Poet & Painter: Helen Jagger and Michael Moss

entry picture

Cornwall for our many visitors is perhaps mainly bucket and spade, surf, ice-cream, and, inevitably, crowds. But what those of us who live here value most are the empty landscapes and seascapes, at their most eloquent in the off season - and these are the subject of this beautiful book.

Michael Moss has a widescreen cinematographer’s eye and excels in the use of colour. He transports us dramatically or lyrically into the heart of the wild. You can see some of his work at this website.  

Helen Jagger, founder and eminence of the Indian King writers group in north Cornwall, has worked with many of the local artists on themed exhibitions, writing as they paint, on the moors or by the sea. A trained botanist, her writing always displays a deep bond with nature.

Here, she is reacting in several different ways, sometimes glancingly, to the already created work of Mike Moss and always producing finished vivid poems, one for each image. Occasionally the poems swim in the image to great effect.

Ekphrasis, or the description of a work of art, is only a starting point for her, and she plays often with the divergence between words and the visual, as in An Iteration of Water’s “syllables of rain”, or, elsewhere, “that scraping light”, “the scratching dance”, or rejoicing in the local name for yellowhammers, “scribble larks”. In her poem ‘Heron’, her form mimics the picture of the standing heron, in profile, with its long beak:

 

 

     eye-lined

                    monochrome

     stock-still

 

     neck-still

                     hunched into grey-shawled

     shoulders

 

 

Jagger often imagines herself into nature, becoming the bird or the flower, the fish or the tree. She is an immersive and immersing poet. In the final poem, ‘Possessed’, freed from the visual, the “kaleidoscopic frenzy”, like Daphne in the myth she becomes a laurel tree:

 

                 Deafened by birdsong

     I dwelt in my own rich forest,

     for once my body knew this richness

 

Anyone who turns the pages of this art book with poems, or poetry book with art will grasp the richness of Cornish wildlife and of Cornish art.

Terence Dooley

 

Helen Jagger and Michael Moss, Poet & Painter, signed limited edition of 500 copies available from helenjaggerpoet@btconnect.com, £10 plus £1.54 pp

 

 

 

◄ Too Brave to Dream: RS Thomas, Bloodaxe

Write Out Loud at Stockport art gallery tonight ►

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