The High Window Resident Artist: Stella Wulf

Claire Jefferson (who writes under the pseudonym Stella Wulf) was born in Lancashire, but grew up in North Wales. She moved to France in 2000 where she and her husband bought a large derelict property at the foot of the Pyrenees. Living on site and tackling one room at a time, she is now, more than twenty years on, banging in the last nail and working on plans for a new-build project.

Despite a lifelong love of poetry, Claire came to writing late in life in an epiphanic moment whilst painting doors. It became an obsession fuelled by Jo Bell’s 52 group, culminating in a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing, from Lancaster University.

Claire is a qualified interior designer, but it is only with the luxury of time that she has been able to pursue her passion for painting, exhibiting in several galleries and selling her paintings worldwide. She also designs the cover art for 4Word Press which she co-edits with Lesley Quayle.

Stella’s poems have found homes in many journals and anthologies and she has a pamphlet, After Eden, which is available from http://www.4word.org and A Spell in the Woods, which has just been published by Fair Acre Press  and is available here.
You can see more of her art work on her website http://www.stellawulf.com

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Vis-à-vis what I wrote in the Spring feature, that ‘it’s never too late to learn new skills,’ and that ‘rules are there to be bent or broken,’ I was moved by an impulse to draw, something I haven’t done for years although I’ve kept my hand in with the occasional life drawing session. Long wet winter days and covid restrictions have provided the perfect excuse for me to ‘do my own thing.’ Armed with a set of pens and a cartridge pad, I set to, learning techniques (or making them up) as I went along. The end result of this spate is A Spell In The Woods, an illustrated pamphlet of poems. I also had the pleasure of working with poet, Graham Mort on an illustrated feature in The Clearing, an online journal published by Little Toller Books. This new passion has filled my days with joy and gratification and I now have a growing portfolio of work.

I hope that some of the drawings here might inspire someone to pick up a pencil or pen and head off on their own unexpected journey.

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NIGHTLIFE

After night’s fall when the bruised day dies,
we are unfaithful sleep, minds uncloseted,
skeletons through which the wind sighs.

I am the shoulder on which the night cries,
the furrowed brow, a breast pearled in moonlight.
After night’s fall when the bruised day dies,

voles tremble, mice quake, owl’s fancy flies,
moon slick as cream robes the limbs of trees,
skeletons through which the wind sighs.

I am the realm that never sleeps, tapetum of eyes,
bristle of whisker, whiff of musk, the dank bite,
after night’s fall, when the bruised day dies.

I am the burning holes in a pocket of sky,
a bolt—a halt—the lightning strike on asphalt,
skeletons through which the wind sighs.

We are the foxtrot, moonwalk, shadow-dance prize,
cradles of flesh and bone rocked by chance,
after night’s fall when the bruised day dies,
skeletons through which the wind sighs.

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PIGS MIGHT FLY

He made her a bed from fallen willow,
turned the greenwood of its wedlock head,
pillowed it plump with a bolstered sham.
He sewed her a cover of rough spun yarn,
stitched her in time to his cold comfort farm.

She smarted with the salt of his keeping,
wept buckets of tears at every squealing,
till she and the pigs were steeped in the brine.

The homespun wives came at full moon-shine,
touting black cat tales, concoctions, notions.
She bought their threads a-penny-a-thought,
wove the silks to a web of schemes,
fixed it high in the wishing tree.

He said she could leave when pigs might fly
but she and the pigs wanted earthly things,
some ground to nurture their budding dreams.

She made him a bed under candlewick cover,
a pillow of loam to cradle his head,
rocked him to sleep neath the wishing tree.
There he will lie till the pigs grow wings.

‘Nightlife’ and ‘Pigs Might Fly’ are poems and illustrations from A Spell In The Woods.

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FEMMES FATALES

Be fearless, my mother always said,
it takes more than long legs
and fine bones, to get on in life.
She showed me how to draw a line
between courage and bravado,
a slight aimed at my father,
a common or garden sort,
overawed by her audacity.
I watched him eaten up by it.

Insatiable, as children are, I fed on her
scriptures, learned to push boundaries,
abseil the steepest inclines,
bivouac on precipitous planes,
to sling my hammock over the abyss,
with courage, dexterity and finesse.

But for all my prowess, I find
it is lust that captivates a man.
A slip of silk clings to the body,
inflames him, sets his heart racing,
turns him into a quivering jelly.
Such power is intoxicating.

Sometimes, I leave them dangling,
weak creatures that they are,
just to see them squirm.
And when they’re subdued,
I cocoon them in a false
sense of security.

My biggest thrill is to watch them sleep,
to spin my dreams through their hair,
skitter light as air over closed lids,
lashes silky as spiderlings,
to pause on the lip, feel the breath
of air hushing from the moist cave
of an open mouth,
to step fearlessly into the dark.

This Owl & Spider illustration is from The Clearing where it accompanies Graham Mort’s poem, ‘Arachnid’. I hope he’ll forgive me for commandeering it for my own spider poem, which is from the anthology, No Spider Harmed in the Making of this Book, by Arachne Press.

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ANTHROPOCENE

The world grows round on greed, hungers for more,
scales tip with pickings of the rich, scraps of the poor
left high and dry, the synapse snapped like a brittle twig,
kindle for the need that consumes like wildfire.
Our earth burns, sick with fever, its lungs collapsed.

We thought time was ours to kill, to hang
like a trophy on immutable walls. It let us run
free as sand through an infinite glass,
until our shadows grew long, never thinking
it would turn against us.

How sublime we are, how supreme,
to outweigh nature in her balance.
We are soon to meet ourselves in our ruin,
while we sit back and wait for the brewing
of our perfect storm.

We are a squall blown out by its own puff,
Earth slips from our greasy palms, time turns
in a winding sheet. Death, with its heavy humour
restores the balance, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

We have kissed time goodnight, switched off
the lights, yet we won’t rest easy beneath the sods,
but turn like milk in a curdling sun, the future
souring above us. Our shadows are cast
in stone. May we never rest in peace.

Hare populations have been on the decline since the 1960’s, habitat degradation being the main cause of species extinctions.

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CHARMS

It never did lie well with her,
that swathe of starchy crispness,
shrouding the glacial valleys of their bed.

He likes cotton, plain and simple,
buttons her up in dimity checks, pintucks
her into a homespun wife.

Threading her dreams through Cleopatra’s eye,
she thrills to the whisper of charmeuse,
succumbs to the crushing passion of a velvet touch.

Her lover likes silk, the cling of a bias
that drapes her curves. Undoing her resolve,
she steps out of her plain-weave guise.

They meet every week in the Plush Hotel,
tie their loose ends in a lover’s knot,
unravel the fibres of a workaday life.

She spins a yarn through the needle of her days,
cuts corners for her patchwork of Providence.
A complex arrangement of charms,
is how she lays it out.

There’s an irrefutable correlation between the craft of the quilter and the craft of the poet. The quilter draws on her ragbag of charms, those little squares of fabric gathered from cherished moments, memories, and experiences; a scrap of wedding gown, a remnant of a child’s dress, a snippet of christening robe. The poet draws from the fabric of life; her accumulation of observations, memories, and experiences. Both draw on the simple joy and beauty of pattern, repetition, colour and harmony, to express their thoughts and ideas. The end result when all of these crafted pieces have been stitched together is a complex arrangement of charms.

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3 thoughts on “The High Window Resident Artist: Stella Wulf

  1. I bought this pamphlet as soon as it came out last year. It’s a beautiful thing. The images and the poems could each stand alone, but they don’t subtract from being together. That’s a harmony that is difficult to achieve.

    Like

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