Installation by Lidia Chiarelli with a painting by Gianpiero Actis
HOW TIME HAS TICKED A HEAVEN ROUND THE STARS – Dylan Thomas
Digital Art and haiku by Lidia Chiarelli
Music has been much used in Shakespeare’s works so why not Dylan Thomas’?
I will try to make an incomplete but impassioned case why music and poetry including poetic prose as used in my father’s play for voices, Under Milk Wood, can well do without the addition of music. My suffering in this regard should prove part of the case.
Ever since I returned to England in 1970, I have been approached by modern composers to listen to Fern Hill or more obscure poems arranged to music. My first experience was to be approached by an earnest American graduate who wished to use “If my head hurt a hair’s foot” in an original musical composition, using the words as a loose lyric for the music. In those early days returning from a long stay in Italy, I must have been somewhat naïve. I agreed to accompany him to the recording studio where his pre-recorded composition was overlain somehow onto a reading of the poem. Last minute, I was informed that the reader would be me and requested a moment to look at the poem. A more obscure poem about a child’s fear of causing his mother pain in birth could not have been chosen from my father’s poems. For me the meaning was almost impenetrable at such short notice so that I must have read it clearly but without understanding. This was no problem as the music was dominant and drowned the words effectively. The young artistic entrepreneur then revealed his plan. Because I had read the poem no royalties would be expected as a beneficiary. The reason that poem and a couple more had been chosen for the recording was that it was little known to the general public and therefore doubly immune to the payment of royalties. In any case, the young man told me, he’d spent his last dollars on the recording and was sleeping on friends’ sofas as a result. I had a sinking feeling that this sort of situation was going to be inevitable now that I was living in London and not in faraway Sicily or even Rome. Cheap flights to these destinations were still to happen in the future.
My foreboding was increased when asked to read “Fern Hill” at a public function for the Welsh Development Corporation. It would take place at the Hilton and feature clog dancing and harp playing which made me slightly uneasy. However, the fee of £30.00 was an inducement and I turned up in a long cotton Laura Ashley dress and a copy of Dylan’s Selected Poems. Immediately before I closed the evening with my reading, a band of merry clog dancers filled the floor and skilfully demonstrated how you can dance in uncomfortable wooden shoes. I would have to change the mood skilfully and dreaded being helped by the except the harpist. I was lucky that time as the harpist topped and tailed by did not over-ride the poem with a tinkling waterfall of background musak.
That occasion kick started my own poetry performance career and I was asked by any number of different organisations to give a reading of my father’s poems. Included were literary festivals and groups as well as entertainment spots at art galleries or even book launches of biographies about my father. My constant dread was to be requested (after all the arrangements had been made) would I mind a quiet musical accompaniment as I read
the poems. My fear was often justified as three piece flautists or recorders drowned the words. By the end, I had to ask that the musical interludes were just that… a musical item between not during poems. Nowadays, unless it is a reading abroad with translations so that Fern Hill can take 10 minutes to read with its translation, I insist the music is kept to three slots: beginning, interval and end.
Under Milk Wood, a play to be heard – but mostly seen, integrates songs into the text with words by my father and music by his friend, Swansea composer Dan Jones. These seem to work very well and give a little break from the richness of the text in so much that the words are song-like in scansion and use simple, often childlike words. The director Michael Bogdanov was the first to add Welsh folk songs for the glee party mentioned in the play to great effect. Nearly all the productions I see nowadays include additional music such as the UMW Jazz suite by Stan Tracey directed by Malcolm Taylor, a veteran of these productions, played as the audience settles itself and during the interval. These productions I can only recommend but I have also suffered all singing and all dancing(the expression used by one of the performers of Under Milk Wood. On a slightly higher level one hopes, The Welsh National Opera has also approached the literary trustees to sing Under Milk Wood. I await the outcome.
Returning to my experiences abroad, I have now new artistic decisions to make regarding my own poetry. As a result of teaching creative writing to school children in Turin, one of the teachers, Lidia Chiarelli Actis (who later became my official translator) introduced me to her husband, a part-time painter, Gianpiero Actis. He was keen to illustrate some of my poems and in this way we have to date had dozens of exhibitions based on Word and Image.
The local civic council became involved and subsidised events in which painters all over Turin were invited to illustrate a surreal poem of mine, The Object. The response was surprisingly positive with nearly a hundred painters of every imaginative style taking up the invitation. Lidia, herself a poet, has also experimented with a Canadian artist who works over the internet. I wouldn’t be surprised if music will be part of future collaborations.
In conclusion, I have to admit that the cross-fertilisation of the different arts: words, illustration and music can work if thought out and executed sensitively. This appears to contradict my initial assertion that music and poetry (and as it happens images) cannot enhance each other. They can and do as experience has taught me.
AERONWY THOMAS, 2008
Immagine&Poesia…Then and Now
Mary Gorgy Gregory
Immagine&Poesia is an international art movement founded in Turin, Italy in 2007 by a small group of poets and artists, including Aeronwy Thomas, Lidia Chiarelli, Gianpiero Actis and others, who believe that the power of the written word and the power of visual image, when joined, create a new work which is not only greater than the parts, but altered, enhanced, changed and magnified by the union. Since their founding, their ideas have spread and the group has grown to include a wide range of artists and writers from around the world—from fledgling painters, photographers, videographers and promising young poets to luminaries like Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Immagine&Poesia shares in a great heritage that includes many important movements. The manifesto of Surrealism was written by the poet/critic Andre Breton, and came to full voice in the imagery of Dali, de Chirico and Magritte. Dante Rosetti, the poet/painter, founded the Pre-Raphaelites, who found not only inspiration, but a higher truth in the poetry of Keats. Paul Klee wrote poetry; e. e. cummings painted. For which was Blake better known? Perhaps the greatest expression of the marriage is in the sister arts of poetry and painting that flowered in the Zen Buddhist art of China and Japan, including Zenga and the calligraphic works of the Edo period monks.
All art is inspired and informed by other art. It is difficult, indeed, to imagine a serious trend in art that has not found its echo in literature, or a meaningful direction in literature without a parallel path in the visual arts. How can art not reflect its own time and place, its unique world view, and be relevant? Or, as Yeats says, “How can we tell the dancer from the dance?”
It may be that in the beginning was the word, but art has never been far behind. Mankind’s first words were pictures—pictographs of men and animals, sun and moon. Lascaux’s cave paintings and aboriginal rock art tell us of a world where men dwelled among demons to be conquered and gods to be appeased, and life depended upon the success of the hunt. The walls of Egyptian temples employed pictures and hieroglyphs to tell of battles and kings, but their artistry and grace tell a greater story, one of a culture of elegance and refinement never before seen on earth. Renaissance cathedrals and chapels were decorated with scenes from the Gospels and the stories of beloved saints, and the architecture and art took the place of the written word for an illiterate congregation listening to prayers in a language they did not speak.
Throughout history, art and literature, especially poetry and song, its most itinerant form, have been the means for mankind to make his story known. No chronology of rulers or map of borders can tell of human joy and sorrow, longing and fulfillment, for these are the domain of poetry and art.
Immagine&Poesia has renewed the tradition of bringing together artists and poets to create new collaborations and in these collaborations reside new ideas, new vitality, and new ways of seeing. And being, as all relevant art is, a product of its own time, Immagine&Poesia uses new technologies to reach its audience. Through the use of digital imagery and global, always-on communications, artists from small towns in Asia can collaborate with poets in Europe. A painter from South America can join her image to the work of a poet from Wales, and not only will the work be changed by the experience, but both poet and artist will be, too. Like synaptic neurons firing together to form a thought, or tributaries flowing together to form a great river, the collaborations of artists and poets support, as Immagine&Poesia states in its manifesto, “activity, imagination, originality and research.” And through publishing these collaborations, Immagine&Poesia brings to art a new, 21st century, illuminated manuscript, a modern day Zenga to contemplate.
New York, 2010
Poetry and figurative art could lead to moments of Cross Fertilization
Photo Credit: Cesare Dallafiore
|Pittura e letteratura si incontrano|
|Nel segno e nella parola
ARTE CITTA’ AMICA, Torino febbraio 2018
THE SEVENTH QUARRY – SWANSEA POETRY MAGAZINE, ISSUE 25 – Winter Spring 2017
This issue features work from AMERICA, CZECHOSLOVAKIA, ENGLAND, ISRAEL, ITALY, SCOTLAND and WALES. It also features the work of renowned Belgian poet GERMAIN DROOGENBROODT, translated by America’s BILL WOLAK and MARIA BENNET, and a Poet Profile of British Poet CAROLINE GILL.
The collaboration between THE SEVENTH QUARRY PRESS and STANLEY H. BARKAN ‘s CROSS-CULTUTAL COMMUNICATIONS NY continues into 2017.
“The cats will know”, poem by Lidia Chiarelli, image by Gianpiero Actis (Italy)
(CCC Cats Poems Postcard #5 2016, New York)
published on Le Colline di Pavese, literary review, year 40, n. 152, December 2016