memoriam: Harold Booth, Yorkshire blacksmith & farrier; 1909 – 1987

From a son to his father

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I Am Roland

RolandOfRoncevaux

Statue of Roland at Metz railway station, France.

I AM ROLAND

I am Roland 
or I have become him
created the myth of Mr Keld
opportunity taken 
I have procured my host’s mind 
now an alien presence
absorbed into this foreign body
diverting thoughts 
rebuilding a past 
guessing at a further future 
a variant stated truth 
inhabiting a different reality
masking neutrality
approval seeking
in a subsumed persona
a manufactured myth
ambushed by his muse
Roland of Roncevaux
reconvened
brandishing Durendal
to fight new battles
forever a mask
behind which to hide 
a second rate hero
his fable exposed
another fiction
masquerading as truth

 

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Ed-ingo #2

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Statue of ‘Edward The Peacemaker’ … Tiverton, Devon, England

 

Ed-ingo #2

 

The Royal Head held proudly high
Atop his sculpted pose;
Reminder of the man of peace
Slumbering on in sweet repose.

But now atop that regal head,
Displayed in pinkest glory,
A wayward bird has just alighted
And I am here to tell the story.

It started as a student prank,
Designed to seek attention
For term end rag week escapades,
Somewhat beyond my comprehension.

How to equate a royal crown
With a vivid pink flamingo,
Defeats my sense of decency,
I cannot grasp such student lingo.

Above the River Lowman here
It cries out to the town,
‘Just look at me, now can’t you see
My new pneumatic crown?’

Perhaps this king who loved a joke,
Despite this loss of pride,
Would now say to the passers by,
“Do not those larkish students chide,

For I was once a student too,
I laughed and loved a joke,
So I’ll be pleased if my new crown
Diverts the canny local folk.”

KingEd4

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Note:   This is a follow-up poem to ‘Ed-ingo #1’ published a few days ago . . . see:  ‘Ed-ingo #1’


 

Edward VII (1841 – 1910) was the great grandfather of our present Queen, Elizabeth II. There are a number of statues of Edward VII around the British isles and Commonwealth Realms. This particular one can be found on a bridge over the River Lowman in Tiverton, East Devon.  Edward was married to Alexandra of Denmark, but had many mistresses.  He was acknowledged as ‘The Peacemaker’ for the considerable efforts he made to maintain world stability at a time when War seemed to be looming.  The peace he had worked so hard to keep was eventually broken with the declaration of the First World War (1914-1918).

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