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Exhibit 20

October 26, 2018

On Saturday 21st July 2018, Maureen and I attended the Lady Chapel at Chester Cathedral for the launch of a brilliant new Chester Poets anthology from Cestrian Press, Out of The Ark, edited by Julia D. McGuinness.

The anthology arose from the Gallery Pangolin exhibition of contemporary and modern sculpture, ARK, hosted by Chester Cathedral from July to October 2017, the largest exhibition of its kind in the north-west of England.

Out of The Ark is a truly gorgeous book, printed on glossy paper with colour photographs of exhibits alongside the poems inspired by them. Maureen has two poems included, ‘The Duel’ (inspired by Nick Bibby’s ‘Red Deer Stags: The Duel’) and ‘Mother’ (inspired by Barbara Hepworth’s ‘Hollow Form with Inner Form’).  I have a haibun included (inspired by the exhibit named in the poem).

The launch, led by Julia, was a proud moment for all of us attending to read our work, and a moving one for me personally as I began my working life as a 15 year old apprentice electrician at the Cathedral in 1962. The master electrician I worked with told me upon entering the Cathedral for the first time: “Only our best work will do in the Lord’s house.” His name was Herbert and he was a hard task-master.  I only hoped he’d have approved my poem.

Here it is:

 

EXHIBIT 20

1962:

Blown in with flying leaves, a boiler-suited boy advances up the workmen’s passage at Chester Cathedral, hands poised for the split-second draw that’ll end with imaginary six-shooters spinning in triumph.

2017:

Back for an exhibition of modern sculpture, a poet now, he’s ambushed by a pair of eyes that shame him.

Jack Cornwell, the boy in the memorial photograph, was a gun layer on HMS Chester, just sixteen-and-a-half years old when he died before his mother could reach him in hospital; died of injuries sustained at the Battle of Jutland in 1916. He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.

organ music

a whiff of incense

a cough

Exhibit 20 is the one that really gets our poet, Joe Rush’s ‘War Horse’, a massive horse’s head fashioned from military waste with a mane of red-tipped bullet-shells. The white candle with black wick might have been extinguished in a dying snort.

He spins his imaginary six-shooters as he hasn’t since a boy and his eyes smart with tears.

a changed man

maybe not

but cogs are turning

 

Paul Beech

(‘Exhibit 20 was first published in Failed Haiku: A Journal of English Senryu, Volume 2, Issue 24, 1st December 2017.)

 

Copyright © Paul Beech 2017, 2018

 

 

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From → Events, General, Poetry

2 Comments
  1. Maureen Weldon permalink

    ‘ Just thought I would glance at your website Paul and was captivated by a memory we both share, that of writing our poems in Chester Cathedral in the Summer of 2017 during an exhibition of modern sculpture, called ARK
    We had been invited by Chester Poets to write these poems which were exhibited in the Cathedral and later to be published in an Anthology ‘ Out Of The Ark’ Cestrian Press.
    Your poem Paul, a Haibun ( inspired War Horse ) , mine ‘Mother’ (inspired by Barbara Hepworth, ‘ Hollow form with Inner Form).’

    Glad I glanced, lovely memories.

    From, Maureen xx

    • Thank you, Maureen. Yours is truly a comment that means so much to me.

      I shall never forget it either, that Sunday afternoon we spent scribbling away in the cool tranquillity of Chester Cathedral, sunbeams streaming in through stained-glass windows, you sitting before Barbara Hepworth’s beautiful bronze, me wandering between Joe Rush’s tribute to the war horses of WWI and the Cathedral’s memorial to that brave boy sailor Jack Cornwell VC.

      Just a week later, how proud we were to have our work included in the Chester Poets’ ARK poetry display in the South Transept. Certainly my 15 year old self, an apprentice electrician working at the Cathedral in 1962, could never have foreseen this!

      Aye, happy memories…

      With love from

      Paul xxx

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