“Tempations of Solitude” series now half as solitary

This entry is part 10 of 12 in the series The Temptations of Solitude


I’m very pleased to announce that my “Temptations of Solitude” poems now appear side-by-side with the paintings that inspired them on the artist’s own website. Though we’ve become regular email corespondents, I barely knew Clive Hicks-Jenkins when I started writing this series last spring, and was blown away by his enthusiasm for the poems. After all, he’s a fairly major figure in British painting, and it’s not as if I was the first to write poems in response to his works. In fact, I’ve joined a small online exhibit which includes five other poets (click on their names to view their pages on the site). I am particularly pleased to be published alongside my friend Marly Youmans and the wonderful Callum James.

I put these poems into the proverbial (and wholly suppositional) bottom drawer for many months, but didn’t end up making more than a few, minor changes when I finally took another look at them. This should probably worry me more than it does. I used to be such a perfectionist! Then I discovered blogging, and realized I was only as good a writer as my next post. Some of the poems in the Temptations series are stronger than others, and I’m O.K. with that. You can’t hit a home run every time, you know? I’ve decided there’s value in unevenness, and that if you attempt to reach the same peak each time, you end up with a featureless plateau.

At any rate, thanks to Clive for the inclusion — and for creating such damn fine paintings in the first place.

Series Navigation← The Beating of the Falsely AccusedThe Grave Dug by Beasts (videopoem) →

15 Replies to ““Tempations of Solitude” series now half as solitary”

    1. Thanks, Marja-Leena. It might not fit the technical definition of a collaboration, but it was certainly rewarding to get feedback from the artist via comments and emails when I originally posted the poems — a good example of the kind of interchange that blogging has made so much easier.

  1. Dave, on re-reading your poems alongside Clive’s fantastic paintings (as you know I’m a big fan of his too) I’m struck again by how fine they are. I especially like the last one, the “beating of the falsely accused man,” and where you went with the chess metaphor in “the celibate couple” but they’re all good (regardless of what you say!) Congratulations!

  2. A perfect marriage of true minds. I absolutely love these! It’s hard to believe that you two did not collaborate from the get go.

    Now if you can get him to illustrate one of your poems. (grin)

  3. 1. They look great together. 2. That’s the most expressive photo of you I’ve seen, perfect for a dust jacket! 3. Great site layout the guy has. 4. Congratulations!

  4. Beth, I think that you’re right about the Beating of the Unjustly Accused. Oddly enough I thought it a fascinating response from Dave at the time he initially posted it on Via Negativa, but it assumed eerie prescience last week during the furore caused by the decision to invite the ‘Leader’ of the British National Party… I simply cannot bring myself to put his name here… to appear on the BBC’s current affairs programme Question Time. I don’t know how much you know about the rise of the BNP in the UK, and of their repellent stance over issues of race and immigration. This man has been spouting nonsense for years. (In addition to his racial prejudices he’s denied the Holocaust and declared homosexual men to be ‘creepy’. You get the picture.) However I wasn’t reassured when the Question Time audience, seething with hostility toward him, quickly exposed the depths of his ignorance, because candidly the electorate for whom he has most appeal are probably not politically savvy regular Question Time viewers. In fact the tried and true Question Time format of members of the audience asking questions answered in turn by each guest on the panel, was completely abandoned. I think that had he been required to contribute to the programme in the regular way, his complete unsuitability for public office would have been swiftly made apparent. Instead the programme degenerated into the unedifying spectacle of an audience united against despicable yet fairly inarticulate man whose response was to ‘smirk’ when asked why he denied the Holocaust! (I kid you not. He SMIRKED! That’s about his level.)

    Of course there will always be those who’ll side with the underdog in such circumstances, quite simply because it isn’t pleasant… and indeed doesn’t seem at all ‘fair play’… to witness one man cowering before a vociferously hostile crowd. We should be better than that, even when faced with the leader of the BNP.

    But to get back to poetry here. Dave, your poem captures something that’s been haunting me all week. The BNP is brazen in its hatred of ‘other’, whether that be defined by colour, language, sexual orientation, faith or even just opinion. I wasn’t thinking of the BNP when I painted The Beating of the Unjustly Accused. I was expressing something hateful that all too frequently has found a voice, call it whatever ‘ism’ you will. Fascism. Nazism. Racism. Nationalism! Thank you my friend for making us think, and doing so with insight and eloquence. Confronted by the baying hatred of the BNP, I turn to find beauty, wisdom, courage and inspiration in your magnificent poem.

    1. Hi Clive – I’m glad that poem provides some perspective on what sounds like an appalling, and potentially very dangerous, situation. I just remembered what sparked it (aside from the painting): last spring, National Public Radio did a series of stories in which one of their reporters was following in Chaucer’s footsteps — or rather, in the footsteps of his fictitious pilgrims to Canterbury. In one of the episodes, they talked about the changing demographics, and interviewed a number of long-time residents of various political persuasions, nearly all of whom expressed anti-immigrant bigotry to one degree or another. But in terms of ecological carrying capacity, I would say that Britain is already dangerously overcrowded, so I don’t know what the solution is. Personally, I do feel that if we’re going to allow the unregulated flow of capital, we have to do the same with workers — but a better solution might be to go back to tarrifs and such. Neoliberal economics are largely behind the flow of Mexicans north to the United States, too: cheap American grain has destroyed their agricultural economy. It’s a nasty business all around.

  5. Hi Dave,

    Barely back from Siem Reap and Bangkok… and have resolved to finish reading your Clive-poems just as soon as I put my long-suffering (long-babysitting) mama on the plane to North Carolina on Wednesday. One of the entertaining things (the good things) about the internet is seeing one’s e-friends click and send up some fireworks, isn’t it?

    1. Yes indeed. I’ve begun to feel that Facebook badly needs an “introduce” button that would let one easily make virtual introductions between people who ought to know each other.

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