Sunday, 1 January 2012

casual sunny november post (unfinished)

'It is really very nice
to be in London on a sunny November day
and calling at Compendium to see Nick
who gives me nice new book by Fielding Dawson
(Jim Burns, 'Casual poem')
At the Oxfam book & music shop in Marylebone High Street, sunny Saturday 19th November: Jim Burns's The Goldfish Speaks From Beyond the Grave (Salamander Imprint, 1976), a collection of poems with Frank O'Hara's influence all over it, by a poet who used to be published in Grosseteste Review, and it's illustrated with cartoons, by Gray Joliffe (later creator of Wicked Willie, arg). Part of the poet's determined Preston working-class credentials? (the main theme of the book is being drunk (& divorced ...)). Testament to 1970s broadmindedness anyway.
Poems by Jim Burns, cover design and ills. by Gray Jolliffe. Salamander, 1976.
Cartoons are everywhere, Oceanside, these last few months, because of Private Eye: the First 50 Years at the V&A. Are cartoons like poems? are they a verbo-visual genre of distinction, like emblems? Many cartoons are essentially illustrated jokes, though clearly 'the drawing should make the reader smile', ideally 'even before he laughs at the caption' (Willie Rushton on Giles). Many cartoons avoid the caption by putting the language in the image, or in a speech balloon. I am most attracted to the purist idea that 'the best jokes don't have any words' (Nicholas Whitmore, in a great interview). Some even when 'silent', are inspired by verbal gags -- puns, or 'Martian' literalisations. E.H. Gombrich, in his essay 'The Cartoonist's Armoury' allies this both to the archaic practice of personification and to Freudian psychology, where it comes close to the Surrealist absurd, flavour of a few cartoons in Private Eye, including some of Ed McLachlan's earlier images, and the work of two brilliant deceased artists, John Glashan and Kevin Woodcock. In August I picked up a lovely Glashan book from 1961 at the Capital Bookshop, Cardiff (27 Morgan Arcade CF10 1AF).
John Glashan, The Eye of the Needle (Dobson Books, 1961)
The 'imp of Surrealism' in England was Anthony Earnshaw (also, like Jim Burns jazz afficionado from the north of England -- in Leeds he taught Glen Baxter among others), of whose work there was a wonderful retrospective at Angela Flowers (Kingsland Road) during September. Original artwork for his cartoon strip series Wokker, made with Eric Thacker, was wonderful to see.
Anthony Earnshaw, from Seven Secret Alphabets
Simon Key, from Private Eye 1288 (May 2011, after the Alternative Vote referendum). See also the artist's website

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