With this issue of The High Window we are featuring work in which our resident artist, Douglas Robertson, has collaborated with Angela Topping, a poet whose work was included in the very first issue of The High Window in Spring 2016.
Born in Dundee, Doug now lives in Hampshire. An artist and teacher, he has worked on numerous collaboration projects and has exhibited widely throughout the UK. His work is in many public collections, including the Scottish Fisheries Museum and Comunn Eachdraidh Nis on the Isle of Lewis, and is included in the BBC’s ‘Your Paintings’. In pareticular, he has worked on numerous collaborations with some of the countries finest poets, including Valerie Gilles, Harvey Holton, Kenneth White, Christine De Luca, and Andrew Philip. His main collaborator over the last decade has been Donald S. Murray, with whom he has worked on a number of collaborations over the last ten years including two volumes of prose and poetry, The Guga Stone (Luath) and SY Story (Birlinn), and Herring Tales: How the Silver Darlings Shaped Human Taste and History (Bloomsbury). The Guga Stone and Herring Tales were included in the Guardian’s Best Nature Books of 2013 and 2015. The pair are currently working on The Dark Stuff – Stories from the Peatlands (Bloomsbury), to be published in April 2018, and Birdfall, a collection of avian art and poems, also to be exhibited and published in 2018.
He is also currently working on collaboration projects with two poets, Isobel Dixon and Gordon Meade. In the course of their collaboration, Douglas and Isobel are responding to D.H. Lawrence’s poems from the 1923 poetry collection, Birds, Beasts and Flowers! in various ways, and to each other’s work as a result of this contemplation and ‘conversation’ with the themes of travel, encounters with nature, our identity, mortality and otherness. With Gordon, he is following on from their highly successful collaboration Les Animots – A Human Bestiary (Cultured Llama) with another collection of drawing and poems ENDangeRED, which will be published as an artist’s book in 2018.
Previous Special Features
Douglas Robertson & Angela Topping
I have moored a small boat
in a sheltered Shetland bay.
Your name is painted starboard.
The wood is bleached by salt;
oars stowed under the bench,
ready for you anytime.
Push it into the water, step aboard.
Row where your will takes you,
into the green, towards
distant mountains you long to climb.
The cool blubber of waves
laps and sucks in rhythm
as steady as your heartbeat.
Sea birds thicken the air as you beach.
You are drunk on sea smells,
damp scent of mermaid’s purse.
xxxxxxxx This is the life you were born for.
xxxxxxxx Not that narrow place, where you are
xxxxxxxx pinned like a bug in a specimen drawer.
Carry my gift in your pocket.
When you open this rusty tin:
the gulls’ shriek is deafening,
water moves and tumbles,
your feet are bare on ribbed sand,
your hands calloused; the sun
is on your back, soothing, soothing.
When you close the lid again
that world winks out, is gone
but stays within; sea, mountains, sky,
that place of quiet I bring you.
Note: Pocket Noost – a miniature landscape in a tin
Passer, deliciae meae puellae
When wind and earth joined together
to make the sparrow, they set
its toy heart flickering,
its small feet clicking. The breast
was made from speckled foam,
the wings painted with colours
left over from other creations:
burnt sienna, café latte, sludge.
Although the bird’s beauty
was doubtful, it could weave in
and out of hedges, eaves and thatch.
The voice was nothing special:
a chirrup like a giggle fastened
in its throat like a comedy brooch.
Wind and earth baptised their child.
The first fairy godmother named it passer,
the second gave it joy, the third
the greatest gift of all: to be convivial.
The sparrow was a great success,
beloved of a poet’s paramour, able to
hop into human habitations unafraid.
Angela Topping’s eighth collection is The Five Petals of Elderflower (Red Squirrel Press 2017). She is also the author of four chapbooks and several critical books on literary texts. A former Writer-In-Residence at Gladstone’s Library, her poems have won prizes, featured on Poetry Please and been set for A level. Poems have appeared The Poetry Review, The Dark Horse, The North and many others. She is based in Cheshire.