15 October 2015


Reading Lucy and Tom's vivid and idiosyncratic impressions of their recent trip to the Netherlands I was motivated to look for some sketches I'd done during a trip to Amsterdam in the 1980s. In the same sketchbook there were also many quick drawings of poets, artists and other talking heads at various events I attended during those years.The ideal ambiance for sketching people is at a conference or concert where speakers/performers stay relatively still for long periods and you can be sitting quietly drawing, unobserved and undisturbed while still being part of the scene.

Amsterdam 1986: it was raining, the hotel was cheap and the mattress had lived, as they say.
My hotel room, Amsterdam

Wet raincoat, Amsterdam hotel room.
Raincoat and washbasin, Amsterdam

Of course Van Gogh was on my mind. He shared my room and I angled the mirror so as to echo one of his subjects.
Myself with Van Gogh print, Amsterdam

Dick Higgins was one of the speakers at a Bookworks conference I attended in Philadelphia in 1982.
Dick Higgins, two sketches

Leon Cych and Peter Baines at the National Poetry Centre, London 1982. Peter Baines (AKA Street Talkin' Pete) was a friend and together with Marilyn, his wife at the time, we went on protest marches, including to the Greenham Common women's peace camp in 1983.
Leon Cych & Peter Baines, 1982

John Rety was a friend but there must be hundreds of people around the world who can claim that privilege, certainly many in my part of North London where he and his partner Susan Johns ran the Torriano Meeting House. Shortly before he died in 2010 I bumped into him (literally) in Camden Town and he said Let's do a comic strip, I'll provide the text, you draw the cartoons. He was like that, as if life was an ongoing conversation with time an irrelevant interruption. I said Fine, let's do it. We were going to meet and work it out. Then he died. Everyone in the above sketches is dead, apart from me. And Leon Cych who I drew but never met (just Googled him and am glad to see he's alive and doing well).

John Rety and Gilbert Adair at a poetry event in London 1986.
John Rety and Gilbert Adair

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14 October 2015

NE ME QUITTE PAS  (click the title to go to YouTube)

I wonder if this song could ever be written, much less sung, at the present time? The last few lines especially - would any self-respecting woman or man nowadays dare to say:

Let me become 
The shadow of your shadow
The shadow of your hand
The shadow of your dog

Nevertheless these are emotions which many people still feel, whether expressed or not. Nobody ever did it better than Jacques Brel in his terrific original version. A few minutes ago I recorded myself sort of singing it and below is my translation, by no means perfect but better than the awful ones provided via Google.

Ne Me Quitte Pas (Jacques Brel and Jacques Roman)

Don't leave me
Let's forget
Forget everything
That's already vanishing
Forget the time of misunderstanding
And the time wasted
Who knows how
Forget those hours
Which sometimes killed
With blows of why 
The heart of bliss.
Don't leave me (r)
I'll offer you
Pearls of rain
From countries where it never rains
I'll dig the earth
Even after my death
To clothe your body
With gold and light
I'll build a kingdom
Where love is king
Where love is law
Where you'll be queen.
Don't leave me (r)
I'll invent
Nonsense words
Which you'll understand
I'll tell you about
Those lovers
Who saw their love's fire
Twice rekindled
I'll tell you the story
Of that king
Who died because
He could not meet you.
Don't leave me (r)
An ancient volcano
Believed extinct
Often reawakens
And there are burnt lands
Which yield more wheat
Than the kindest April
And when night falls
When the sky is blazing
Doesn't the red
Marry the black?
Don't leave me (r)
I won't cry anymore
I won't talk anymore
I'll just hide here
And watch you
Dance and smile
And listen to you
Sing and laugh
Let me become
The shadow of your shadow
The shadow of your hand
The shadow of your dog
Don't leave me (r) 

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12 October 2015


A few pages selected from sketchbooks to conclude the posting of some of my old drawings. They were all drawn quickly from life, although those of the Falklands debate were done while watching TV programmes. The process which sometimes moves brain, eye, hand, pencil (or pen, brush etc.) to work harmoniously together in response to a visual/emotional stimulus is something of a mystery. Skill acquired by long training and regular practice doesn't necessarily account for it and it can't be willed - it either happens or it doesn't.

If anyone recognises the face of that famous musician whose name I can't remember, please let me know - he was a violinist and somewhat hunchbacked. I met Shyam Singha only once during a talk he gave at a centre in Hampstead where I was working. Bob Cobbing was a friend and a well-known performer and writer of Concrete poetry.

Two famous faces sketched

Bob Cobbing, concrete poet

Falklands debate

Falklands faces 1982

Dartington conference 1977

Young man, model

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