The Blog of John Walford, British-born, but long resident in The United States. I am a retired art historian, an amateur photographer, and occasional writer, who writes here about art, photography, and the human condition--some of it attempted ekphratic poetry, responding to works of art. This is to be a site for words and images, interacting on one another, as vehicles of human expression.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Jostling For Immortality, 2003

Jostling_For_Immortality_2003, originally uploaded by johnwalford.

Jake Boer, of Wheaton College, sent me this poem by Richard Wilbur about Rome:


Those who said God is praised
By hurt pillars, who loved to see our brazen lust
Lie down in rubble, and our vaunting arches
Conduce to dust;

Those who with short shadows
Poked through the stubbled forum pondering on decline,
And would not take the sun standing at noon
For a good sign;

Those pilgrims of defeat
Who brought their injured wills as to a soldiers' home;
Dig them all up now, tell them there's something new
To see in Rome.

See, from the travertine
Face of the office block, the roof of the booking-hall
Sails out into the air beside the ruined
Servian Wall,

Echoing in its light
and cantilevered swoop of reinforced concrete
The broken profile of these stones, defeating
That defeat

And straying the strummed mind,
By such a sudden chord as raised the town of Troy,
To where the least shard of the world sings out
In stubborn joy,

"What city is eternal
But that which prints itself within the groping head
Out of the blue unbroken reveries
Of the building dead?

"What is our praise or pride
But to imagine excellence, and try to make it?
What does it say over the door of Heaven
But homo fecit?"

---Richard Wilbur

To which I briefly respond:


What city is eternal?
What written over
Heaven's gates?
Not "homo fecit."
But other words,
Words formed
On the lips of those,
Whom tasting mercy,
And savoring
A loving God,
Are driven to forge
Words more fitting
To lips that lie,
That kiss in lust,
That must measure
Their mortal frame,
And then utter:
'Solo Dei Gloria."

--JW, for Jake Boer, January 24, 2009

Massimo Greco, Italy's "Feather"

Sorry - Photo no longer available.

Seeing this photo by Flickr's "Massimo Greco, Italy" reminded me of evening moments on the beach at Viareggio, Italy, and prompted these lines:

"A Feather in the Sand"

The mothers and children,
Who played long on the beach,
Have all returned home for supper.
But for the one who lingers,
After the others have gone,
What a gift!
Dappled sunlight,
doing its last dance
Over the waves,
Before moving on,
To bless other people,
In other lands.
The waves, calming
After a busy day,
Full of children's
Voices, splashing
In its waters.
The sand, still warm
Under foot,
Gathered in little
Pockets of shadow,
Where once young
Feet, heaped it
Into sand castles.
And there, left behind,
One solitary feather,
Catching the last glow,
Of sinking sunbeams.

--John Walford, January 24, 2009,
in memory of quiet, evening walks
on the beach, at Viareggio, Italy.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Helen 'Rongzoni' of Flickr's "A thickness to the air"...

A thickness to the air..., originally uploaded by Rongzoni.

Helen's work, so sensitive to light, stirs my imagination:

"The Other Side"

Through that alluring gap,
Beyond the bushes,
Lies a world, yet unexplored.
Its light so dense, so blue,
Veiled like a bride,
Before her spouse to be.
Waiting, ready,
For adventure;
Waiting, tenderly.
--JW, 1/12/2009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

High fashion shops

High fashion shops, originally uploaded by maurice flower.

Hans (Maurice Flower)'s High Fashion Shops

Hans always has an interesting photograph to share with his Flickr friends, often those of others whom he thinks we should see, and occasionally one of his, as this one. Coming at the New Year, and appreciative of his desire to share what he likes and thinks we will like, I dedicate these few lines to him:

'Behind The Facades"

Behind all the tinsel,
Behind the glowing lights,
Behind the elegant facades,
Inside, what can be found,
But passion, hatred, envy,
Intrigue, and the beauty
Of a couple in love.

--JW, 1/6/2009, for Hans, with best wishes for 2009.

Friday, January 2, 2009

"domido's" ALMOST A KISS... 2009

ALMOST A KISS..., originally uploaded by domido.

"Almost a Kiss" - uploaded to Flickr by "domido," Jan 2nd, 2009

The sparkling radiance of this image inspires in me the following:

When a kiss is not a kiss,
But "almost a kiss,"
The body, full of tremors,
And heated anticipation,
Longs for it, even for a word,
For an open door,
A suggestion,
An invitation,
Not quite extended,
But almost......
Anticipation, hope,
Desire, disappointment,
The senses quivering
Like so may lights,
Jumping and flashing,
As torches blazing
In the darkness.
Almost a kiss,
--JW, 1/2/2008

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Shadows Fall on Eden III, 2008

"Shadows Fall on Eden": Reflecting on the moment of transition: 2008-2009:

View On Black

2009 years, but a mere slither in the larger scheme of things. Yet we all continue to yearn in the same old way, to beguile each other as others before us did, to fight each other for what the other has, which we suppose we need more than they do, and few live at peace, either with their inner selves, or with those around them. Most would rather avoid Monday morning, and most are relieved when Friday afternoon comes around, and all have to relieve themselves from time to time. Those are my thoughts as the hand of the clock moves across the midnight hour, on December 31, 2008, and tells me, in twelve clear chimes, than 2009 has now arrived. Little else changes.

My Flickr friend, dou_ble_you, of London, commented on the above:

"beautiful image, confusing message... it's written from a position of somebody who has very established way of life, including secure job. Otherwise, why fear Mondays and enjoy Fridays? the best days in our lives are the ones we can't recall if they were any particular day of the week at all... to live at peace with yourself you must be a madman or a dead man - or an enlightened Buddha... living at peace with the others is a true challenge, which no religious, political or social system seems to be able to achieve. This is what we should be aiming at in the coming and the following years - reach out and let live!

John, my best wishes to you from the bottom of my heart my Friend!!!!"

To which I responded (to him and other commentators):

"Thank you all for these thoughtful, and interesting responses. Yes, dou_ble_you , it is true that I write from the context you describe, but I am attempting to give voice not necessarily to my own sentiments, but to those I find in "Elk" - "Everyman" --much as Bruegel did in his generation. And yes, I write of that to which we all aspire, but never reach, this side of the pearly gates. Thank you, also, UU, for your deeply moving greeting for 2009, which is reciprocated. You have stretched my thinking so many times, which I consider the most precious of gifts that one person can extend to another---even over the internet! '

Which, in turn, brought this rejoinder, from Howard Duncan, another Flickr friend, from Canada:

"John and Andrew (dou_ble_you), Thanks for the interesting contributions. These snatches of thought shared by strangers from around the globe are a tribute to flickr and other similar websites. The world has become a different and better place. Howard"

To which I responded"

"Indeed, Howard, but the same medium allows others to spread terror with far greater speed and efficiency, so there is, as always, a trade off. But, yes, I am very thankful for it, and having gone a full day with a broken internet connection, I know just how addicted I am to the cyber-world--even to turn in my grades."

All this to say, for any who have read thus far, what a great medium we have for stimulating one-another's minds and creativity, finding kindred spirits in far off places, even if where we live and work is far too sterile--as it is in my case.

Wishing all kindred spirits a flourishing 2009, and an end to recession.

Friend connect


John Walford

John Walford
Not All That Meets The Eye

About Me

My photo
United States
I am a British-born, retired art historian, who taught in the USA; I studied law, in England,1964-68; worked part-time in the art world, 1968-69; then studied art history at the Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, 1969-76; completed my Ph.D. diss. at the University of Cambridge, 1981; moved to the States in 1981, and have since written, or co-authored, other books. My wife, Maria, was born in Milan, Italy, where she worked as an interpreter, in business; she spent seven years in Switzerland, at the University of Lausanne, 1963-70. She came to Amsterdam in 1971, and we soon married. She is a wife, mother, literary critic, of Italian (and French) literature, and completed her Ph. D. diss. in 2002, at the University of Chicago, on Cesare Pavese and His Critics. We have three married children, and twelve grandchildren, all of whom we excessively adore! I welcome dialog about art, photography, human behavior, beliefs, and motivation from all comers, regardless of race, color, gender, orientation, values, or beliefs. This is to be a site for words and images, as vehicles of human expression, around topics of mutual interest.

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