One of the things I enjoy about being at home for Christmas is the way it helps me to see familiar objects in a new light. This is partly a consequence of living in a smallish house; to make space for a Christmas tree I have to move things around a little. This year, the tree is behind the front door. As well as creating challenges for Postie and me (I have to scramble beneath the tree to retrieve the mail as he slides it gently through the flap) it means Dylan’s favourite picture is currently obscured by spruce.
I’ve written previously about Dylan’s love of art and the importance to him of a Munch print that hangs on our living room wall. He ‘talks’ about this image even when we’re away from home and the recollection of it is only in his memory: lamp, curtain, cross on the floor, he says. So I figured Dylan wouldn’t miss Munch behind the spruce; he would enjoy peeking through the branches at it, perhaps. And the process helped other images to step forward. Look at the light on the bubbles Dylan, I said, as I finished rearranging the room…
I don’t know if Dylan (or, indeed, the artist) sees bubbles, but I think of rain on glass or water in a bottle when I look at this print, by the artist Sarah Sharpe. Sarah submitted the piece – entitled Spiritus – as part of a cross-arts initiative in which visual artists were invited to respond to a selection of poems in a newly-published anthology. Spiritus, entered in response to my poem ‘Lighteater’, was one of the winning images.
Sunday afternoon: a west-facing room.
The sun streams through a pane of glass
above the door, casting a column of held light,
a slide of particles suspended in the air.
My silent son moves trancelike into the room –
walks deliberately as if drawn on thread –
cups his palms together then reaches up
above his head – tries to hold the shaft of sun
in his hands – tries over and over, lacing
his fingers tight then unclasping them.
Surely he has seen this play of light
a hundred times? Today he is absorbed by it –
tilts back his throat so that his face lifts softly
like a moth to the source – opens his mouth
and walks forward, arms outstretched, the length of it.
In ‘Lighteater’ I celebrate Dylan’s relationship with the sun. When I look at Spiritus, I see rain. I like the fact that the companionship between poem and print is elemental, rather than literal; this bringing together of light and water seems to me to be at the heart of their dialogue. The pairing of verbal and visual text also helps me to understand something about Dylan; that his fascination with water is perhaps, at least partly, about its relationship with light.
I wasn’t familiar with Sarah’s work prior to the arts initiative with which I was involved. At the event to announce the prize winning images, however, I discovered that one of the influences on Sarah’s work is her experience as the mother of a child (now an adult) with disabilities. The correspondence in our situations feels to me to be at the creative core of the dialogue between poem and print and in our shared identities as mothers and artists.
- Sarah Sharpe’s artwork can be found here: http://www.sarahsharpe-art.co.uk/Sarah_Sharpe/Introduction.html
- ‘Lighteater’ was first published in Scintilla poetry magazine and subsequently anthologised in Antiphon, the journal responsible for the cross-art initiative described here. Antiphon can be found at: http://antiphon.org.uk/
- I also refer to ‘Lighteater’ in this blog post.