Saturday, 16 February 2013

DOG OR WOLF by Vahni Capildeo

Lucera bronzes

Dog or wolf.

Verse, or prose.

I choose to sing to the hairless
who silken my path with their killings,
my hills and plains being pitted
with cattle and cities and middens.
They reek of nerves, arrogant.
I raise my nose, jubilant.
We crouch, we loom.

An agglomeration of moons tumbles through my glottis / Mistress / I yawn and obey / mooncommands / dawn to musk / night and sight / fall and water / sheep and herd / the eye-stalk-chase motor pattern homologue / moonrules Mistress / discipline or perish / verse and prose.

Who’ll choose to croon to the hairless?
Who’s wounding? Who’s sounding? Who’s pooling?
Who reeks of grass, ruminant?
Who’ll rise as noise, ululant?

Mistress / I set up a gentle howling / tomb or toy / and now I am about / wyrd or ward / now I am wholly towards / play or prey / ave, vale / which is it to be, Huntress?

I hear with ears that point upwards.
Eagerness valleys my backbone.
Satisfaction curls over my tail.
Good lupo; optimum dog.

Read at the museum in the January 2013 gallery performances

A TABLE OF MY OWN by Vahni Capildeo

Still life by Jan Jansz. van de Velde III

In the year of my marriage, Galileo died.
No man is a solar system.
My days turn full round women averagely called Margaret.
I long to be isolate.
They screw pearls into casements; launder clavichords in pails.
I’m naught, a nutshell castaway.
There are sailing men who’ve swilled and shot alongside she-pirates.
My father’s hands show blue its green.
He harbours precision like a siege device.
No sun in my canvas.
No skull competitively spitting orangepeel.
No silence-broken cittern schooled to lose its strings.
Just night.
This night, which is to me like a cheeseshop to a mouse.
It fills a corner.
After a game with rough fellows,
a single glass.
This glass,
oh it is the measure of my universe.
Till now I had not known
the meaning of adoration.
I drink like an astronomer
at a table of my own.

read at the museum February 16th 2013

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Running order for Saturday 16th February

12.30 start

1.    Dr McGowan            Egypt                Ground Floor meet at the entrance to gallery 22

2.    Nick Owen                Egypt Ground Floor                                                      gallery 22,

3.    Vahni Capildeo          Dutch Still Life Second Floor                                      Gallery 48

4.    Paulette Mae               Pissaro                                                        gallery 65 3rd Floor

5.    5 Giles Watson                                                                     Pre Raphaelite Gallery 67

2.30 second series starts

1.    Dr McGowan            Egypt                   round Floor meet at the entrance to gallery 22

2.    Nick Owen                Egypt Ground Floor                                                      gallery 22,

3.    Vahni Capildeo          Dutch Still Life Second Floor                                      Gallery 48

4.    Paulette Mae               Pissaro                                                        gallery 65 3rd Floor

5.    5 Giles Watson                                                                      Pre Raphaelite Gallery 67

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Death Mask by Nick Owen

Beyond the mystery of time
Beyond the mystery of space
Beyond the mystery of consciousness
There is a mystery, the final human face.

There is a concept of eternity
That isn’t everlasting life;
for it transcends our time of living
it transcends our time of death;
It goes out beyond the moment
when we take our final breath.

In that one eternal showing
perhaps we capture who we are;
L’inconnue de la seine
becomes majestic shining star.


When do we become a person?
Is a person just a mask?
putting on your face each morning,
just another daily task.

Is there one amazing moment
When we make our final mark
When our face, at last not hiding
Tells the truth, so clear and stark.

The ancients chose to take an imprint
Of that one important final face
Built an effigy upon it
For the dead flesh to replace

Now we visit our museums,
find our mummies and our Gods
gaze on bandaged broken bodies
neath their caskets’ lifted lids
Will they stay with us forever
Egyptian pharaohs,
tiny modern kids?

Once Greeks invaded Egypt
learned how to embalm
and mummify their dead
brought with them their own deep secrets
how to paint a life-like face.
laid it on the mummy’s basket
and replaced
the old style formulaic mask.     

A rare beauty looks up
gazes out through the shadow of her death

wicker basket
coffin casket
death portrait new minted
facing out the end of time
living woman in her prime

Is this vision for a world she left
To tell us of her lovely life time here

Or is it for her inward onward journey
Holding her till Eros wakes from sleep
A promise, in another world, to keep

Arrowhead by Giles Watson


Stamped with characters of beauty, their veins
Like waters at a confluence of streams, arrowheads
Point heavenwards. The traceries of their leaves
Are essays in divine proportion: three lobes
Of an arch, mirrored in the initials
Of her half-forgotten, inverted Book of Hours,
In the stained glass of her chapel, in the niche
Of the piscina where her fingers dipped
Before the benediction, and mirrored also
In the shadow of one leaf, which makes
A window to the riverbed. I too wish to dip
My outstretched hand in that dark and holy water.
Source material: The poem refers to Charles Collins’ painting, Convent Thoughts, currently housed in the Ashmolean museum. John Ruskin praised the leaves of Alisma plantago-aquatica, the Water Plantain, as models of “divine proportion” which endorsed his theory of gothic architecture, claiming in The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849) that they are “shapes which in the everyday world are familiar to the eyes of men, [and with which] God has stamped those characters of beauty which He has made it man’s nature to love”. In a review in which he defended the aesthetic merits of Collins’ painting, Ruskin maintained: “I happen to have a special acquaintance with the water plant Alisma Plantago ... and as I never saw it so thoroughly or so well drawn, I must take leave to remonstrate with you, when you say sweepingly that these men [Pre-Raphaelite painters] 'sacrifice truth as well as feeling to eccentricity.' For as a mere botanical study of the Water Lily andAlisma, as well as of the common lily and several other garden flowers, this picture would be invaluable to me, and I heartily wish it were mine.” Unfortunately for Ruskin, he had made a grave error of identification, for there is no Alisma in Collins’ painting, but there are Arrowhead plants (Sagittaria sagittifolia), in the bottom left hand corner of the painting. For a more detailed discussion of Ruskin’s mistake, see Elizabeth Deas, "The Missing Alisma: Ruskin's Botanical Error", Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies (Fall 2001): 4-13, and for a reasonably good reproduction of the painting,
I am grateful to Jeannie for her companionship on our several visits to see this painting, and for her assistance in my research. Poem by Giles Watson, 2009.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

February Performances

Saturday 16th February Starting in the Egyptian Gallery of the Ashmolean

12.30 - 1.30  and 2.30 - 3.30 starting at the Egyptian Room, The Ashmolean Museum

Poet                         Object/place                         Title

Dr J McGowan                    Egyptian room                                                              Pharoah’s concubine

Nick Owen                         Egyptian Room                                                                              Death mask

Giles Watson                    Waterhouse (PreRaphaelite room)                                          Ariadne

Paulette Mae  Dancer looking at the sole of her right foot 
                                                                             (WA 1950.8) by Edgar Degas                       Twist

Vahni Capildeo    Rm 48 #83 Jan Jansz. van de Velde III 
                                               [still life with glass of beer].                                                Table of My Own