30 November 2017

Poetry Thursday - In the Trenches by Isaac Rosenberg

In the Trenches

I snatched two poppies
From the parapet's edge,
Two bright red poppies
That winked on the ledge.
Behind my ear
I stuck one through,
One blood red poppy
I gave to you.
The sandbags narrowed
And screwed out our jest,
And tore the poppy
You had on your breast…
Dawn – a shell – O! Christ
I am choked ... safe ... dust blind, I
See trench floor poppies
Strewn. Smashed, you lie.

Written in  1916 by poet - and painter - Isaac Rosenberg while serving with the British Expeditionary Force in France. A year and a half later, in April 1918, he was killed during a wiring patrol near Arras. This article suggests a comparison with his later "Break of Day in the Trenches": "'In the Trenches' turned out to be one of those poems a poet in a hurry considers finished, only later to discover, it was actually draft."

Break of Day in the Trenches
The darkness crumbles away.
It is the same old druid Time as ever,
Only a live thing leaps my hand,
A queer sardonic rat,
As I pull the parapet's poppy
To stick behind my ear.
Droll rat, they would shoot you if they knew
Your cosmopolitan sympathies.
Now you have touched this English hand
You will do the same to a German
Soon, no doubt, if it be your pleasure
To cross the sleeping green between.
It seems you inwardly grin as you pass
Strong eyes, fine limbs, haughty athletes,
Less chanced than you for life,
Bonds to the whims of murder,
Sprawled in the bowels of the earth,
The torn fields of France.
What do you see in our eyes
At the shrieking iron and flame
Hurled through still heavens?
What quaver – what heart aghast?
Poppies whose roots are in man's veins
Drop, and are ever dropping;
But mine in my ear is safe –
Just a little white with the dust.

I found the poem(s) via BBC Radio 3's "The Essay" series on the meaning of flowers. Programmes on the rose, lily, magnolia, sunflower and daisy were broadcast in September 2016; catch them here  or via the podcast (each is 15 minutes); the programmes on poppies, lavender, orchids, daffodils - series 2 - was broadcast in November 2017, just scroll down the list on the podcast page to find them.

Image result for poppies tower
Gathering ceramic poppies at the end of the installation at the Tower of London, 2014 (via)

29 November 2017


What do you do when the lights go out? When they go out suddenly - and everything else loses power too.

No heating, no hot water ... worst of all, no internet. And the phone running low on battery!

At night, you go to bed, but not to read, unless your eyes are young and strong and you're willing to risk candles in the bedroom. You try to sleep and hope "they" will have fixed it by morning.

But they haven't. No-one, it seems, phoned 105 to let the electricity-magicians know that there was a problem.

So at first light I dressed warmly and went to the nearest coffee shop for a cup of the necessary, and to charge the phone. Then I went home to find something to do.

Looked out the window for a while (grey sky, not a lot of people out), and noticed how lovely the little flowers in the windowbox were looking -

Looked round the room at the other flowers and took some pix of those -
From the garden

From the shop

The lining fabric purchased yesterday at Rolls 'n' Rems came out of my bag, and I rootled round in the studio to find the boiled wool skirt fabric and at least get the pattern cut out -
but the navy blue needed pressing before cutting, the purple needed to wait till the blue was checked for fit. For pressing you need ... the electric iron. Put that job on hold.

In the studio I had started work on an idea for the "In Print" CQ challenge, and had a somewhat "interesting" time deconstructing a hidden corner where I was almost certain some rolls of tulle were lurking.
The older sketchbooks are safely stowed, out of sight
- and out of mind - under the worktop

No rolls of tulle, but other discoveries ... felt, for instance ...
Horrible to look at, but so delightful to stitch into!

The subtleties of the back are more interesting than
the random, unfocussed, misguided, purposeless stitching

This one was based on a Nolde seascape - but
got a little tooooo much felting; it will make lovely insoles
The only bit of tulle I found was on this "byzantine bird" (at least 10 years old!) - which is strangely like the recent "monsters" woodcuts -

That bit of tulle is now glued onto the cut-up newspaper, holding the strips together -
Tricky to keep all the strips in the right place while glueing

... but it doesn't look too bad once it's dried
While the glue was drying, and as the temperature in the flat dropped, I went to cafe#2, used their internet and had a coffee
did some drawing of "monsters" based on a copper tabletop found on Kathy Loomis's blog -
and had some lunch, then risked going back home. Brrr chilly outside - "feels like -1" - and colder still tomorrow. I'll be out there walking, possibly quite quickly, and with hat and gloves on. And double socks.

The power is back, thank goodness, and there's still a little time left today (it being Wednesday, woodblock printing morning) to work on the woodcuts. Not time enough for printing, today; an assessment of what to do with what I have would be a very useful next step.

While at the cafe I came across the contemporary woodcuts of Nana Shiomi and found them very inspiring - they made me think about how to recombine the blocks I already have, and what could be added to extend the range.

Before the electricity goes off again, I'll be getting a power pack that will give some charge on the phone (and access to "the internet"); a stock of candles; and possibly - do they still make them? - a battery-operated radio.

When it does happen, I'll check the fuse box and if the switch on the left is up (in the ON position) will immediately phone 105 to notify "them". Maybe boil a pan of water on the gas cooker and make a nice cup of tea....

Stumbling upon a textile exhibition

Walking home from Tuesday Drawing, I found myself north of St Pancras station - passing St
Pancras Old Church
and then St Pancras Hospital, one of those old Victorian edifices, which had a big sign on the gates -
So I went in and found the Conference Centre Gallery (it's right near the restaurant) and had a look. The exhibition runs till 12 January, and the display was set up by the charity The Arts Project. It's rather tucked away. I've seen no publicity for it.  The name of the show, "The Sewing Circle Rethread", references a similar exhibition held two years ago.

Twenty artists are taking part in the exhibition. Work ranges from the exotic to the subtle - what you might call eclectic!
Rag rug by Julie Roberts

Chair by Catherine Mueller

Buttoned cuffs - and collars! - by Sue Kreitzman

Pictures by Caroline Kirton (left) and Cassandra Whitfield (right)

Impressive work by Aran Illingworth -

"that famous photograph"


Wall full - some figures are 3D

Needlepoint by Julie Roberts made me want to get designing and stitching
 Silk weaving by Sara Bowman -

... and large

Much on a Frida Kahlo theme, by Kathy Keefe
 An arresting and poignant piece by Chris Czainski -

The story

Detail of couching on canvas

28 November 2017

Drawing Tuesday - Docklands museum

Next door to the museum, some strange "pods" had appeared outside the restaurant, cosy for eating outside in winter no doubt -
 Inside, the table beam caught my eye ... and proved difficult ...
 so I turned my attention to some nearby chains -
 ... with these results. "Perspective" of circles needs some observing and practice -
 Jo sat by the window and drew some workmen who were having a long chat -
 Carol found a combination of metal and cloth -
 Janet B fit the square capstan onto her square page -
 Janet K got to know the helmsman (painted wood carved in the style of a figurehead, 1850) - the trademark of mast makers Bawm & Co on West India Dock Road - it stood on their roof and was a local landmark -
 Sue found a rotary seive, early 20th century -
Joyce went whaling -
 Najlaa found 18th century china and glass -
 Judith used shades of grey for the poster girl, and white on black paper elsewhere -
 Extracurricular activities
Carol's colour homework - cloth collage

Janet K 's color collage
I did one too

Sue brought along a collograph (top left) and various prints, some with added stencilled ink, from a recent printmaking course -
A while back, Joyce made felt, with colours derived from a photograph -
 and Sue based a linocut on a drawing, then did a digital version, changing colours -
 Technique of the week -