Friday, 12 April 2013

Who Could Be Blue?

The title of this entry refers to a Sondheim lyric from Marry Me A Little:

Who, who could be blue,
Knowing there’s you somewhere nearby.
When anyone feels your glow,
Their low has to get high.

Following my last rather serious post, I wanted to say that my low has been lifted by many encouraging friends.  It’s a truth universally acknowledged that any artist in possession of some form of talent must suffer for it.  This may not really be true, yet I find myself quoting Graham Greene with increasing frequency…
“I wonder how those who do not write, compose or paint can manage to escape the madness, the melancholia, the panic fear which is inherent in the human situation.”

And so, I write.

It’s no surprise to me that in this Cruellest Month the ‘Art Hunter’ app launched by National Galleries Scotland features a ‘blue’ theme.  I became aware of this when I saw a painting from Picasso’s ‘blue period’ tucked among the 15th/16th Century European Masters at the National.  At the Modern, in From Death to Death the juxtaposition of work from the permanent holdings with pieces from the Daskalopoulos collection demonstrates darker elements of the human condition.  Rodin’s The Kiss, recently planted in Edinburgh, may seem to present an erotic celebration of life, but there is a sinister story behind it.  
And at the Portrait, The House of Annie Lennox shows the pleasure and pain of an iconic artist and talented musician laid bare. Next week, I will perform one of my poems in the Hawthornden Lecture Theatre, in the prize-giving event for Inspired? Get Writing!  Reading your own words in public can make you feel extremely vulnerable, but at least I feel confident that my poem was good enough to be awarded special merit in this extremely popular competition.  And, as coincidence has it, the poem contains an accidental reference to an Annie Lennox lyric: a ‘miracle of love.’ 

Sometimes I think it’s a miracle that Art and Love survive at all in this barbaric world.

The fourth in my sequence of poems on tones of blue is a mother, a parent, an artist, not simply letting the fledgling fly the nest but actively casting it out into the big, bad world.  You could say, throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  Joni Mitchel talks about the coyote who, having raised her young, reaches a point where she bites its nose and says, ‘off you go: fend for yourself.’  The poem talks about fours: the Gospel-writers (symbolically), the humours, elements, archetypes, and temperaments. 

Conspicuously absent, ironically, is the colour blue.  As Sondheim says,

          Long as there’s you with me,
          the only thing blue is the sky.

Twelve Tones of Blue

Canto IV

             Send them out!
            Into the four corners of the earth.

The blood-red earth, dry
but for the laughter
of the sacrificial ox, led
to its sanguine slaughter;

Yellow earth, inflamed
with the choleric rage
of the rampant lion,
Its mane a fiery crown;

Phlegmatic in the cool sky
the eagle's wits perceive -
swoops a green-coated catch,
gobs its guts for greedy chicks;

Over the blackened earth,
moist with melancholy bile,
the angel weeps in ludic
gravety for divine insanity.

          East and West, North and South:
          Send them! Send them out!

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