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Robert Gillmor

Robert Gillmor 1936–2022

We were saddened to hear of the death of Robert Gillmor last week, an artist, author and ornithologist that we will always feel immensely grateful for having worked with. It all started, for us, back in 2010 when Elaine Blake, Curator at Reading Museum, asked if we’d be interested in publishing a book to accompany an exhibition she was putting on of artwork commissioned from Robert by the Royal Mail for a series of stamps (Birds, Blocks and Stamps: Post & Go Birds of Britain). We jumped at the opportunity, though with some trepidation as we’d never published an art book before and it was a little daring to start with one by such a well known artist.

From the first meeting, which took place at Robert and Sue’s home in Cley, Norfolk, we knew the project was going to be a delight to work on as well as a success. Working with Robert turned out to be an invitation into his home – meeting Sue, enjoying home-made soup in their conservatory before clearing the crumbs away to pore over the most astounding linocut prints, marveling at the workmanship and receiving a demonstration of his trusted 1864 Albion Press in his studio. A subsequent meeting to discuss a second book (Cover Birdsthe story of Robert’s formative bird-watching and print-making years, illustrated with the covers he designed for the Berkshire Ornithological Club’s annual bird report from 1949 – when he was just 13 years old – onwards) took place at a cousin’s house as a half-way point and also included a delicious home-made lunch, by which time we felt like family friends. This privilege extended over more than a decade as we got to know Emily their daughter, also an accomplished artist, and were included on Christmas card lists (always one of Robert’s wonderful birds) and newsletter mailings.

I struggle to find a word to describe this generosity of spirit. ‘Hospitality’ is part of it, but it’s something more, encompassing a sense of easy naturalness in a relationship based on accepting people for who they are. It strikes me that this same ability to see and accept the essence of a person is what makes Robert’s work so appealing. In his designs, he endowed all his avian subjects with what ornithologists call ‘the jizz’ – the very character and personality of the bird. Something in Robert recognised and drew out the joy in an animal, and he did the same with people. It’s our turn now, to commemorate the joy in him.

Sally Mortimore, May 2022

Robert Gillmor obituary by Stephen Moss

 

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The Shady Side of Town Walnut

Since The Shady Side of Town was published five years ago, it’s a sad fact that several of the trees depicted in it have been lost. The Betchworth Oak was felled, as was the Caversham court Bhutan pine, and one of the Lime trees there. The Coley meadows willow pollard got burnt. The George St Lombardy poplars were hit by storms and worst of all the mighty Black Poplar in the Coley meadows snapped during Storm Ciara in February 2020. With Ash die back and building development around town hundreds of other trees have gone or may go soon. We need to pay attention and do what we can to keep Reading green!

The author of Shady Side, Adrian Lawson, and illustrator Geoff Sawers are both strong advocates for the protection and enhancement of our urban green spaces and royalties from the book have been given to the Ethical Reading Trees for Reading scheme, which works with local businesses to fund the planting of new trees in town. We were delighted to learn that this money has now been used to plant a Walnut tree at County Lock. It’s a magnificent specimen already and work to put a stone plaque marking it is underway.

If you are involved with a local business, please do consider getting your company to contribute to the Trees for Reading scheme. And if you are interested in volunteering, maybe you could help with the work of the Reading Tree Wardens which is another fantastic local group.

Links:

Ethical Reading Trees for Reading Scheme

Reading Tree Wardens

The Shady Side of Town

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Poetry and Art: How an anecdote about Picasso led Conor Carville to write ‘Camouflage’

Poetry is often inspired by art, and poems inspire art in turn. This series of posts celebrates this special connection in the words of artists and poets who have been published by Two Rivers Press.

The germ of this sonnet came from an anecdote about Picasso. In 1939 he was walking in Paris in with Gertrude Stein when they saw a camouflaged truck for the first time, and were amazed by it visually. After it had passed Picasso is said to have turned to his friend and fellow modernist and said: ‘we did that’.

I suppose he saw some kind of relation between the flat fragmented forms of both his Cubism and her prose on the one hand, and the new techniques of war on the other. That got me going, and as I tried to describe the moment two other modernist paintings came to mind: Kasimir Malevich’s White Cross on a White ground, and le Douanier Rousseau’s ‘Tiger in a Tropical Storm’. Suddenly I had a poem!

Conor Carville, May 2022

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English Martyrs book coverConor Carville is a poet and critic from Armagh, N. Ireland. Camouflage appears in his collection English Martyrs, published by Two Rivers Press in 2019. He lives in South London with his wife and daughter.

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Poetry and Art: Tim Dooley on his poem ‘6 Panels’, written in response to Anni Albers’ artwork ‘Six Prayers’

Poetry is often inspired by art, and poems inspire art in turn. This series of posts celebrates this special connection in the words of artists and poets who have been published by Two Rivers Press.

~

‘6 Panels’ was written in response to Anni Albers’ artwork ‘Six Prayers’, a textile commissioned by the Jewish Museum of New York as a holocaust memorial. This abstract pictorial weaving formed a central part of a major Albers exhibition at Tate Modern in the winter of 2018. I found the work very moving and returned to look at it on more than one occasion, before attempting to start a piece of writing suggested by it. My response was an attempt to use language in a partly pictorial way, interweaving various threads across the six columns of the poem so that its sections, while they could be read downwards vertically, would also resonate horizontally through associations or echoes. The threads I drew on were: notebook observations from the windows of the gallery directly behind the area where the work was exhibited; notes on the pattern and variations of the panels themselves; quotations from Albers on her work; materials used in the work, or colours associated with them; tools and materials necessary for survival and shelter in the wild (an Albers theme); prayers from a range of major religions; figures in solid geometry; mythical representations of the weaver. I don’t consider the resulting text as presenting any argument or underlying idea. It’s an attempt instead to create a harmonic structure out of disparate materials and a minor tribute to a major work.

Tim Dooley, May 2022

Discoveries Book Cover‘6 Panels’ appears in Tim Dooley’s new collection Discoveries, published April 2022.

Tim Dooley is a tutor for The Poetry School and a mentor for the prison charity, Koestler Arts. He was reviews and features editor of Poetry London between 2008 and 2018, a visiting lecturer at the University of Westminster from 2016 to 2021 and a judge for the John Pollard International Poetry Competition at Trinity College Dublin in 2019 and 2020. He was previously a schoolteacher for many years. His poetry collections include the Poetry Book Society Recommendations: Tenderness (Smith Doorstop, 2003), Keeping Time (Salt, 2008), and Weemoed (Eyewear, 2017).

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What is Left of England? – A poem from Richard Stephenson

What is Left of England?

What is left of England?
January 878. Chippenham, midwinter.
The king has fled.
The people have no king.
The people have no country.

What is left of England?
But a dream of what used to be.

February 878. Somerset Marshes, winter,
The king is hiding.
The people are lost,
And the Vikings hold the country.

What is left of England,
cannot be found.

What is left of England?
April 878. Athney, early spring.
The king is plotting.
The people are stirring.
But the Viking holds the country.

What is left of England?
But an idea of what could be.

Whitsuntide 878. Egburt’s Stone.
The king returns to the people.
The people return to the king.
But the Vikings hold the country
Will the country fight the Viking?

What is left of England?
A dream a hope a belief.

May 878. Edington. Spring.
The people fight for the king.
The king fights for the people.
The Vikings flee the country.

What remains of England,
Is stronger than the sword.

~

Richard Stephenson runs the Dreading Poetry Slam under the name The Legend that is Richard Stephenson.
He took up poetry shortly after moving to Reading towards the end of the 20th century.
He works in London as an engineer and important middle manager.