Mr Beam and Mr Hicks-Jenkins

So much by way of my collaborations with poets and writers… and theirs with me… happens through the medium of the e-mail. In this way there there have been repeated couplings with my long-time collaborator and word-smithing muse, Marly Youmans, and with the Welsh poet Damian Walford Davies, both of them writers whose published works regularly bear artwork made by me. (And both of them writers who have written published essays about the significance in my practice of image to written word.) Most recently the American poet Jeffery Beam, who I met through Marly… he’d contributed a paean of praise to Marly’s writing on the back-cover of a book for which I’d produced the artwork… have been conjuring a collaboration from the new work for Dark Movements that’s been emerging from my studio. Jeffery has taken images of the maquettes of Jordan Morley, the Dark Movements Toy Theatre and the first completed paintings made for the exhibition, and has produced poems from them that in turn have ignited my imagination and sent me careering in unexpected visual directions in response.

And so the ideas flow between us via the great electronic highways that connect, and the work for a new exhibition coalesces out of words, photographs, conversations, and shared ideas. A regular visitor to the Artlog, Maria from Spain, joins in the conversations in the blog comment boxes, and adds another layer of ideas to what unfolds there. Maria suggests that the tight-fitting lavender gloves worn by the Jordan maquette, together with the play of the puppet’s hands in the images I posted, remind her of the formal language of fans as expressed in a treatise on the subject given to her by her grandmother. Another friend, Jan, joins the debate.

Clive to Jeffery:

Dear Mr Beam

This is an extract of an e-mail between me and a friend. I think our exchange may be of interest you, seeing as you figure so significantly in it. She wrote:

Jan to Clive:

“The latest version of your Jordan maquette is just beautiful, gorgeously, ravishingly beautiful. He (!) must be taking on a life way beyond that you originally imagined for him and the real Jordan must surely be amazed to see himself so represented and transformed –”

Clive to Jan:

Jordan’s responses are insightful. As a performer he knows that those who watch ‘Jordan Morley’ on stage or on video, carry away versions of him that contain only a part of the truth. He understands the processes of transformation. So while he’s enjoying watching my transformations of him, he’s no such fool as to believe they represent the man he knows himself to be. He was taken aback by the erotic aspects of the maquette and the effect it has had on some of those who wrote about it. My friend Maria in Spain left comments at the Artlog about the erotic aspects of those tight, violet gloves, and Jeffery, having read them, started writing the poetry. I began to see the figure in a different way to how I’d intended originally, but that I wanted nevertheless to pursue. Jordan, meanwhile, smiles enigmatically and rises above it all. I think that he’s enjoying it. He has expressed misgivings that anyone meeting him is going to be disappointed, but he knows what’s what, and I think knows how to separate realities from dreams.

Jeffery to Clive:

Good to know that Jordan knows and knows we know that he has become something outside of himself and yet which is also himself. His gift to us has been giving our Imaginations the freedom Blake tells us to embrace, and there we acknowledge and discover him, but also the him in you, the him in me, the you in me, the me in you, the man/men in which we have MELDED.

Jan to Clive:

“My problem now is trying to reconcile the exquisite, be-gloved Jordan and the idea of the ‘swooning’ poetry you’ve mentioned, mainly because ‘swooning’ somehow conjures up Mills and Boon-type pictures of Barbara Cartland with a rictus smile, swathed in acres of pink! Perhaps unsurprisingly the combination isn’t working at all well in my head – and when it does resolve itself the results are such that I can’t imagine that Ms C would be able to find it in herself to approve!”

Clive to Jan:

Ha ha! Well, let’s say that may have been an ill-chosen description by me, though to be frank it was made in jest, partially because I hesitated at that early stage to describe the verse as homoerotic, though clearly it is.

Jeffery to Clive:

Of course we Queer boys know the joke-ness of “swoon” and understood we were speaking of language of laugh and, simultaneously, a language of mystical mythical experience.

Clive to Jan:

Anyone reading Jeffery’s ‘Jordan’ poems… and there are now several, all of them erotically charged… not knowing who the poet was, would find nothing to suggest that they are the words of one man longing for another. They could equally apply to the longings of a woman.

A while back, Maria from Madrid offered an Artlog comment explaining that the play of the Jordan maquette’s gloves in the photographs I’d posted, reminded her of a book, a treatise on the language of fans, gifted to her by her grandmother. Maria, herself now a ‘grandmother’, had recently acquired one of my preparatory studies of naked young men, made many years ago for the Old Stile Press edition of The Sonnets of Richard Barnfield. In an e-mail she described how much she loved the drawing and the sixteenth century poem it accompanied in the book. She was moved by Richard Barnfield’s erotically charged verse, a heartfelt paean to the beauty and allure of a young man. For Maria, the poet’s sentiments spoke both to her, and for her.

I rather like it that three gay men, an artist, a poet and a model/muse, encouraged by a blog-reading grandmother in Spain, can make work that is at once beautiful and erotically charged for both men and women.

Jeffery Beam to Clive:

I am still swimming in glove/fans and wonder if you know of Paul Claudel’s A Hundred Movements for a Fan. It is a work that has inspired me in the past but I have returned to it again, in case there is a Jordan G/love secret therein. The edition I have is actually a British imprint: Translated by American Gay Mystic Andrew Harvey and Iain Watson and published by Quartet Books in 1992.

I’d certainly love to see an English translation of Maria’s grandmother’s book. I wonder if there is one?

Jan to Clive:

“Jeffrey Beam’s poetry sounds intriguing – look forward to encountering it. I so love your multi-disciplinary view of life and art, the dark twists against the child-like (in the best sense, of wonder and fearlessness) innocence.”

Clive to Jan:

In our heads surely all of us are simultaneously many things: child and adult hand in hand, the innocent and experienced journeying together. It’s just that too many forget that, or don’t understand it or express it. But the artists, the poets and the makers… we must express it, if we are to do our jobs.

And here, a brief exchange between me and Jeffery, this time about Maze of Blood.

Clive to Jeffery:

Mr Beam, my long-distance poet/amour/penpal/inspiration, I hope you are well.

Here, the Maze of Blood cover is preoccupying me. I think it likely this will be the only painting I’ll ever get to make of a man who believed his girlfriend to be a cardinal bird, and blew off the top of his head hours before his mother died of tuberculosis because he couldn’t face life without her. Doesn’t bear thinking about too much, though Marly takes even the most unnerving material and stitches it through with the sublime. And here’s me, part way through reinventing her sublime wordsmithing into art for the cover of the novel.

Jeffery to Clive:

Oh that’s a perfect description of what Marly does…”unnerving material and stitches it through with the sublime” I trust she should use that as a blurb.

Clive to Jeffery:

Miss Marly always brings out the unexpected in me.

Jeffery to Clive:

And there you are, as you say, unexpected but perfectly right. Myth and psychology, and psychic tear (read as a rip and a cry).

Clive to Jeffery:

Sending love your way, Mr Beam. I read your Jordan verses and all sorts of heated imaginings roll around in my head. It’s as though you’re standing close behind me, whispering the words into my ear.

Jeffery to Clive:

Well honey, I am whispering… I have been known to do that with soul-brothers over the distance.

14 thoughts on “Mr Beam and Mr Hicks-Jenkins

  1. Pingback: What Lies Beneath: Part Two | Clive Hicks-Jenkins' Artlog:

  2. As I’ve been planning for the Blessing Ritual for Stanley and mine’s marriage in May I have been reading and re-reading, from my library, materials about Eros and Love and Marriage (on the real and mythical levels). We were married in November and our Blessing at Stanley’s Episcopal Church in Chapel Hill will take place a week before our 35th anniversary. All of this “research” and meditation and new life events began taking place around the time Clive and I decided to collaborate on the Beastly Passions project (not mentioned in this round of conversations). Dark Movements overwhelmed me a short time later and I found myself blessedly involved in yet another collaboration with Clive (and there’s another on the back burner yet announced). Clive (Thank you Goddess Marly) and his work had been stirring my blood and heating up my pen for some time before, since Marly introduced me to his work some years ago. I had been in a terrible Dark Night, unable to write much, fearing I was written out completely. As Jordan has become a muse for Clive, Clive has re-ignited the Duende that has always been the source of my work. This morning I was reading in the Winter 1995 issue of Parabola, themed EROS, and today’s reading was an article by Christopher Bamford, “The Culture of the Heart”, an essay on the history and meaning of the Troubadours (a long influence on my own poetry). Reading this, and before turning on my computer to find this delightful summation of the correspondence (and correspondences) between Clive, Jan, Maria, Marly, and myself Bamford offered an epiphany of what is transpiring between Clive and myself: a Troubadour-like romance, and born of it our collaboration. Bamford describes the Troubadour path of love: “we are broken down, burnt up, and resurrected until, no longer identified with and condemned to defend the illusory boundaries of our skinbound selves, we become metaphors, creatures of transference: creators and actors in the imaginal space between form and emptiness, something and nothing, male and female.” And later: “Distance is necessary for desire to become joy. But the wound, occurring at a distance, also indicates that when we fall in love, it is the soul or heart that is opened. A mysterious, magic substance—a fiery ray moving in a look, contained in a world or an overheard name—descends into the poets’ hearts…In these two hearts, it lights a fire that, if tended with patience, obedience, care, and humility, can only grow in intensity from day to day, heart to heart. If obeyed, this fire will make two hearts one…The aim here is joy—holding the wound open, maintaining openness, seeing all things in openness….This is an opening of occult organs to the figures and words hidden in all natural phenomena…Desire must be held in the heart. Love must be of the image alone, a purely psychic event in which one sees all things in the image, the heart of the other. ‘I would rather have desire of you than what a carnal love has, writes one poet.’“ Anyone following Clive’s Dark Movements and its earlier Mari Lwyd paintings is aware of the wound that is being addressed. And now my own wound merged. I know this is what is happening between Clive and myself (that whisper in his ear, his neighing in mine), but also I suspect in his many collaborations with Marly, and with the other artists with whom he has worked. Forgive the length of this comment! I am just overcome with the synchronicity of my reading this morning, and the gift of Clive’s posting.

    • Well, dear Beam-ish, that has set my heart a-rat-a-tat-tatting like a clever horse’s hooves in a sprightly fandango. Synchronicity is indeed the thing. We were clearly aligned, and it was a marvellous coincidence that we luckily recognised and tuned into the moment. It’s plain that you and I have a courtly romance going on, and I love the idea of the troubadour spirit alive and well in our Knightly doings! (-;

    • What a beauty of a text. !!!

      This is not just the troubadour spirit. It is Total Art. What some people of old called “The Music of the Spheres”.

      You can feel the words, deep inside, and be embraced by the images. I can hear the neighing of the horses, smell the smells…

      This kind of thing makes one feel alive and burning with light, and soothed by tears at the same time.

      Thank you both (and Marly too, of course) for making it all available to us!

  3. These conversations are great. I love to be able to feel part of them no matter how unimportant and collateral.

    When my grandmother died, we had to sell her old house in San Sebastián, a huge house we could not afford. Especially because we had all moved to Madrid…

    The treatise on the fan language was not in proper book form, and disappeared in the moving… But I have a book, written in 1900, by Vital Aza, a doctor/cum writer of funny verse. (He also wrote plays and Zarzuelas, which for the most part are forgotten.)

    He has a small piece about the use of fans. The moment I finish with my monday’s terribilis work, I shall translate the verse, and send vía e-mail, to you, Clive, so that you can send that to whomever is interested. I warn you here I am no writer, especially no writer of verse. The translation will be flat, and not funny or inspired, but inspiration and richness of language is something that lives in this blog, and in its friends, so, maybe you can see the use of it.

    And now, Back to work!

    • Maria, I know that Jeffery will love to have your translation, and I’m sure will himself write to thank you for it. Don’t rush. When you have the time.

      I don’t think your contribution to work in progress is either unimportant or collateral. You certainly opened a door for me, and I think for Jeffery too, and for that you have our appreciation. (Well, I know you know the, but it has to be said.)

  4. I, for one, am glad the electronic highways have allowed your imagination to be ignited Clive.

    The result? The Mari morphs from the broken skeletal beast of ‘On The Mountain’ into the magnificent corporeal Pegasus of “The Quickening”, which Phil Cooper described beautifully, in an earlier post at the Artlog, as representing “rich, dark, thundering life”.

    Italo Calvino described creative collaboration (aka “the soul brothers”!) as creating a “centrifugal force – a plurality of language as a guarantee of a truth that is not merely partial”, which is what appears to be happening as “Dark Movements” unfolds before our eyes.

    • Phil’s comment caught at my imagination, too. He’s pretty nifty with words, my tattooed friend and collaborator on Skin/Skôra.

      Yes, the internet has thrown open so many exciting doors, so many avenues to creative collaborations, that it makes me quite breathless in the helter-skelter immediacy and speed of exchange.

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