Here at Penlee we're very pleased to be involved annually with the Penzance Literary Festival. We have 'a pocketful of poems' in the gallery; pockets full of ideas for writing inspired by the amazing artworks on display at Penlee. Here are some of the results visitors have sent us from this year's Festival.
Stanhope Forbes, father of the Newlyn School,
en plein air, or as much as there is
in the net of back lanes and alleys
that weaves up from the harbour,
shortens the rear leg of his easel
and rams its feet between slicked cobbles.
He stands to one side,
bending a brush to canvas.
So is it luck that we can see
this triptych of painter, painting and subject?
Or is it the set of another pioneer
behind the scene, beyond the frame,
exactly where you stand now
in this gallery corridor?
For sure, he walked up and down
(and for sure it was a he) -
wood and brass spider on his shoulder,
lugging cape and box of silvered plates -
then placed his tripod, his subject, his three models,
as carefully as an artist.
So let us triangulate subjects:
an old woman, hand on a girl's shoulder,
both in best dress, apron, boots, bonnet -
though the lad grinning on the barrow's handles
shows this a work day -
then Forbes, mid-stroke,
fixing his oils.
Then pull back the focus
to the invisible photographer,
and you, the Penlee House visitor,
now pausing at this reproduction
on the way to the next room.
And you notice, breaking the symmetry,
to the left of the frame,
above the dark wool stockings in a line,
by the rugs airing on the handrail,
at the top of the house steps
stands a woman in a pale dress, smiling -
the girl's mother, the old woman's daughter, perhaps?
She stares straight down the lens, to this future,
already Watching the Birdy, already camera easy,
with the reflections in its rainbow glass eye.
Or is she just thinking of the six pennies
her daughter will earn?
Did they pass, hand to hand to hand,
to that shadow in the doorway, half man?
Phil Coleman, 2017
Listen to me, Old Uncle William,
Though your beard is growing grey,
Today is a posing day, Uncle William,
For Stanhope Forbes, Uncle William,
The artist working ‘en plein air’.
He’s painted you all over the town, Uncle William,
From the days when your hair was brown,
Now you are growing old, Uncle William,
Your face is wrinkled, your back is bent, Uncle William,
Though you still have plenty of hair.
So wash your hands, Uncle William
Pull on your fisherman’s smock,
You may sit in a boat or lean on a rock
For Stanhope Forbes today, Uncle William,
Let’s hope the weather stays fair.
Fishing (inspired by Chadding in Mount’s Bay by Stanhope Forbes)
Fishing on a summer’s day
I am with my friends
Satisfied and relieved
Here’s one we think
I give the line a tug
Nobody can stop us
Good old fishing my favourite thing
By Theo Laird, age 9
My pet is asleep,
I not gonna weep,
Is he sleeping or no,
Maybe he could show,
Maybe he’s dreaming of chases remembered,
A sad man who’ll soon be dismembered!
Picture, portrait, black & white,
Early morning, late @ night.
Instruments & chairs of wood.
People posing as they would.
I can’t give any details. I didn’t read
One’s a guy called Forbes? And some
other people’s wives?
I should pay more attention, since I’m
in this gallery.
The cups of tea look very nice & the entry price is free.
On the Bridge (inspired by On the Bridge by Stanhope Forbes)
‘What they looking at’
lost their hat’,
‘No, tis a farthin’
in the water, new it tis,’
‘Are you sure, perhaps
somebody’s dropped it
for a wish’,
‘Where? a farthin’ did
‘Yes, down there,
‘A farthin’, down there
That’s what we’re looking at…’
ANON by SC
Back from the beach by nine
I walked along a stretch of sand
Sea salt in the air,
I watched the waved crash down,
The wind whipping my hair.
The sea shells scattered along the beach,
Little caves hiding in the dunes,
And gorgeous flowers, just out of reach,
dancing in full bloom.
I watched the fishing boats,
hauling in their catch,
and the tall, standing lighthouse,
lit by a single match.
I stared at the dolphins jumping in the bay,
As the sea overtook the sand that once lay,
I saw the seals rolling on the rocks,
listening to the gulls loud, disrespectful mocks.
I was supposed to be back by nine,
Turns out it’s ten,
It flies doesn’t it?,
By Ella Bailey, aged 12
My son Alec in uniform (Inspired by A portrait of my son Alec in uniform, 1916)
I wasn’t aware it was the last time,
my pride was an unconscious veil,
His face was so young and so sublime,
Though weathered with war - a battered sail.
I saw his eyes filled with joy,
now I see the sadness
he was no longer an innocent boy,
but on the verge of madness.
His lips were sealed; serious,
but, really, pursed in hate.
How could I be so delirious?
It was clear he knew his fate.
His nose was flared. With prejudice?
But no; from the scent of blood.
Now my son is gone,
He is lying in the mud
His head was held high.
I believed in glory,
only now do I see,
a completely different story.
By Amelie Harris
Fish flipping and fighting for their last breath on cold, wet sand.