The Blog of John Walford, British-born, but long resident in The United States. I am an art historian, currently studying satire in Netherlandish art, an amateur photographer, and occasional writer, who writes here about art, photography, and the human condition--some of it 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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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Flickr's redoubtable UU (dou_ble_you)'s "NeverMORE"


NeverMORE, originally uploaded by dou_ble_you.

"Tomorrow More Than We Expect"

Night, we allow, it must be dark; its secrets hide
In deep shadows; none intrude, except by way
Of dream. Lone Paul so found her and did chide,
"Why lie you so sulking? Night is for play?"

Swimming seed may leave traces for the morrow,
But, by then, Paul will be elsewhere, brush in hand,
Some other South-Seas mermaid under command,
The first, fatter, cold, alone, abandoned, only sorrow.

Dare then UU write of sweet tomorrows, or only
That they hold more promise than we dare expect?
For how was today: drifting through time, so lonely,
Sleep our best escape, laughter lost to sad neglect.

Whence then came blind words like "faith," "promise,"
And "expect?" Expect what from whom, from where?
Promise whom? Where's trust? And faith - it's premise?
Like the wind, felt keenly, unseen, spirit of the sphere.

-- JW, for UU, on receiving a most welcome, and surprising, Pre-Raphaelitian gift!
American Thanksgiving weekend, Nov 27-28, 2010

Thursday, November 25, 2010

My own "Each His or Her Own Secret, 2010"

"Each His or Her Own Secret"

Hers, for the taking, was beauty, glamour, wealth,
And fame, deceptive rewards such life delivered.
How many bored, and lonely housewives, trapped
As they thought, in domestic monotony, dreamed
That their lot had fallen like hers, all for the taking!
Her secret? Some promising features, hair dye,
Eye shadow, lip stick, a face lift, and dental floss.
What did she gain? The world’s attention – her loss.

His, through much heart searching, struggle, pain,
Unseen, unwatched, in the darkness of the night.
Alone, even amidst family and friends, in a battle
Fought in the soul – almost alone – but not quite so!
Unseen, guardian of the believer’s soul, in doubt,
Yet holds our head just above the raging waters;
For buried deep within the stony tissue of hearts,
A fount of living water flows yet unseen – our gain.

Fix your gaze on Carls-berg, consider its granite mass,
See from its side flow forth, first blood, then living water.
Choose well your hope – unfailing streams, or dental floss.

-- John Walford, for Carl Wilder, Thanksgiving, 2010.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My own "Remembrance & Thanksgiving," 2010

(This was a table centerpiece for a dinner party that took place more than a year ago. I just could not throw it away, and it finds a new setting among the fall leaves, still possessing a radiant, though faded beauty).

"Remembrance and Thanksgiving"

Will it be the same round of turkey, sweet potatoes,
And the feeling of excess - while others go short?
Will it be the same old family gathering, the same jokes?
And an undercurrent of covert digs, jest, and teasing?
Will we drink the same wines, in the same sequence?
Or could it be that this year's Thanksgiving will excel?

There is in truth so much for which to give thanks.
Two new grandchildren safely delivered to this world -
And both flourishing. Other grandchildren, also thriving.
Much for which to give thanks, and thanks we will give.
Even trials and sorrows have yielded to peace and joy,
Even cold darkness has yielded to the return of warm light.

Yes, we will give thanks; we will all give hearty thanks.
Be thankful for one another; for home and shelter,
For food and employment; yes, thanks for activity -
Activity that sometime strains the nerves, stresses
Out, and wears us down - yet for the gift of rest, for
Week-ends, and sleep, for restoration, we give thanks.

Thanksgiving calls for remembrance, and such is
Bitter-sweet. For so is all existence, like these flowers:
Once fresh and radiant, now dried and faded. Once
The centerpiece for a celebratory meal, now set aside -
But not yet abandoned for good - for still it offers itself
To the patient, thoughtful eye - as, indeed, do I!

--JW, Thanksgiving, November 2010,
my last before retirement from full-time teaching.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My own "Longing, Pain, and Choices," 2010

"Longing, Pain, and Choices"

I was a young man, dreaming, and she a maiden,
But from different worlds we came. Our families
Spoke not to one another; would not, thought
They should not, for such was deemed improper.

The "proper" sort, well-bred, rich, I knew full well,
Smart in dress, empty heads, their ranks were swell.
I scoured these belles, but dull and empty, dry shells,
Never needed they to search, to strive, to think well.

What comes with ease, does, with ease displease.
When nothing can for granted be taken, or received,
The soul ripens, the mind grows strong, and, yes,
Fine character from such challenge is perceived.

Such treasure did I stumble on, in secret met,
Down in the woods, inside the hollow tree.
Two souls, for each other made, the glee!
And yet, my father said, she's not for me.

Which force the stronger be - love or family?
And where does loyalty owe its last allegiance?
How does a young man know to set his course?
When passion, instinct, with conformity clash?

Are our elders always wiser? Lived longer,
But by what star have they set their compass?
Are the young always so short-sighted?
Lived less, but what if they have seen the star?

That star, once shining in the East, wise men saw,
And followed to their destiny, with no regret.
And thus did I, have I, and will I, till I die,
And never once did know sustained regret.
--- JW, for Maria, thinking of August 1972.

(This grew out of memories of a work by Max Ernst, Vive l'amour (Le Pays Charmant), 1923, St Louis Art Mus, Miss. Ernst's painting depicts a couple enclosed by a tree-like structure, in a landscape, feint echoes of which underlie the image of this young couple.

With sincere thanks to Constance and Mercer S., for patiently modeling, also with their parents' consent.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Flickr's h.koppdelaney's "Apart," 2010


Apart, originally uploaded by h.koppdelaney.

"Mesmerized"

What is it about a person staring at a person staring,
When we are staring at the person staring at a person staring?
We become by them mesmerized, and share their stillness.
--JW, for h.koppdelaney, Nov. 10, 2010.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Jan Laurens Siesling's "Die Blaue Blume," 2010



"Die Blaue Blume"

It started with a seed, but how did the seed
Get started? How did the seed know its need?
A protective pod, to keep off what? Bees? Birds?
Rain for a season, and then a season for rain.
Some instinct to swell in warm, moist soil,
And the desire to push down deep roots,
Down into rich, moist soil, down into darkness,
Bending round rocks, and avoiding worms.

Once dug down, and rooted, ready to go;
Ready to reach up to the light again.
Breaking ground, now sensing sunlight,
Risking a little green shoot, thrust air-born.
How wonderful the freedom, to rise up,
And sway in the spring winds, growing stronger.
Arms and legs put on some muscle, and extend,
Pushing forth buds, bulging with promised bloom.

Bloom, bloem, luxuriant flower of the dawn,
Twine your sinuous tendrils around a trellis,
Cling for your life, open your blue canopy,
And there you have it – full-fledged, fragrant --
In all its fresh, resplendent morning glory:
Die blaue blume – bleu, blue, and blooming!
Bursting from its curving, dancing, sappy stem,
Nodding its jolly face towards the light of life.

What inner force turns her face to the sun?
What force opens her blue, curving canopy?
What imagination forges a floral umbrella –
With delicate, frilled edges, so feminine, so frail?
Who wound blue threads so succulently soft,
On such a slender frame? Who its pliant stem?
And then… who cares to walk around behind,
Allured by light, filtered blue, blu, bleu, blaue?

- It turned around, and bloomed for you!
-- John Walford, for Jan Laurens Siesling, Nov 7, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Flickr's NYC.andre's "Life's simple and priceless pleasures"

"Fountain of Youth - Test of Character"

Never mind that tall towers block further passage;
Never mind that manicured trees must make do -
Spaced between the concrete, and railings.
Never mind the other kid, who has taken off his shoes.

All that matters, is that one boy, entering, yet hesitant,
Seeks the thrill of the soaking, yet hesitates. He's
The cautious type, apprehensive, he knows that
It might just be a tad too cold - who knows for sure?

And so, tentatively, head tilted, arm tilted, knee too,
Drenched in filtered sunlight, still yet himself dry,
Body braced to fend off the worst, absorb the best,
He enters the fray, and is cooled by the spray.

--JW, for NYC.andre, Nov 7, 2010, for impeccable timing,
and a masterful grasp of human actions.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

My own "Rotting Log Cradle," Fall 2010


Rotting Log Cradle, Fall 2010, originally uploaded by johnwalford.

While my mind keeps reflecting further on this piece, made over the weekend, it seems but ten words this time suffice:

With the leaves, fall the seed;
Each Autumn promises Spring.
--- JW, Nov 1, 2010

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John Walford

John Walford
Not All That Meets The Eye

About Me

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United States
I am a British-born, art historian, teaching 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. I am currently studying satire in Netherlandish art. 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 eight 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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