Category Archives: Innovation

The Boating Party with Claudia McGill


Luncheon of the Boating Party, 1881. By Pierre-Auguste Renoir.

The Boating Party is a series of Q&As with writers, artists, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, sculptors, illustrators, designers and the like.

In times of economic hardship, the Arts are usually the first things to be axed. But, in my view, the Arts are one of the most important aspects of our civilisation.

Without the arts, we wouldn’t have language or the written word. Without the arts, we have no culture. Without culture, we have no society. Without society, we have no civilisation. And without civilisation, we have anarchy.

Which, in itself, is paradoxical, because so many artists view themselves as rebels to society. To me, artists aren’t rebels, they are pioneers.

Perhaps, most importantly; without the Arts, where is the creativity that will solve the world’s problems going to come from? Including economic and scientific ones?

In this Q&A, I am delighted to welcome artist Claudia McGill.

I love her bold, graphic style and use of colour. Reminds me of Picasso’s ceramics.

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What has been your greatest personal or career achievement?

I can’t pick out one thing. I’ve been alive for 58+ years and I just can’t pick one thing over another. I won’t even start to speculate or compare, just thinking about trying to do so is unsettling me!

What has been your greatest sacrifice?

Once again, I can’t pick one out. Not because there have been so many to burden me that I can’t choose, thank goodness! but because I think that pretty much, things might have looked bad at the time, had been painful, even life-altering, but in the end, it came out all right, or else somehow I managed, and I have come to believe that this pattern will hold.

To whom do you owe a debt of gratitude?

My husband, who has always one hundred percent supported me in all my endeavors.

Who, or what, inspires you?

I just enjoy pretty much everything about ordinary life – maybe I am easily amused or interested, but I’m always thinking something intriguing is just around the corner, and usually it works out that way.

What makes you unhappy?

Harsh words, intolerant attitudes, and people who do not take others’ feelings into consideration.

What makes you happy?

Too many things to list.

What are you reading?

I read a lot, and mostly I read mysteries. I also like biographies and how-to books. As for the last, I don’t need to want to actually do the how-to of whatever it is; I just enjoy reading about how things are made, done, constructed, etc.

Who, or what, are you listening to?

Usually I listen to audio books; I am not much interested in music. I get the books from my library and I lean toward thrillers. That’s kind of funny because I don’t enjoy reading print version thrillers that much, but having one read to me – I love it.

You’re going on a day trip. Where are you going and what is in your ‘day’ bag?

I might visit a library or go to a park for a run, I can’t decide which. In either case, I’d take a snack or a lunch, some drawing materials, a pen and notebook for writing things down, a sweater (for the library in case of extra-powerful a/c) or extra clothes to change into (the run). Probably a grocery list or items for the cleaners, since I always seem to be running errands wherever I find the time, but that’s not part of the trip, really…

What’s your favourite film?

The Wizard of Oz. My favorite since I first saw it about 55 years ago. What a strong impression it made on me right from the first.

What’s your favourite tipple?

Very easy question! Unsweetened iced tea – since I was a teenager – has been my favorite drink. My addiction picked up after I left school and went out on my own – cheaper to make a pitcher of iced tea than to buy bottles of soda, and at that time, every dime counted. Now, I am very partial to Honest Tea’s green tea. And I like drinking tea from the bottle more than a glass. A very tame addiction, maybe, but it’s lifelong.

If you could go back in time, where would you go?

I don’t ever want to go back in time. I’m interested to read about the past, but I don’t want to be part of it.

What frightens you?

High winds; dogs running up to me, even if their owners say they are friendly; being stung by a wasp; being late; eating food past its sale date; I am afraid of the dentist now, or rather, of any pain at all in dental procedures, though I didn’t use to be; I’ve had some recent procedures that tipped the balance. Let me add that my dentist does his best not to hurt me and I appreciate it. I am not afraid of public speaking or most kinds of insects.

What do you do to relax?

Read. Ever since I learned to read, in 1963, I have never lacked for friends, excitement, new horizons…I can pick up a book and everything is all right.

What do you do when you’re angry?

Speak right up and let it out. When I am angry people know it. I don’t like being angry, though.

What can’t you live without?

My husband, my friends, my art and writing activities, and libraries.

What’s your motto?

“Give it a try and see what happens.”

Where is your Utopia?

Wyncote, PA, right where I live now and have for the past 25 years. It’s taken me time to understand it, but somehow, I’ve landed in (or made it into) just the right place for me.

If you only had one year to live what would you do?

Just as I am doing now. I like my life and I don’t long for things to be different. I might make sure I eat more chocolate cake than I do now, though.

Up who’s arse would you like to stick a rocket, and why?

Really, no one’s, to tell you the truth. I mostly want to go my way and let you go yours.

Who would you like to be stuck in an elevator with?

The person who knows how to fix it the fastest so I can get out of it. I am not very fond of feeling trapped…

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on some paintings, for a friend, of his house and his dogs, for the art portion of the question. In my poetry writing I continue my Installment Plan Poetry Marathon sessions, in which I spend a scheduled time every week focusing on writing poetry. I am also working on returning to running and my goal is five miles straight – I am making good progress. Maybe in the fall I’ll get there.

What is your ambition?

To take care of my house and those in it, do art, do poetry, exercise, and visit friends. That’s it.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

That chocolate cake would have very few calories and in fact be necessary to maintaining health.

Which six people would you invite to your boating party?

This one I can’t answer, because I don’t want to make choices and hurt anyone’s feelings. Maybe I’d make a list and draw names? Here’s a sign-up sheet…

What would be on the menu?

Chocolate cake. I guess you knew that!

What question would you have liked me to have asked?

I’d loved to have told you about how much I enjoyed working in the cafeteria in college, something people can’t believe, but it is true – and so you would ask me – what did I learn there that I could have learned nowhere else – and I would say, A lot of things, but one tangible skill I have as a result is that I know how to cut a pie into 9 equal pieces.

Thank you Claudia.

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Claudia McGill

Biography

I am a self-taught artist. I came to art later in life. Because of these things, making art for me is not a separate compartment in my life but a thread that runs through everything that I do.

Currently I concentrate on painting in acrylics, but I also spend time working in collage/mixed media as well as doing some hand-built clay, mostly tiles and sculptures. I got my start in fiber art, making pictorial appliqued wall hangings.

Here is a synopsis of some of my activities.

Fiber Art: I did many craft projects when I was growing up, and I learned to knit and sew clothing. I turned to appliqué quilting as a hobby in my thirties, eventually developing a style that used machine sewing to interpret my ideas as collages in fabric.

Collage/Mixed Media: After some years, I wanted to spend more time on composition and less on sewing. I began to experiment with collage, seeing similarities in the artistic process with my fabric work. In the beginning, I created pieces that were usually based on photos I’d taken of landscapes, city scenes, objects, or other images of this sort. I then interpreted them in collage using papers I’d painted myself with acrylic paints.

As time went on my work grew more abstract. I became more interested in portraying feelings, emotions, memories, or imaginings rather than representing scenes. I began to use found papers and materials in addition to my own painted papers and started incorporating painting (in acrylics) as part of the compositions. As well as creating art intended to be hung on the wall, I made and still do make postcards, artist trading cards, embellished art books, etc.

Acrylic Painting: My painting work was an outgrowth of my mixed media art, which familiarized me with acrylics. Painting is now my main artistic activity. My works are inspired by the world I see around me but my intent is not to represent it. Instead, I pick out what appeals to me, set these pieces together as I think they might like to be placed, and concentrate on how it all fits together, color and shape.

Other work: I have done hand-built clay for some time, changing styles as my interests change, but focusing on sculptures and tiles. I’ve recently begun spending more time sketching with pen and ink; I enjoy the focus and observation that go into this activity. I also write poetry and have self-published a number of books.

In all my activities, I work with a sense of purpose and hope mixed together. Making art is very important to me as it is the way I work out answers to questions and guide myself through everyday life.

web site: www.claudiamcgill.com
art blog, featuring current work: https://claudiamcgillart.wordpress.com
poetry blog: https://claudiamcgill.wordpress.com/

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Arc in the Park.


I’ve been helping out on a project for the past six weeks or so. It’s a collaboration between Arc and The Whitworth Art Gallery.

The project was called ‘A Love Letter to Whitworth Park’ and was facilitated by an extremely talented artist by the name of Wendy Hunter and project managed by Annette from Arc.

For four weeks, the aim was to engage older people with the nature of the park and the art of the gallery. (At least, that was my take on it.) Then, via the mediums of painting, printing, collage, photography, cups of tea, poetry and prose; participants expressed their ‘love’ for the park in a variety of techniques.

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The project culminated in an exhibition in the gardens of The Whitworth Art Gallery in Arc’s very own Geodome! (Which is a bugger to put up, believe me.) Thousands upon thousands came to view… okay, maybe not thousands. But there were loads. Certainly more than you could count on an abacus.

It was a beautiful, sunny day and lots of kids came along to colour in bird stencils and stick them on the tree Wendy and the participants made. They also did a nice job of polishing off all the cupcakes. (Maybe that was just my kids.)

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Anyhoo, onwards and upwards – don’t forget it’s the Saturday Art Club at Arc this Saturday 29th July. 11am – 4pm. Free parking. Great for families/kids.

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Other shout-outs and credits go to: Daisy and Francine from The Whitworth Art Gallery; Ruth from The University of Manchester; Annette and Jacqui from Arc, and last, but not least, The A-Team: Becky, Kath, Mark and Tim. (Oh, and Becky’s Mam and Dad for the sarnies and help packing up.)

 

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Mark Coffey – Fine Art Photographer


I first met fine art photographer Mark Coffey at Arc, where we both volunteer.

If you don’t know already, Arc is an amazing place. It’s a gallery and centre for creativity, learning, fun and wellbeing. You should pop along if you’re in the Stockport area. (They do a fabulous job for the community and a mean cafetiere of fresh coffee.)

He teaches photography, photoshop and design. Whilst I just potter about making a nuisance of myself.

Anyways, he’s been helping me with a little exhibition I’m putting together at the Oasis cafe at Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport. We were chatting away, as you do, when he mentioned his website, so I went over and took a look. There’s some great work on it, so I thought I’d share it with the class.

Some shots are fun and frivolous, whilst others are mean and moody. And some, don’t involve alliteration at all. (But, are striking images, nonetheless.)

Depending on which images you’re looking at, they are reminiscent of Saul Leiter, Martin Parr and Fan ho.

Have a mosey on over to Mark’s website for a more detailed look at his work.
After, you can nip down to Arc for a nice cup of tea and a Tunnock’s teacake.

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Ewa Konior, Polish, artist, Arc gallery, Stockport

Hey! How did that get on here? To be fair, Mark did take it. (When I wasn’t looking!)

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A real Presence in art – Ewa Konior


There is a brilliant exhibition on at the Arc Gallery at the moment by a stupendously talented artist by the name of Ewa Konior. (Pronounced Evva, I think.)

Ewa hails from Poland, but now plies her trade from her studio in Wales.

There are two very distinctive styles of work on show – the big, bold portraits, full of life and energy. And the smaller, multi-layered images of everyday life built up on wallpaper. You really have to see them in the flesh to see the full effect of the textures and scale.

The title of her exhibition is ‘Presence’ and runs until the 16th June.

Anyway, enough of me rambling, you want to see her work.

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Here are a few shots I took at the exhibition. Apologies for the reflections.

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So, if you’re in and around Stockport, Reddish or Manchester, try to pop along, it really is a wonderful exhibition. It’s Free in there’s free parking round the back of the mill. And there’s also a brand-spanking new cafe in which to relax and admire the work.

Ewa Konior, Polish, artist, Arc gallery, Stockport

Ewa Konior and some auld fella. Photo courtesy of Mark Coffey.

Oh, and by the way, Ewa’s work is for sale if you’re a collector. But please don’t feel obliged to buy me anything. Honestly. It really isn’t necessary.

Arc Centre and Gallery
Unit 33m, Vauxhall Industrial Estate
Greg Street
Reddish
Stockport  SK5 7BR

Artist’s statement:

In my work, I aim to describe the essence of life and quality of existence. Experience, observation and study of the human psyche support my work, I empathise with and give voice to my human subjects. In the paintings of time and place I construct surrealistic locations including abstract elements. Like a frame from a film, the painting is a moment in a movement though time.

I perceive the world as an ocean where, below its visible surface, layers of complexity can be found in its depths. Painting, for me, is intuitively diving into and through the ocean to discover new dimensions and planes. It is an alchemic activity where the creative decision making process and my presence as the artist is evident. My painting is an expression of my particular view, involving aspects of reality, nuanced memories and philosophical contemplations.

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100 Years in Vogue


There’s an exhibition on at Manchester Art Gallery showcasing some of the greatest photography in the world, called 100 Years in Vogue.

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If you like photography – you’ll love it.

If you like fashion – you’ll love it.

If you’re an art director – you’ll love it.

If you’re a graphic designer – you’ll love it.

If you’re a fashion designer – you’ll love it.

If you’re a textile designer – you’ll love it.

If you’re a magazine/layout designer – you’ll love it.

If you’re an illustrator – you’ll love it.

If you like art – you’ll love it.

 

I’m not really into fashion, (no shit, Sherlock), so I guess it appealed to the art director in me.

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“The exhibition brings together vintage prints from the early twentieth century, ground-breaking photographs from renowned fashion shoots, unpublished work and original magazines. Images by leading twentieth-century photographers, including Cecil Beaton, Lee Miller, Irving Penn and Snowdon will feature alongside more recent work by David Bailey, Corinne Day, Patrick Demarchelier, Nick Knight, Herb Ritts and Mario Testino.”

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But you’d best get your skates on, it finishes on the 30th October!

(Oh, and it’s free in.)

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Happy National Poetry Day


I couldn’t possibly pick just one, so here are a few to salivate over. There’s something for everyone.

The Mower

by Philip Larkin

The mower stalled, twice; kneeling, I found
A hedgehog jammed up against the blades,
Killed. It had been in the long grass.

I had seen it before, and even fed it, once.
Now I had mauled its unobtrusive world
Unmendably. Burial was no help:

Next morning I got up and it did not.
The first day after a death, the new absence
Is always the same; we should be careful

Of each other, we should be kind
While there is still time.

 

This be the Verse

by Philip Larkin

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

 

Suspenders

by Raymond Carver

Mom said I didn’t have a belt that fit and
I was going to have to wear suspenders to school
next day. Nobody wore suspenders to second grade,
or any other grade for that matter. She said,
You’ll wear them or else I’ll use them on you. I don’t want any more trouble. My dad said something then. He
was in the bed that took up most of the room in the cabin
where we lived. He asked if we could be quiet and settle this
in the morning. Didn’t he have to go in early to work in
the morning? He asked if I’d bring him
a glass of water. It’s all that whiskey he drank, Mom said. He’s
dehydrated.

I went to the sink and, I don’t know why, brought him
a glass of soapy dishwater. He drank it and said, That sure
tasted funny, son. Where’d this water come from?
Out of the sink, I said.
I thought you loved your dad, Mom said.
I do, I do, I said, and went over to the sink and dipped a glass
into the soapy water and drank off two glasses just
to show them. I love Dad, I said.
Still, I thought I was going to be sick then and there. Mom said,
I’d be ashamed of myself if I was you. I can’t believe you’d
do your dad that way. And, by God, you’re going to wear those
suspenders tomorrow, or else. I’ll snatch you bald-headed if you
give me any trouble in the morning. I don’t want to wear
suspenders,
I said. You’re going to wear suspenders, she said. And with that
she took the suspenders and began to whip me around the bare legs
while I danced in the room and cried. My dad
yelled at us to stop, for God’s sake, stop. His head was killing him,
and he was sick at his stomach from soapy dishwater
besides. That’s thanks to this one, Mom said. It was then somebody
began to pound on the wall of the cabin next to ours. At first it
sounded like it was a fist–boom-boom-boom–and then
whoever it was switched to a mop or a broom
handle.  For Christ’s sake, go to bed over there! somebody yelled.
Knock it off! And we did. We turned out the lights and
got into our beds and became quiet. The quiet that comes to a house
where nobody can sleep.

 

Gravy

by Raymond Carver

No other word will do. For that’s what it was.
Gravy.
Gravy, these past ten years.
Alive, sober, working, loving, and
being loved by a good woman. Eleven years
ago he was told he had six months to live
at the rate he was going. And he was going
nowhere but down. So he changed his ways
somehow. He quit drinking! And the rest?
After that it was all gravy, every minute
of it, up to and including when he was told about,
well, some things that were breaking down and
building up inside his head. “Don’t weep for me,”
he said to his friends. “I’m a lucky man.
I’ve had ten years longer than I or anyone
expected. Pure Gravy. And don’t forget it.”

 

Hummingbird

by Raymond Carver

Suppose I say summer,
write the word “hummingbird”,
put it in an envelope,
take it down the hill
to the box. When you open
my letter you will recall
those days and how much,
just how much, I love you.

 

Teleport Memory

by Patrick Chapman

 

Eighteen winters on, I find your jet-black

hold-up in my box of old remarkables,

the rubber garter still with spring in it.

 

I drape the stocking long on the bed

and try to imagine your pale slender leg

filling it toe to knee to thigh and beyond

 

in a matter transmitter reconstitution

of you with a physical copy that holds

your consciousness, your memories,

 

your tenderness, your wit still dry –

while out in the real, the original you

has surely diverged in directions I can’t

 

follow: some of your people passed on;

you a mother, an aunt or alone; and every

cell in your body, twice overwritten.

 

If that you can bear think of me

it may be with disdain for who I was

at the end but listen, my old love,

 

he has been replaced so many times –

no longer that young cripple who,

out of repression and pain, cracked

 

your heart and in its fracture fatally

punctured his own. So far undone is he

that even teleport could never bring us home.

 

Alone with Everybody

by Charles Bukowski

 

the flesh covers the bone

and they put a mind

in there and

sometimes a soul,

and the women break

vases against the walls

and the men drink too

much

and nobody finds the

one

but keep

looking

crawling in and out

of beds.

flesh covers

the bone and the

flesh searches

for more than

flesh.

 

there’s no chance

at all:

we are all trapped

by a singular

fate.

 

nobody ever finds

the one.

 

the city dumps fill

the junkyards fill

the madhouses fill

the hospitals fill

the graveyards fill

 

nothing else

fills.

 

EDGE

by Sylvia Plath

The woman is perfected
Her dead

Body wears the smile of accomplishment,
The illusion of a Greek necessity

Flows in the scrolls of her toga,
Her bare

Feet seem to be saying:
We have come so far, it is over.

Each dead child coiled, a white serpent,
One at each little

Pitcher of milk, now empty
She has folded

Them back into her body as petals
Of a rose close when the garden

Stiffens and odors bleed
From the sweet, deep throats of the night flower.

The moon has nothing to be sad about,
Staring from her hood of bone.

She is used to this sort of thing.
Her blacks crackle and drag.

 

The Causes

by Jorge Luis Borges

The sunsets and the generations
The days and none was first.
The freshness of water in Adam’s
Throat. Orderly paradise.
The eye deciphering the darkness.
The love of wolves at dawn.
The word. The hexameter. The mirror.
The Tower of Babel and pride.
The moon which the Chaldeans gazed at.
The uncountable sands of the Ganges.
Chuang Tzu and the butterfly that dreams him.
The golden apples on the islands.
The steps in the wandering labyrinth.
Penelope’s infinite tapestry.
The circular time of the Stoics.
The coin in the mouth of the dead man.
The sword’s weight on the scale.
Each drop of water in the water clock.
The eagles, the memorable days, the legions.
Caesar on the morning of Pharsalus.
The shadow of crosses over the earth.
The chess and algebra of the Persians.
The footprints of long migration.
The sword’s conquest of kingdom’s.
The relentless compass. The open sea.
The clock echoing in the memory.
The king executed by the ax.
The incalculable dust that was armies.
The voice of the nightingale in Denmark.
The calligrapher’s meticulous line.
The suicide’s face in the mirror.
The gambler’s card. Greedy gold.
The forms of a cloud in the desert.
Every arabesque in the kaleidoscope.
Each regret and each tear.
All those things were made perfectly clear
So our hands could meet.

 

Dulce et Decorum est

by Wilfred Owen

 

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots

But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

 

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!–An ecstasy of fumbling

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,

And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime…

Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

 

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

 

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.

 

The Diameter of the Bomb

by Yehuda Amichai

 

The diameter of the bomb was thirty centimeters

And the diameter of its effective range about seven meters,

With four dead and eleven wounded.

And around these, in a larger circle

Of pain and time, two hospitals are scattered

And one graveyard. But the young woman

Who was buried in the city she came from,

At a distance of more than a hundred kilometers,

Enlarges the circle considerably,

And the solitary man mourning her death

At the distant shores of a country far across the sea

Includes the entire world in the circle.

And I won’t even mention the crying of orphans

That reaches up to the throne of God and

Beyond, making

A circle with no end and no God.

 

Sometimes you go upstairs

by David Milligan-Croft

 

Sometimes, you might hear a bang-

Like something has been knocked over.

And, you shout out,

“Hey! What are you two up to?”

 

Sometimes, you go upstairs,

You know, to check on the girls.

To make sure they haven’t kicked off

Their duvets, or fallen out of bed.

 

But, when you go up,

You realise they’re not there anymore.

And, for a moment,

You thought life was like it was before.

 

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Slow Clocks of Decay


My good friend, Patrick Chapman, has just published his seventh – yes, 7th! – collection of poetry. And it’s utterly brilliant.

Personally, I think Slow Clocks of Decay is a bit more experimental than his earlier works. Though, no less exceptional.

He writes of love and loss with a thoroughly modern voice.

You won’t find images of Ireland’s rolling green pastures here, but a dystopian 21st century society.

He’s one of the best poets Ireland has ever produced and, mark my words, he’ll win the Nobel Prize for Literature one day.

So, just click on the links to order your copy. And, to whet your palate, I’ve included a taster under the pic., with the kind permission of the author.

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Teleport Memory

By Patrick Chapman.

 

Eighteen winters on, I find your jet-black

hold-up in my box of old remarkables,

the rubber garter still with spring in it.

 

I drape the stocking long on the bed

and try to imagine your pale slender leg

filling it toe to knee to thigh and beyond

 

in a matter transmitter reconstitution

of you with a physical copy that holds

your consciousness, your memories,

 

your tenderness, your wit still dry –

while out in the real, the original you

has surely diverged in directions I can’t

 

follow: some of your people passed on;

you a mother, an aunt or alone; and every

cell in your body, twice overwritten.

 

If that you can bear think of me

it may be with disdain for who I was

at the end but listen, my old love,

 

he has been replaced so many times –

no longer that young cripple who,

out of repression and pain, cracked

 

your heart and in its fracture fatally

punctured his own. So far undone is he

that even teleport could never bring us home.

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Filed under Art, Books, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Ideas, Innovation, Inspiration, Patrick Chapman, Poetry, Writing