Sunday, 1 November 2009

Altazimuth Press at the Oxford Fine Press Book Fair

My Altazimuth Press and Tom Paine Printing Press will be showing their products at the Oxford Fine Press Book Fair next weekend (7th/8th November) at Oxford Brooks University. Altazimuth Press products include Kings Cross, Thames - The London River, Afghanistan - A Journey, The Euston Arch, and Ypres Willows. I'll also be showing some semi-abstract typographical posters which I've printed on the wooden 'common press' (see below).

What a hectic summer it's been! The Tom Paine Festival in July, printing Paine's 'Case of the Officers of Excise' (limted edition of 30 copies) in August, Lewes's Artwave Festival in September and more printing in October (including Paine and Lewes Bonfire broadsides).

The opportunity has come up to move the Tom Paine Printing Press to a shop in Lewes High Street - No.151, opposite the Bull House where Paine used to live and work, and the Westgate Chapel (Unitarian) where he was married. I'm therefore moving the Press from the Market Tower (with grateful thanks to Lewes District Council for providing the space there since the end of June). It will take me several weeks to complete the move, as I have to dismantle the wooden 'common press' very carefully, and re-erect it in the new premises.

The High Street shop will be called 'PRESS', and will also act as a retail outlet for the Press's products, and also for prints and artists' books by local and other artists and printmakers.

I was very fortunate to be given a printer's 'random' or cabinet for typecases, by Graham Moss of the Incline Press, along with some type and other equipment. I also obtained some more type - metal and wooden - from the now-closed Printing House museum in Cockermouth (north end of the Lake District). I'm still very short of the 18th Century 'Caslon Old Face' type, so if anyone out there has any to dispose of . . . ? Or indeed any metal or wooden type.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Artwave, artist's books nearing completion - Rosenberg & East London Line

Isaac Rosenberg - see Rosenberg artist's book below

Whitechapel UndergrounD Station - see East London Line artist's book below

I'm demonstrating the printing press (the wooden common press) in the Market Tower, Lewes, during Lewes's Artwave Festival every afternoon from Friday 28 August to Friday 4 September inclusive.

As well as the Tom Paine material, I'm also using the press to print the text and blocks of some of my own artist's poem & image books, including Rosenberg (the Whitechapel poet and artist, who was killed in the First World War), and The East London Line (inspired by the current redevelopment of the old East London Railway from Shoreditch through (or rather under) Whitechapel, Shadwell, Wapping, Rotherhithe and Surrey Docks to New Cross and New Cross Gate).

Saturday, 2 May 2009

A S Byatt, The Children's Book, Trench Names and Rats Alley

Antonia (A.S.) Byatt has not only read my Rats Alley book about trench names, but has used it (and acknowledged it) in her research for her new novel The Children's Book, published by Chatto & Windus. She also has one of her characters write a poem about these names - this poem was also published recently in the New Yorker. Her book will be launched in London in mid-May, and she will be speaking at the Charleston Festival on Sunday 17th May at 2.30pm. See below for some of my poems, from my Willow/Wilg/Weide/Saule (Ypres Willows) book. I'll post a poem I wrote in 2005-6 (while I was writing Rats Alley)about trench names when I've found it!

I'm still working on my poetic photobook on The East London Line. Apropos this, I was at the reopened and refurbished (rebuilt? extended?) Whitechapel Galley last Thursday, and was shocked to see that just inside the entrance to what used to be the Whitechapel Library (now part of the Gallery) are two posh restaurants. Upstairs is a small exhibition dedicated to the life and work of 'The Whitechapel Boys' - Isaac Rosenberg, mark Gertler, Jacob Epstein, etc. They'd be turning in their graves if they could see the place now!

Willows Poems

Shock of Recognition, Pilckem Ridge

Blood-dark, stark against the sky
are war’s images we carry from photograph’s still grain,
the film’s foolery of the eye, a painting’s pigment,
the landscape sweep of panoramas . . .
Their shapes jolt vision, shake sense, dislocate;
these fields were, are.

Tree-fans of high explosive smoke erupt from fields
where willow rods now claim the sky.
Spring’s lanyard jerks at the breech,
a green fuze triggers spurting sap’s gaine;
willow fingers start their splaying trajectory.

We are in the killing zone, once quick with death’s dawn timetable,
its tide marks of cartographic plots:
the field guns’ creeping and standing barrages,
the machine gun barrage,
the bombardment by trench mortars,
by medium and heavy artillery.

Here men flounder over fractured earth,
through nets of wire,
through air roaringly reticulated;
flayed by a burning sleet of lead,
scouring shrapnel balls’ fiery hail,
a steel scourge of splinters.

Napoleon’s Fifth Element, Passchendaele

Earth, rooted;
Air, breathing and dancing;
Fire, all around;
Water, the life blood;

The Line of March, Messines

Static sentinels,
or stalking figures, up the track, along the hedge;
then in open order,
shaking out into line
or artillery formation.

their rods
explode into the sky.

Ancient Pollards, Ploegsteert
(‘Old willow boles, rarely sound and falling about untidily,
continue to shoot vigorously’)

Spiky, hoary polls -
the old sweats, who once fired
fifteen rounds rapid.

Rotting, raddled corpses,
And survivors, old wounds healed
around shell splinters, steel rods, concrete,
screw pickets, wire barbs.

White Willows, Cross Roads Farm

Some white willows are weeping,
their lashes stroking the moat’s breast,
dropping tears.

Bat and Ball; drawing a blank

The backs of the leaves flicker white in the wind
as a ghost, or an angel, passes;
the felled tree’s flesh glimmers with the pallor of a shroud.
Sawn straight from it, the undressed white willow slab, square cut,
like the round which will not kill
is called a blank (not ball).

Reading the Runes, St Yvon

How to read the brown hare,
lored with wicca and moon,
breaking in February’s sunshine over the plough,
along no man’s land, from the trees around the flooded mine crater,
from the wired brushwood by the concrete pillbox sherds?

Trees as text
or as signs, symbols;
conventional signs on the map –
the dots penning the flowing beke,
shoring the still dyke or pool?

Read their linearity, their punctuation,
their studding, their scatter in the landscape.
What information do they yield, these willow patterns?
Some deep, ancient pattern of cultivation, of mulch and tilth,
of gabion, wattle and revetment against the rushing water,
the drilling rain, crumbling bank.

That here Flemish farmers fought the rheumy clay
to work their root crops and pastures,
seed their land,
plant their rods, harvest the osier crop
along the ditch, around the teeming pool and moat.

They line the cultivation, mark the gutter,
form field boundaries, divide lush pasture from clay plough.

Or that here was a battle
leaving a hecatomb of corpses?

The Quick and the Dead
(with acknowledgements to Robert Graves)

A tree of enchantment,
the moon’s willow is the fifth tree,
one of the seven wise pillars, with their planets, days and letters,
one of the seven noble, sacred, trees of the grove.
Its branches waving at the fifth month
start May Day’s orgiastic revels, spring magic dew,
urge the season of the renewed sun.

Helicë, the willow sacred to poets,
names Helicon, home of the Nine Muses,
wanton priestesses of the Moon-goddess.
Mount Helicon’s willow fairy, Heliconian the Muse (the White Goddess),
waves her willow-wand,
starts the wind whispering inspiration in the willows,
puts poets’ minds under a strange and potent influence.
Mystically eloquent, Orpheus received his gift
by touching willows in Persephone’s grove;
outside the Dictean Cave the Orphic willow grew.

Water-loving willow, goddess of wells and springs;
witches went to sea in willow basket-sieves, sailed in riddles,
the liknos, used for winnowing corn, telling the future.
Poseidon, to whom a Helicean Grove was sacred,
led the Muses, guarded the Delphic Oracle, before Apollo.

Belili, Sumerian White Goddess, was a willow-goddess of wells and springs.
Beli, her divinatory son, a Sea-god, tutelary deity of Britain - his ‘honey-isle’.
A god must commands its waters –
the grey Narrow Seas, green Western Approaches, blue High Seas –
before he can rule an island.

Weep, willow, for your lost lover;
wear green willows in your hat as a sign;
and as a charm against the jealousy
of the Moon-goddess.

White Moon-wood, dove, barn owl;
Willow’s landscape is the terrain of death, of the White Goddess,
whose prime orgiastic bird – the wryneck, snake-bird, cuckoo’s mate,
spring migrant hissing like a snake,
nests in willows.

Europë on coins from Cretan Gortyna,
sits in a willow tree, osier basket in hand, made love to by an eagle;
is Eur-ope, of the broad face, the Full Moon,
and Eu-rope, of the flourishing withies, Helice, sister of Amalthea.

The ancient word for willow
yields witch, wicked, wicca, wicker;
at Fricourt, by no strange transposition,
Wicket Corner became Wicked Corner.

Druids offer human sacrifice
in wicker baskets
at the full moon.
Rods sprout from willows’ polls, make baskets ensnaring the moon.
Flints knapped to willow-leaves,
inscribed with crescent moons,
are funery.

Willow is sacred to Hecate, Circe, Hera and Persephone,
the Triple Moon-goddess’s witch-worshipped death faces;
so you haven’t got a chance, boys, in the willow landscape.

Willow service

Trussed with rust-barbed wire,
they stand
as fence posts,
supports for notice boards,
field boundaries;
revet the stream banks,
yield rods, poles, firewood,
nests for birds,
lashed cross-branches skied crows’ nests,
cross-trees for storks, kites;
hiding places for children in their crowns,
for owls in their hollow skulls,
a little shelter against rain’s lashing,
shade for picnics and lovers.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Peter Chasseaud at Arnolfini, Euston Arch, Erotic Cabinet, etc

I'm showing my poetic photobooks at the Arnolfini in Bristol this weekend - Sat 4th and Sun 5th April 2009. This is part of BABE09 (Bristol Artists Book Event), organised by Sarah Bodman at the University of the West of England. The images above I took while doing fieldwork at Camden for my Euston Arch book. Also the one below:

I produced this book in 2008, after which I started The East London Line, based around the Shoreditch - Whitechapel - Shadwell - Wapping - Rotherhithe - New Cross area. This is still in the pipeline (!). I'm still working on other projects, including the Erotic Cabinet:

I've been very busy so far this year getting my Tom Paine Printing Press up and running, and also recently (March 2009) doing landscape work in Belgium with archaeologists on the site at St Yvon, near Ploegsteert:
This shows a huge lump of concrete and steel reinforcing rods, the remains of a pill-box probably dating from 1917-18 in the old British front line at St Yvon.

Friday, 13 March 2009

The Art of Lost Words at the German Gymnasium, Kings Cross

Talking to Rebecca Pohancenik, the curator of the inspiring 'The Art of Lost Words' exhibition, at the PV at the German Gymnasium, Kings Cross, on 6th March. 'An exhibition of new design and illustration inspired by language's forgotten words.' Rebecca asked each of 46 artists to produce a visual response to a lost word. See the Text/Gallery website:

I was in London showing my Kings Cross poetic photobook to galleries, and took this opportunity to revisit the railway land redevelopment area. The landscape has changed since my last visit - as always. But this time the big shock was the absence of Culross Buildings (see photos below), which have been completely demploished. Culross was such a feature of that railway landscape that, apart from one of the StanleyBuildings and the German Gym, there is nothing left in that once-fsacinating space between Kings Cross and St Pancras. Argent, the developers, have a huge model of the railway land on the ground floor of the German Gym, and this shows which of the old railway buildings on the Kings Cross goods depot site will be preserved - luckily quite a lot.

A photo I took in 1967, looking from Kings Cross across the suburban and Metropolitan platforms towards St Pancras, with the German Gymnasium and Stanley Buildings in the middle distance, and Culross on the far right of the photo.

This is a photo I took in 2004, from York Way (old York Road, and before that Maiden Lane), looking across the Kings Cross station area to Culross Buildings. I made a film of Culross Buildings, and the streets around Kings Cross, shortly afterwards.

Friday, 30 January 2009

Tom Paine's Birthday, Use and Take Care

29th January was Tom Paine's birthday (he was born in 1737), so I arranged for Andy Gammon, the artist and designer, to ring Gabriel, the town bell, to commemorate the event, and also mark the bicentenary of Paine's death in 1809. Thanks to John Crawford, Chief Executive of Lewes District Council, for making this event possible.

The Market Tower in Lewes, during the bell-ringing

Andy Gammon preparing the medieval bell, Gabriel, for the bell-ringing

Inside 'Use and Take Care', a wonderful shop run by artists and designers in the Needlemakers, Lewes, on the corner of Market Street and Market Lane

Chiara Bianchi in her 'Shop of the Artists', 'Use and Take Care'
Some of Chiara Bianchi's beautiful products

Monday, 26 January 2009

Peter Chasseaud's poetic photobooks at the Works on Paper Fair, Covent Garden

I'll be showing my poetic photobooks in the 'Covered' (artists' books) section of the Watercolours and Drawings and Modern Works on Paper Fair in the Old Flower Cellars (formerly the Theatre Museum) at Covent Garden from 4th to 8th February 2009. Opening times are:

Wed 4th 3-9
Thurs 5th 11-9
Fri 6th 11-8
Sat 7th 11-8
Sun 8th 11-5.30

Books on show: Kings Cross, The Euston Arch, Thames - The London River, Afghanistan - A Journey, Willow/Wilg/Weide/Saule (Ypres Willows)

Cable Street, Hand & Eye Press, Shadwell & Wapping

Last Friday, 23rd January, I visited Phil Abel at Hand & Eye Press under an old railway arch at Pincin Street, just north of Cable Street. There are some images below. I walked along Cable Street to Shadwell, past the sadly derelict Crown & Dolphin and Britannia pubs, as far as Shadwell Station on the East London Line, and then turned south following the line of the East London Railway running deep below (the route is marked by a road and a wide public footpath, studded with huge brick ventilation shafts which, up to the 1960s, helped the steam and smoke of the locomotives to escape). After crossing under the old Radcliffe Highway, the railway then passes under the bed (now dry - a park) of the Eastern Dock of the old London Docks) on its way to Wapping, Brunel's Thames Tunnel, Rotherhithe, Surrey Docks and New Cross/New Cross Gate. After fish and chips and a pint of London Pride at the Prospect of Whitby (which I first visited about 1964) on Wapping Wall, I retraced my steps to Shadwell, and then followed the East London route further north as far as Whitechapel.

The London Hospital, opposite Whitechapel Station

The magnificent Albion Brewery building in Whitechapel Road (27 Jan 2009)

The old East London Railway Shadwell Station building (27 Jan 2009)

Brick ventilation shaft just south of the newer Shadwell Station (in the distance)

In the Eastern Dock, London Docks

The Crown & Dolphin, Cable Street

Phil Abel, at Hand & Eye Press, operating one of his two Heidelburg letterpress machines

Hand & Eye Press publicity poster

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Lewes Bowling Green, Tom Paine and the Minotaur

Lewes Bowling Green and its Pavilion, with the Norman castle looming above

Just emerging from hibernation after some freezing weeks, flu, etc. It's been a lovely bright, sunny and relatively warm morning here in Lewes. I spent two hours as a guest of the very friendly Lewes Bowling Green Society playing bowls on the beautiful green in the Castle grounds. Tom Paine used to play bowls here in the 18th Century. The woods, made of lignum vitae (a very heavy, dark, hard wood) have an inbuilt bias, and you have to learn by experience how to bowl using this bias, curving the wood up or down hill, and towards the jack, from an initial line which is to left or right of the jack. The green, which looks deceptively level, in fact slopes in several directions simultaneously and, with its rises and dips, is a treacherous and irregular terrain. This is probably the most beautiful and magical part of Lewes, so it probably won't be long before the planners allow it to be ruined with some totally inappropriate development (as is happening with the Gun Garden, owned by the Sussex Archaeological Society).
After this I had fish and chips for lunch, and a couple of hours at the Kings Head with the Headstrong Club irregulars drinking excellent Harvey's bitter, which is brewed here in Lewes. Then to the secondhand bookshops in the High Street (Bow Windows and Cummings), in one of which I found a nice copy of Michael Ayrton's Minotaur book for (Sir) John Tomlinson (one of the irregulars), who created the part of the Minotaur in the Birtwistle/Harsent opera premiered at the Royal Opera House. This year John will be singing Michaelangelo's poems, set to music by Shostakovich, Baron Ochs (Hamburg), Fafner, Hagen and Hunding in The Ring at the Met (New York), and lots of other stuff.