Richard Warren

20thc British art and poetry (mainly), plus bits of my own – "Clearly I tap to you clearly along the plumbing of the world" (W S Graham)

Tag Archives: artwork

Sandringham

Slow and in miniature, our shadows squeezed, we move
in glare across the lawns, past the suspicious statues,
towards the gravelled entrance to the inviolable hall.
Here, it is said, was once a room for each day of the year,
but now you may purchase the privilege to view a week’s quota,

likewise buying into a reverent embarrassment, re-learned
surprisingly quickly; like an estate worker enlisting
for Gallipoli, I remove my hat. We shuffle along
the rope partitions, gawping at the Spanish tapestries,
thoughtful not to move too sharply, for fear of treason.

Refreshed in white and cream, the wedding cake interiors
stand beyond taste or judgement. The ballroom is barbarous with enemy
armours, symmetrically trophied. Since Albert passed,
not one object moves within its space. Each
has its accustomed measure, and nothing is to be altered.

Gargantuan portraits re-figure across the generations
features, gestures, uniforms. Only the ceiling-high mirror
darkens with every year. Routinely self-regarding,
on stair and landing, move with ease the invisible occupants
of this undying dynasty, this house of vampyres.

Copyright Richard Warren 2011

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Establishing the canon

Dodging mobility scooters by Ann Summers, I drift
into Smith’s, where I check through the mags for the zeitgeist,
but discover I am vintage, which brings responsibility:
what to snap to fix in the brain, confirming
an arrangement to remember not the unrememberable moment
but its numbered image? By the ‘Tragic Life Stories’
large girls in leggings shout at each other. Stuffing back
a tattoo monthly, I head off for Costa’s,
with an option to plot the key points of my obituary.

At home, by the flaked pillars of its excessive portico,
I sip on a Pimm’s, and consider my stateliness.
The gardens that decline from the lawn seem in order;
beyond the unsafe bridge and the ludicrous urn
the scene appears blurry and haphazard. No deer
are in sight. In the east wing we’re reconstructing the decor
of long abandoned rooms, despite repeated objections
from the busybody brigade. Magenta? Same difference …
These perpetual renovations are becoming burdensome.

In the library, more problems. I thumb each index,
seeking my name. Without that bastard’s intervention,
I’d have made the anthologies; might things have been otherwise?
Critical opinion shifts its unlovely weight;
so which books to throw? And would we regret it?
These bear another’s archly Deco bookplate;
no good to me. Burn the lot. Their curling ashes
make baroque the tired fireplace. Disencumbered, I feel able
to bring needed revision, to construct my new tradition.

Copyright Richard Warren 2011

Seven Suicides: some Dead British Artists

My friend and colleague Shirley suggested the other day that I put online “Seven Suicides: some Dead British Artists”, my series of large pen and ink drawings and accompanying texts, which visualise the regrettable deaths of various 20thc British artists. These were exhibited briefly at St Peter’s Church in Wolverhampton in late 2007, and haven’t been seen since. So here they are (or use the tab at the top here). The names of the seven are on the flier for the show on the right here, and are among those in the tags below.

My comments on the critical neglect of Robert Colquhoun and Robert MacBryde were written before the publication of  Roger Bristow’s 2010 joint biography and catalogue raisonee of the Two Roberts, The Last Bohemians. (Naff title, but a most excellent book.)

Everybody

Everybody

Everybody very body.
Airy body, wry body.
Why body?
Body oddy… Die.

Why?

Copyright Richard Warren 2011

three composite self portraits

Composite self portraits: pen and ink drawings, layered digitally.

Characters of fag smoke

You people of steam
and persons of transparency,
here one minute,
and the next for always gone –
focus while I outline
what is coming clear to me:
that half a loaf of living
is preferable to none.

Living – it has done for me.
It has been done to me.
My own poor beauty –
look at how you’ve turned.
Put an eye to the keyhole
and tell me when they come for me.
Count me down to grey and brown;
watch me when I burn.

You characters of fag smoke
and fragments of no substance,
say a prayer for the hair
on my chinny chin chin.
Grace to my face
holds a mirror at a distance.
By the skin of Christ’s teeth,
I am hanging in.

Copyright 2011 Richard Warren

a history of my short life as a poet (so far), part 2: “like Rudyard Kipling on crack”

Recently happened across a review in Sphinx 11, 2009, of one of my first pamphlets of poems, Dead Cat Bounce. I’d clean forgotten I’d sent this in. Two years isn’t a long time, but it seems a long time since I wrote these. Reading the reviews felt compulsive but cringeworthy, like seeing an old photo of yourself in a crap haircut.

Three reviewers, two anti and one pro. At this distance, I’m inclined to side with the anti’s, but I do appreciate the positive comments. In fact, I appreciate anyone taking the time and trouble to review my stuff. Thank you, Sphinx. And, it’s something more to plunder for quotes to fill up the poetic CV. I chose these:

“Is Warren advocating revolution, or just having a good old moan?

I’d much rather read … any new poem by … Carol Ann Duffy.”

Karin Koller

“Unfortunately, Warren isn’t quite there yet.”

David Floyd

“Like Rudyard Kipling on crack.

Though not every line is a pearl, his insights are as good as his ear … In places, his social commentary is as trenchant as W.S. Gilbert’s, and I mean that as a very high compliment.”

Marcia Menter

Cremating a cousin in Golder’s Green

1

Over the large and empty field, but with diminished expectations, birds are circling.
Frost on the hard soil’s surface heightens the trace of the tractor’s path.
Soon gone is the longed for, comforting moment, converted neatly to abandoned history;
still to come is the deceitful and appalling aftermath.
Heaven or hell for these my fellow passengers?
At a rough guess, I’d say the latter for the larger half.

Each on their own reduced assignment sits and is busy in its preparation,
applies make-up, sips water, brushes away a crumb,
sends a final and definitive text, takes a moment to settle her features
appropriately to the minor judgement next to come,
looks to his laptop, guards his bag, flips pages, bites her finger.
But the zig-zag taxi will take each of us surely to an expectant crematorium.

Hiding a yawn is now hardly worth it;
dark mouths widen to their noiseless but original screams.
Preoccupations drop in shreds,
and once more everything is demonstrated as precisely what it seems.
This is the nasty face at the window; here is her fear; now is the hour he so correctly dreads.
Look – here come the bellowing horrors of our collective and recurring dreams.

2

Still breathing, after a fashion, is the photo, but stone cold is the photographer.
The thought, word, intention, curl away to hang as ashes in the whitening air.
After a while there is no value left in lamentation;
facing the facts, we face the front in coffin-wise procession, heading off feet first to God knows where.
Some closing words, well crafted and respectful, hint politely at conceivable redemption.
We give thanks for your zest, but we ignore the elephantine ghosts of desertion, disappointment and despair.

For a while there, I had forgotten you ever existed, but a death is a rough reminder.
Even so, your memory will be on a short lease, and in a closed niche.
So I attempt to reconstruct your other life, the one I didn’t know about, so can’t remember:
a clear Greek sky, your permanent chair in the Copacabana, boules and British beer on an expatriate beach.
Someone will empty your ashes into the Mediterranean. Outside the chapel,
I stare stupidly at your flowers, and know full well that nothing much of you was ever in my reach.

I catch up with your nieces and their husbands. Funny we only meet at funerals.
A hollow sense of duty has brought me to this curious place
to try to repay – far too late, I have to say – a little kindness for which I’m still grateful.
We were both exiles from the same small offshoot of the human race.
The other mourners leave for the pub, to raise a glass darkly, but I hang on a bit, examine the plaques, and wonder –
what in heaven’s name am I going to I say when I see you face to face?

Copyright Richard Warren 2011

the man who invented “New Labour”

My 1981 Cienfuegos Press comic book version of some of Bakunin’s anarchist writings, under the snappy title of A Critique of State Socialism, has recently been reprinted by ChristieBooks in a limited edition of 100, at £12 a throw. A bit of a collectable, really, but I’m flattered. More details on the site, http://www.christiebooks.com, though you may need to search a bit.

Stuart Christie suggested that  a new page or two, taking the analysis through the fall of the Iron Curtain and on to the present, might be a good idea. I tried, but wasn’t happy with my efforts, so we didn’t add anything. State socialism doesn’t seem much of a live threat these days …

If you click on the cover image above and take a careful look at the larger of the two tanks that are busy squelching the working people’s uprising, you’ll see that it’s emblazoned “NEW LABOUR PARTY”. Yes, this was drawn in 1981. I lay claim to the distinction that, with uncanny foresight, I invented the term “New Labour” two decades ahead of the reality. Should have copyrighted it …

The teeny tiny tank is marked “SDP”. Anybody remember them??