Some Poems that I’ve ‘Illustrated’ (or Have Inspired Me to Make Paintings)

sunflower watercolour
‘A Perfect Beauty’ watercolour – 2012 – A4 prints available


(Adam Cope – ‘A Perfect Beauty’, watercolour 2010, A4 prints available).

Here’s an excerpt :

A perfect beauty of a sunflower! a perfect excellent
lovely sunflower existence! a sweet natural eye
to the new hip moon, woke up alive and excited
grasping in the sunset shadow sunrise golden
monthly breeze!

Berkeley, 1955


renen char image illustration
‘De Moment en Monent’ Adam Cope – Oil Painting – 1997

 René Char – De Moment en Moment

“Pourquoi ce chemin plutôt que cet autre ? Où mène-t-il pour nous solliciter si fort ?
Quels arbres et quels amis sont vivants derrière l’horizon de ses pierres, dans le lointain miracle de la chaleur ?
Nous sommes venus jusqu’ici car là où nous étions ce n’était plus possible. On nous tourmentait et on allait nous asservir.
Le monde, de nos jours, est hostile aux transparents. Une fois de plus, il a fallu partir…
Et ce chemin qui ressemblait à un long squelette, nous a conduit à un pays qui n’avait que son souffle pour escalader l’avenir.
Comment montrer, sans les trahir, les choses simples dessinées entre le crépuscule et le ciel ?
Par la vertu de la vie obstinée, dans la boucle du temps artiste, entre la mort et la beauté.”

Poème de René Char, extrait de sa préface de “La postérité du soleil” d’Albert Camus

From Time to Time

Why this path rather than that one? Where does it go to, in urging us on so strongly? What trees and what friends are living beyond the horizon of these stones, in the distant miracle of the heat? We have come right up to here because where we were beforehand was no longer possible. One was tormented and enslaved. The world of today is hostile to the Transparents. Once more, we had to  leave …. And this path, which resembled a long skeleton, led us to a country which could use only its own breathe to climb up into the future. How to show, without betraying them, the simple things sketched out between the sunset and the sky? By virtue of obstinate life, in the ring of the Time of the artist, between death & beauty.

René Char 1949 (translation adam cope)

peter porter poetry watch tower warsaw uprising oil painting
‘Our Stormy Mother Europe’ – Oil Painting – 1994

Peter Porter – ‘Europe, An Ode.’1970

(‘Our Stormy Mother Europe.’ Adam Cope. Oil on panel. 1994. Sold)
I can’t find an online version of the poem but it ends like this:
There for the fallen Gothic Museums glow,

Enthusiastic doubt like sun motes

Turns to dandruff on old shoulders:

At the start of the world, the beholders

Find the permanent kingdom and this Peninsula, its rational Europe

Where the blood has dried to Classic 
Or Gothic, cinema names in aspic.

But the giant iron is ours, too: 
It flies, it sings, it is carried to god — 
We come from it, the Father, maker and healer,

And from Oviraptor, the egg-stealer,

Launched in the wake of our stormy mother

To end up on a tideless shore

Which this is the dream of, a place

Of skulls, looking history in the face.
I read this in the early nineties, when Pax Europeana was disintegrating at the borders with the break up of Tito’s Yugoslavia. We watched on as ethnic cleansing came once more to Europe. The tower in my painting is the watch tower from which the nazi SS quelled the Warsaw Uprising…. Our Stormy Mother Europe.

It has been said that the beautiful form Leopardi gave his nihilism negated the validity of nihilism. I would say that even though cultural dissolution is Porter’s main subject, the quality of his treatment of it demonstrates that the moment of cultural dissolution is not yet.    – Clive James

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