I like the practice of writing non stop for a period of time. It allows my brain and body to get into sync and let the ideas flow.
This piece was written whilst I sat in the National Portrait Gallery in February 2017. I pulled this one out as I remember the day very well. It was cold out but warm inside. The art attendants were almost snoozing in the heat of the building. There a few people in the gallery, out of tourist season (when there was a tourist season) a couple trailed around giving a cursory glance at the paintings. I sat quietly, put pen to paper and let the thoughts flow onto the paper.
Here’s my wandering thoughts captured in time that day ending with a short poem.
Dark, grim, determined and resolute. Sure of what they know, what they do and what they have done.
Averted eyes, cast down make me think that they are scared to look the artist squarely in the eye as they are afraid that the artist will see into their deepest desires.
Was this the fashion of the time to avert our gaze? Is looking straight forward a challenge, a risk too far? By looking ahead you could be caught off guard, hit from behind by a glancing blow, a push or a shove.
This is how it feels now in this world. The feeling around makes you want to hunker down, hid away from the darkness which is rising in the west and is setting in the east. By looking down away from the challenges you do not see what changes you can make?
Who are these people before me/ The political thinkers of their time quickly forgotten except for the oil paintings which hang in this gallery for all to see.
Aahh, now I read the labels and see that they are not politicians but poets and philosophers.
Algernon Charles Swinbourne 1837 – 1909 Friend of rossetti and poet, a young man in the portrait with red curls and a piercing stare into the future, holding his head up and looking out. As a poet who wants to see the world and be ahead of the game.
John Stuart Mill – Philosopher 1817 – 1904 Looking down, an old man with thinning hair. His eyes almost black and downward looking. His mouth in a set determined line.
What did he think about when he died? What were the first thoughts that came to his head? When did he realise that the world was a bigger place than his family? did he just sit and think, learn and read or did he work in another way to earn his keep? What seasons did he prefer and why? Did he ever learn to swim. What would he make of the world today? Would he want to follow another path? Who knows, there are no right answers for time has taken both poet and philosopher to a different place. Poet and Philosopher together placed near but not near in thoughts and ideas, wealth and power, age, youth and fitness of thoughts, deeds and works.
Ready for sleep
Murmuring from afar
Creaky shoes on polished floors
Stopping, stepping, moving off
The hum of cars and lorries and
doors clicking one by one
choosing not to disturb
the portraits on the walls which
line the wide wooden corridors
One by one
accurately mapping onto the walls
Keeping check of time
Tired, knee, stiff
cold, up since 5.15
Sit down, chat, talk
recuperate, connect with other