Monthly Archives: May 2020


we are stuck on leaves and lapels

faraway tide we splash and in awe and love 

kiss the air and run the waves

the trembling molecules caught dancing to jazz

faint as you like

 the lights are dimmed

laying still and then some all alone 

your voice is and will 

transpire cracking along the frequencies

i dive free and hold in love 

breathless to be 

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Picasso and Paper review – an accumulation of sacred relics | Art ...

a bird bathes and flutters 

slow as you like 

the sudden gust scatters 

all but us

dust and attention drifts 




a steady steady 

composed in three movements 

breathe heavy and strung high

forgotten sky trails

announce a new normal  and never before have i felt so sick

the birds return . They live here too 

hearts and flocks

doorways to memories 

cling to clarity 

our living stasis




in haste we name the corners 

of our collaborative speech 

ordering dates and times

switch the view and fly

the air broken as we strive

blue is so rich and green variable 

we call out to each other 

deities in sackcloth

our wish to wild and seed the ground

enact the language of retrieval

taking solace in facts

the slow scroll to self realisation

the days trapped in lyric form

only longing to hold court and laugh and fly and pass the memories 

being greeted by foxes 

amber flames of speed 

into the street we run

Oh on out lips and tongues 

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Hands 2007: Tom Raworth pointing the way

Hands 2007

In 2007 Raworth started a new project entitled Hands, in which he photographed or videoed his left hand every day pointing or gesturing towards something or someone. The result was two stop motion videos: one from the month of February and a longer one encompassing January until September. Hands reflects many of the ideas that recur in Raworth’s poetry; a series of images taken from Raworth’s point of view of his hand as it gestures towards various objects or scenery, the video is made by collaging these together to create a sustained and coherent form of individual expression. It brings Raworth’s world into focus in a way that is always mediated by the artist himself. We see what Raworth sees or, more precisely, we see what he selects for us. Moreover, with his hand outstretched gesturing and pointing, what we see first and foremost is Raworth himself; we see the life he leads, we see his family, his friends, his daily routines and the places he visits. Hands is a snap shot, a “rough cut”, of a larger project which extends throughout 2007 and possibly beyond. Hands is also illustrative of Raworth’s wider concern with documenting his life and interests through photographs, which can be seen in the countless images of books he is reading on his website and the nearly 13,000 photographs that have been uploaded on his public Flickr site since 2004. This overzealous act of documenting his life is an important fact to consider when reading Raworth’s poetry, because despite the speed and fragmentation of the form, the poetry is deeply rooted in his everyday lived experience.  

Hands offers readers a visual example of a number of the formal techniques Raworth uses throughout his poetry. The two minute and twelve second video consists of images and footage of Raworth’s left hand, pieced together in a stop-motion animation overlaid with the sound of John Dowland’s song “stay, time, awhile thy flying” from A Pilgrim Solace. Like many of Raworth’s poems, this video uses fragmented pieces collaged into a subjective lyric experience. By documenting precise moments from the perspective of an individual, over a period of time, this video further reinforces Raworth’s use of the ‘lyric I’. It quite literally gives the viewer a daily snapshot of Raworth’s life. We are shown a series of single moments from his perspective. However, this experience is still mediated by Raworth who, with his arm outstretched, is guiding our line of sight. We are both seeing through Raworth and guided by him. Moreover, the combination of stillness, created by the constant recurring image of Raworth’s hand, along with the predominantly still life scenes, and the speed at which these images are pieced together coupled with the instances of movement in the background, offers an experience similar to that of reading Raworth’s poetry. 

Hands echoes the speed and sharp shifts of attention that are common in Raworth’s poetry while still managing to create an overarching personal narrative. It contains a vast array of content as it flies through short moments of Raworth’s daily routines. Scenes range from mundane images such as a bathroom sink, books he is reading, recycling and gardening, to more personal moments such as family visits, grandchildren and a visit to a grave. A recurring theme comprises of images taken from and in different modes of transport. Images of cars, trains, bikes, canals, planes and boats add to the speed of the piece by showing Raworth on the move. The idea that Raworth is navigating the world around him is furthered by the number of different locations in the piece; at least four different countries are identifiable: England, America, Italy and Ireland. 

Another recurring theme of Hands is depictions of ageing and ill health. Throughout the video piece we witness Raworth holding his glasses, using a walking stick and visiting health clinics. These episodes, coupled with the flickering of time passing, allude to the idea of someone’s life flashing before their eyes as they die. The balance of stillness and movement, along with the fact that we only see Raworth once in a reflection, gives the pieces a ghostly aura. Raworth, aware of the fact that he is ageing, is reflecting on the life that he has built with his own hands through his career as a writer. The final image of a man with his young child implies that the world is no longer Raworth’s but instead belongs to the next generation, presumably, in this case, his son and his grandchild. It is not so much that Raworth wants us to remember him, more that he is trying to imprint these memories in his mind, safely saved in digital format. However, even if they are recorded, the moments themselves are gone, changed to nothing more than fading memories on a computer screen. The decision to use music by Dowland, who referred to himself in the punned title “Semper Dowland, semper dolens” (always Dowland, always doleful), echoes Raworth’s sense of loss. This idea of moments lost and fading memories help us to think about the speed of movement in Raworth’s poetry, where every attempt to describe an experience takes longer than the moment itself, meaning that no matter how fast it is recorded,  the experience is already gone.  

Hands is not a well-known piece of work, nor is it central to Raworth’s overall practice. However, its incorporation of ongoing concerns and themes in Raworth’s work allows readers another way in which to engage with Raworth’s work as a whole. Central to Hands, and much of Raworth’s poetry, is the tension between the experience of the individual subject – the author – and that of the reader/viewer. Raworth is there, but he is only there in part. Furthermore, the rapid fire of images offset by stillness is a feature of reading Raworth’s poetry. Every line demands our complete attention while pushing us forward onto the next line, leaving us feeling as if we have lost something important en route. Hands may not explain Raworth’s poetry, but it does provide another piece of the complex puzzle.

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we were light enough to carry 

faint along the wind

as we wait for the end

without uttering the facts as they are written 


if you,  year on year untwine the faintest sense of guilt 

the is no direction 

    just distance

along the route 

i find myself lost 


despite being called to testify i am not sure how this works

this list is sick

the liar a prick

there – cut to the dress

my face a road map

who needs eyes when the world is blind

when workers are sent out to die

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where we are    now

is a state of mirrored goals

taking deep breathes and and

finding our feet in relation to history

and        and

seeking solace in the fact

that our lives contain a garden

and space

and regular delivers


these walls were built

when people were given, what I consider, the very basics

what I have

is what you should have

and and

what we should all have                is time in the sun

the birds come

and gather and eat and fly away

and I feel a great sense of loss

if this was a TV show

soft doleful notes would accompany me

for fates and friends       hang in the balance

the lines caught in the breeze

the turned earth

a sign

of progress


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Cities (working title) #7

The destruction of the imagination is the shifting light and breeze. To separate interruption from time is to die on the hill holding an empty bottle of sand. I cannot hold a tune or the space we have departed but I can recall the names of objects let out in the sun. We hold truth in ferns and other forms of life that outlive the use of certain words and greetings. When we say good bye, I will lower my head and weep allowing the wind to reseed my grief. There is no end to the flame the fans the movement of emotions in real time. I can not decide. Is ‘river’ a noun not being solid or abstract but there – always being different. You are a river broken from the confines of our plural collective sense play. Now sing me a song of six pence and shortly after we will reach out across the seam and exchange fivers before the world is turned over.

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Cities (working title) #6

The tiny petals crease the tear drop and I break into a list of verbs. My action is absolute and caught in the fix. Where there is water there is the chance to change the molecular structure of poetry and expelled air. We all dance the single swing and turn regret into mulch. Bitter seeds grow in bitter ground and I fail to call forth the voyages of Brendan the navigator or that Greek fella who just wanted to go home. We all have a story, mine is not worth listening to and that is ok. It has been heard before. I cast nets and sails and thousands of tiny pieces of colourful paper before consulting my maps and the tears of the prophets. I cry too and find the simple interactions with mathematics and celestial beings impossible.

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Cities (working title) #5

I strike off along the urban expanse – a contradiction in terms as the warm embrace envelops the very words I speak. I am overcome with emotions as I watch 51 raindrops unfurl. Precision is the key to life everlasting or the slow match to death but I don’t recall which. We sleep on command and I can never tell if the dream is ours or mine alone. Where does one pronoun end and the other begin when we are all being transported through the history of architecture? Where does my sense of colour differ from the line drawn in the sand? I have questions and concrete pillars reaching skywards but the reflections of light leave me numb.

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