The 60th Birthday Retrospective for Clive Hicks-Jenkins at the National Library of Wales is still going strong and I wrote a while ago about how honored I was to be included in the festivities as one of 'the poets' who had fallen into Clive's orbit in the last few years. One of the best things about the weekend I spent in Aberystwyth at the exhibition opening was the opportunity to meet so many very creative people. Among them were Andrea Selch and her partner. Andrea very kindly gave me copies of a couple of her books and I have been lapping them up ever since. A friend of mine on the interweb sometimes says, of books she has been overwhelmed by that she 'inhaled' them... I feel a little like that about Boy Returning Water to the Sea, Andrea's 2009 publication out of North Carolina with the Cockeyed Press.
Not only have I enjoyed and been inspired by the poems, I have also, through it, been introduced to the work of Kelly Fearing, a American artist who died in March of this year at the age of 92. Each poem in the book is a response to one of his paintings, and Andrea said, in particular to the titles of the paintings. And you can see why. The titles of the paintings form the titles of Andrea's poems and what poet wouldn't die to have come up with titles like:
Boy Returning Water to the Sea
Night of the Rhinoceros
Large Bird Listening to the Sound of Purple
Owl with the Secret of the Enneagram
to name just a few... The poems are all quiet and precise and understatedly spiritual, in exactly the same way as the paintings. I enjoy the way that the poems go just outside the frame of the paintings, taking their suggestive visual imagery and adding some small new piece of myth or fitting them into a wider world of legend and symbol. For example in the 'Large Bird Listening to the Sound of Purple', a very short poem, Andrea essentially is just describing, in not much more than a sentence, the story of the painting but she begins with the words "Nine years he stood, neck curved." which, to my mind, is a brilliant way of adding a kind of fairytale aura or epic significance to both poem and painting. I am particularly fond of the painting Poet and Bird Before an Open Cave and I wish I could find a juicy image of it on the Internet somewhere but it turns out that Fearing is not heavily represented on Google images (and I'm sorry but I'm not ruining my copy of Andrea's book for you all by pressing it flat on my scanner!)
Well worth looking out this book and indeed, Andrea's other publications too.