Trees – a picture and two poems

We will be missing two Poetry at Reddits occasions whilst we are away in Sweden: my contributions are here though.  There are two of WS Merwin’s poems and one of my pictures of Hogback’s trees.  All inspired by Beth Moon’s special book Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time – thank you Kate for the wonderful gift.

Twining Trees at Hogsback

Trees

I am looking at trees

they may be one of the things I will miss

most from the earth

though many of the ones I have seen

already I cannot remember

and though I seldom embrace the ones I see

and have never been able to speak

with one

I listen to them tenderly

their names have never touched them

they have stood round my sleep

and when it was forbidden to climb them

they have carried me in their branches

 

The picture I’ve chosen also reminds me of another of his poems, I think because of the way the trees twine around each other.

 

Separation

Your absence has gone through me

Like thread through a needle.

Everything I do is stitched with its color.

 

Looking forward to our next Reddits in October!

Cover Concept for ‘The Cull’

I’ve been working on some cover concepts for Harry Owen’s upcoming collection ‘The Cull: new and resurrected poems’.  It’s taken a while to get to the finished product but now both Harry and Amitabh Mitra, who’s publishing it through the Poets Printery, are very enthusiastic about this one.

The Cull: full cover

The basis for the cover is a picture of Harry taken in front of the fig tree in his Grahamstown garden.

Harry Owen

I wanted to show him literally embedded in nature – that reflects the subject of this collection of poems – and experimented with Adobe Photoshop Mix on my iPad. I selected a couple of pictures from earlier this year when I went to the Maasai Mara and superimposed them over him so that the textures mixed together. Amitabh had suggested that I used some red in the cover so I added a garish sunset as the final layer.

I mirrored the final image so that it could act as both the front and back covers and then added borders and text.

Covers front and back

Covers front and back

We had worked earlier with the same idea but using a landscape image for the front cover – that’s what’s shown in the slideshow here – but rejected that as the book will be in the standard portrait style with dimensions of 3 x 4.

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I really like the way the elephant’s trunk and tusk merge with Harry’s face in this one.  There’s plenty more animals too – giraffes, vultures and a hyena!

 

Hadedas and Catching Flies: two more haiku

The first of these haiku was written at home in the early morning. The second could have been anywhere.  I guess they should be called Hadedas and Catching Flies?

Hunched like nuns in the coral tree

They cackle at dawn

Hadedas

………..

Basking like a seal on warm black rocks

Mouth open, mind free

Catching flies

Two haiku: for summer and winter

It’s been one of the warmest, sunniest winter Julys that I can remember in the Eastern Cape.  Which perhaps inspired these two haiku:

Hail stones on a hot zinc roof

The young lovers kiss

Summer storm

………..

On the bay window of old mens’ smiles

A woodpecker taps

Winter sun

Maybe one day I’ll come up with Spring and Autumn to make the whole cycle?

Framing the Rhino Picture

Those of you who have been following the release of For Rhino in a Shrinking World will have already seen Sally Scott’s front cover picture – a powerful pastel drawing of a rhino regarding you through the bush.  I thought that it would make a special addition to our home so I bought it from her a couple of months ago.  Yesterday we took the rhino into town to Classic Framers and with Sophie’s collaboration we decided on the frame for it.  Here are a few quick pictures taken with my phone of the artist at work …. and the next thing, of course, will be to decide just where to hang it!

Tomas Tranströmer: reading his poems, playing piano

In this video Tomas Tranströmer reads several of his most evocative poems (in Swedish, with subtitles in English) against translucent backdrops of the Swedish countryside that so inspires him.  The video also tells of the 2011 Nobel prize and highlights his piano playing, which echoes through the whole piece.  I was pleasantly surprised to find some of my favourite poems are in the video. I have read them at Reddit’s poetry – usually switching between my imperfect Swedish and the English translations.  I came across his poems quite by chance three years ago when I saw his collected works (in English) in the Academic Bookshop, Göteborg. After quickly browsing through them I bought the book.  Then I had to pluck up the courage to find them in Swedish translation and attempt to do justice to them by reading them aloud at Reddit’s.