Permanence – Porthmeor studios

One of the reasons why I haven’t written much over the past few months is this little thing. ‘Permanence’ was a work commissioned by the Borlase Smart John Wells Trust to celebrate the legacy of Porthmeor Studios.

Permanence - Porthmeor Studios

The Studios sit on Porthmeor beach in St Ives, facing the Atlantic. In the late nineteenth century, fishermen worked in the building to press pilchards and mend nets. As the fishing industry began its decline, artists started to arrive in the town, lured by the extraordinary light. Porthmeor’s net lofts became studios, and over the course of the twentieth century artists such as Ben Nicholson, Terry Frost, Wilhelmina Barns-Graham, Patrick Heron, Tony O’Malley, Francis Bacon and Sandra Blow worked there alongside the fishermen who continued their trade. Lack of maintenance and a century of formidable coastal weather took its toll upon a building barely more than a shed built up from an old sea wall. The Studios were close to collapse before funding was secured two years ago to renovate and rescue it.

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What struck me about Porthmeor Studios, even more than its history, was its vitality. It’s still a working space for artists and fishermen, and art classes take place regularly in its upper studios where the St Ives School of Painting is based. My fellow editor Paul Tucker and I researched Porthmeor’s history and wanted to contribute to its phenomenal output. We commissioned local poets to write original work, interviewed key people involved in the renovation, and even did a little bit of writing ourselves. Finally, we teamed up with the talented and dedicated illustrator Rebecca Jones and super-designer Dan Bloomfield to create 400 copies, each with a special die-cut cover. The Trust will soon put these on sale.

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More information about the renovation can be found here.

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Poems about the air

This past week, on two occasions. I’ve been struck by the air.  Summer has been quite a letdown in Cornwall – it’s been a letdown across the whole UK.  I’ve always associated July with being summer fully ripened – heat, humidity, vegetation everywhere, air conditioning everywhere.  A bit of heavy rain and thunder, sure.  Barbecues and outdoor furniture on discount at the supermarkets, long evenings.

A receptionist said to me on Thursday, “Apparently, it’s going to be September.  That’s when the summer’s coming.”

Some can’t wait that long, down here.  People are beginning to get a little depressed.  I’m just happy to be by the sea, It’s still a novelty for me, so the gloom hasn’t filtered through just yet.  I’ve got no holiday planned, and no leave from a job to spend wisely anymore.  I’ve been living here in Falmouth for ten months.  I’ve been a student with a fairly unstructured daily routine for ten months.

Perhaps that’s why these poems came out this week.

 

 

Whilst waiting for the branch line at St Ives

In the shallow, honeyed song of hidden high birds

In the outbreaths of Porthminster’s shore

And in how my fringe slurs its forehead lick

In lethargy, I feel

The air of a town

Remote to so many

Yet baring itself, unobject, unsubject, to me.

 

Whilst running through Falmouth In July

As I ran, I played scientist.

Each breath in became a sample,

Each sample a question:

Could it be this scent, or this taste,

that makes me think of Wales?

 

On I pressed,

Cornish pavement to Pembrokeshire track,

English Channel salt crashing with the Atlantic

On black Aberfalin stone.

It hung on me like old love,

Tender to taste, fresh to breathe,

And as I looped Falmouth streets,

I knew:

 

Two barometer needles, was all,

Tapped by a finger on glass, huddled close to.

It was an overlap.  Memories on two sheets of acetate,

on an overhead projector, that I watched

Cross-legged

On a chair

In an air-conditioned room

In an office on an industrial estate –

 

So now there’s Rotherham, too,

And I ran around there, once, kicked through

July growth on a rare footpath,

a stump of two miles between

wheat fields and corrugate,

The sea an imagining I threaded

And left there, like a dropped spanner,

Between the two.