Natural Causes - Poems and Etchings
Paul Archer collaborated with the artist Geoff MacEwan to produce a portfolio of poems and accompanying etchings entitled "Natural Causes" published by Sinclair's Press.
The series has been published in two formats - the complete set of nine poems and illustrations in a limited edition hard cover portfolio, and as individual pages which can be framed and hung as artwork.
Natural Causes was launched on the 28th August 2011 on the island of Mallorca in Spain where much of the work was completed.
Please click here to see photos from the Private Viewing.
The poems take their inspiration from man's interaction with nature and how man stands both outside nature looking in but, at the same time, inhabits the natural world, influences it and is subject to natural processes that both confer life and take it away.
The tensions in this relationship is explored through a series of encounters with manifestations of the natural world, whether the summer heat, winter snow or a storm, or with lemons, oranges or a blackbird.
These encounters spur meditations on their impact on our interior life, dreams and memories, culminating in a celebration of the fact that, given the extreme unlikelihood of life existing at all in a vast and largely lifeless universe, we at least had our chance to experience the world we live in.
Geoff MacEwan's art does more than merely illustrate the themes of the poems, it amplifies them and adds layers of meaning. In order for this to be readily appreciated, each individual page within the Natural Causes portfolio consists of the poem on the left and the illustration on the right so poem and image enter into a conversation with the viewer as the central mediator as his eyes travel from the words to the shapes and lines, the lightness and shadows.
Geoff brought his subtle imagination and intelligence, together with his skills as a printmaker, to the creation of this series of etchings that draw on his long and distinguished career as an engraver and painter, and offer increasing rewards the longer they are viewed.
Geoff's work is held in private and public collections including the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, The National Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Library and The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid.
These are the titles of the poems in the "Natural Causes" portfolio:
Encounter with a Blackbird
Summer in Mallorca
Into the Interior
2.45 a.m. The Wind
Lemons on the Lemon Trees
"Natural Causes" is presented in two formats: as individual pages that can be framed for hanging as artwork and as a collectible limited edition portfolio of the complete set of titles.
Individual Pages (price: 120 Euros)
Each individual page contains one poem and illustration, numbered and signed by the poet and artist. This edition is a separate roman numeral numbered edition and is limited to 12 prints of each individual page.
The Limited Edition Portfolio (price: 550 Euros)
The nine poems and illustrations are contained within a bespoke, hard cover portfolio. The edition is numbered and signed by the poet and artist and is limited to 12 portfolios only. Sold Out
In both formats, the individual pages measure 31cms x 43 cms. The plate size of the etched image is 12cms x 16.5 cms. The art paper is Canson/Montvall 300gms.
Please note that the prices do not include postage and packing, which is available as an additional cost. Please email Paul Archer for an order form, or for further information.
Here are some photos of the portfolio cover and a few sample pages:
Bespoke hard cover.
Contents page and limited edition numbering.
Encounter with a Blackbird.
Summer in Mallorca.
Lemons on the Lemon Trees.
All of the nine poems and illustrations in Natural Causes are provided further down this page to give you an impression of the work. Please bear in mind that the photographs do not necessarily convey the full impact of the work nor of the size and, secondly, the poems here are in a standard websafe font for the purposes of this website but on the prints are in Cambria.
A limited edition portfolio of nine poems by Paul Archer and accompanying illustrations by Geoff MacEwan.
Encounter With A Blackbird
Once - while pruning orange trees,
Snipping white wood
Out of lime-green leaves -
I saw a cluster of dead twigs
And stepped up the ladder,
And there: a sleek head,
Yellow beak, rivet eye.
That night I dreamt
She sat on silver foil
And not with eggs, but potatoes
Warm and butter-slippery.
I turned them for her
And stuck them in a pan
To roast in an oven.
Can you eat your own dreams?
Cool before-dawn air slipped in
orange blossom breeze
And a limpid arpeggio of notes.
She had got into my dreams,
Had I into hers?
Mangling into myth
The shock of a giant
Rearing out of nowhere,
Jutting out a mandible
With sharp-cutting jaws,
The don't-move imperative
Countering the instinct
To flee into safe sky
As her glossy-feathered
To lifeless shells.
Hunching over these words
Like new-laid eggs,
Hearing each whistled quaver
From the orange tree,
I listened like never before.
Her song called up the sun,
It tilted over the hill and rolled
Blazing down the valley's slope,
And so I left my words
To fester in their nest,
And stepped onto the terrace
Above the orange grove
Crushed by the racket
Of cars, vans and trucks,
Clanking construction machinery,
The fevered rush of money
As it whistles from this
To that, and, scanning the trees,
Once - our shared space
Shrunk to levelled eyes,
Fighting and cowed -
And then widened
To a respectable distance.
We were humbled, yet
Full of the same pride
As when lovers meet, then part,
And will never meet again
And are wise.
Have you taken a grapefruit from the fridge,
Sliced it open, segmented it with the serrated knife,
Sprinkled sugar on, while stood at the kitchen window
Startled by the first winter snowfall?
Staring into the chilled and crowded air
The tang of the grapefruit smacks
Its truth onto your tongue and throat
As it slips down, slice by slice.
Last night the bald trees were brown,
The grass in patches, the bushes clipped back.
Glamorous snow has caught out the silent birds
And the boy that runs from the back door
In gum boots, hat askew, jacket unbuttoned,
And mother yelling him back, who stops only
To open wide his eyes and mouth, arms
And fingers, to the crystal flakes.
He feels he's happened on a fairy tale's
Deliverance from darkest sleep;
While we, grown older, see the world's shift
As news, like any other unexpected event
That makes the news. We think of slippery paths,
Frozen cars, cold knees and necks
And the inconvenience of ice; we shiver
And switch the coffee machine on.
But did something touch us
Slithering like a soft feather falling into
The spaces between words? And were those words
Like bells chiming in the crystal air?
Then let each day be like a snowy morning,
Even your last on earth, as your spoon delves
Again into the grapefruit, its juices
Dissolving the sprinkled sugar snow to slush.
Summer in Mallorca
The terrace stripped bare of every shadow.
A gecko basks. The sun sheers off
Dimensions and desiccates
The orange trees' leaves, the soil, their roots.
A dictatorship blaring senseless
Propaganda through klaxon sunrays.
A herrador in a ferocious forge
Hammering on the anvil of the earth,
Banging flat the detail of wisdom and words.
And we long for the days of limpidness
The torrente running through melting green,
Frost-fresh air, the delicate peony petals.
This is when humankind expires:
Yes, there's the stabbing chill of winter
To gouge the you from you, the me from me;
But summer heat's a smiling assassin
Skilled in the snake's deceiving arts
As it moves to the kill, softening, stroking.
We return to the house's shaded rooms,
The custom-bound particulars of daily life
With the sun's silent scream at the windows,
Carrying something to show that out of endurance
Some good may come, owing its very being
To the suffering: a basket of ripe oranges
For slicing, for squeezing out the tangy syllables
Of a language that will come to us in dreams
Hanging from limp green-leafed boughs.
Into The Interior
Blame in the incessant voices of the rain,
Praise in the birdsong after the storm.
Tramping where cascades leap and roll,
Clothed in the slow wind from the shore.
Sunrise pulls back the mist and cold,
Streams chatter news from the mountain.
Sunset sends out a dark insect swarm,
Bones make a mattress on the forest floor.
Beyond the last outpost and stony track
Into pitiless wilderness, crunching through
Wastes of ice where frozen branches crack
And ghostly boomers cry: who are you?
2:45 am The Wind
Tugging and tearing -
Backing off - tugging and tearing,
But this is not a terrier.
It's the wind punching at ghosts,
Arguing with itself, railing against
The air it's forced to live in.
Stalking out - silence - back again.
So back from the past
Come bellowing visions.
With restless appetite we
Gnaw at the knuckle of our history,
Sharpening teeth for conflicts,
Or grinding them flat and useless,
Senseless as a rattling house,
As mindless as a banging window.
On a starless night like this -
With the wind's noise blowing through it
With the world's noise blowing through it -
We are the restless ones,
Kept safe from the buffeting
Storm by roofs and walls - but not from
What tugs and tears
And will not leave off, even
In the morning's silent stillness.
My bike's lamp peers ahead
A few yards. Knees pump
Under a plastic raincape.
Tyres swish over tarmac.
Flicking the Sturmey-Archer
Lever to the lowest gear,
Standing to push the pedals,
Zig-zagging the front wheel
Up Imberhorne Lane.
I alone can have this memory
Not some other boy, his sodden
School cap cutting into his brow,
Coasting now as the star-constellation
Of East Grinstead rises above the fields.
The recollection comes and goes
Like the power from the bike's dynamo.
If I pause, the light glimmers down.
The harder I push, the more the lamp shines.
When he comes
Hot-footing up the drive
In those army boots that go so well
With his camouflage jacket,
Will there be a polite rap
Or a heavy thump on the door?
Or will he just breeze in?
Or perhaps, that day,
It'll be the raven-haired
And sparkly eyed
Contessa de Mort
Who whisks you off
Into the night where,
At some glittering reception,
She'll hang lovingly on your arm
And gaze deep into your troubled eyes.
Or neither of them.
Maybe it's more like
Diving down to a girl
Shrieking to be saved
From storm-crushed rocks,
Or an eager boy beckoning
From the end of a sandy lane.
Or an elderly man in a stained
Yellow waistcoat who murmurs
'Well, that's that then,'
As his wife snaps her spectacles
Back into their case and her
Cracked lips whisper
'It's time to go.'
Or none of them. No more
Than standing looking out to sea
On a headland that crumbles,
One foot on land
One foot in air
And you're not there.
Lemons On The Lemon Trees
Lemons like lanterns in the trees,
Tired green leaves, darkening sky.
Not the lemons money can buy:
Not icy yellow, smooth and pristine;
These are swollen-bellied, knobby,
Blotched cream, ochre, green,
Pores like magnified human skin.
Battle-hard veterans, rough outlaws;
Wild beasts that can't be corralled;
Survivors of frenzied African winds
Belting through, buckling their stems,
Blasting their skin with Saharan sand.
This evening as the coolness descends
They glow like lanterns in the trees.
Black out. So black
We have to make light of it,
But there's no light,
No touch, taste,
Sound, scent - no-one.
The temple's rolling song,
Of more to come -
Death crashes into cells,
Chills to the core.
And filthy flies
Strip skin and sinew
From the bones
Of those we knew,
The much-prized curves,
The flashlight nerves,
And those who want death
To crush their cares;
All cut down
To a silhouette,
Then static, silence.
White out. That winter's
White after the dying
Back, making way
For the first cry,
The first stretch of wings.
The blackbird tells us
As she trills from her nest
On a summer's night
That this is all there is.
Her being thrums
As she thrusts
Each note into the air,
Her song resounds
Through our cells,
Stirs in our blood
Our shared ancestry
Teetering on a toe
Over lifelessness -
In the ever-expanding
Flux of gas and mass
And immense darkness,
We are a miraculous
Spark in the dark;
But we can say
We had our chance,
Thank you for taking the time to view this work. If you are interested in purchasing prints of the series, please contact Paul Archer.