‘Above the sounds he made’


The Folk Singer (for DC) (A4 ink 2012)

Recently, reading Don Paterson’s endlessly inventive 40 Sonnets, I came across his poem, ‘The Six (for John Abercrombie at 70)’, which starts like this:

You still sound like that man in early middle age

whose demolition firm went west and marriage south,

who was looking at his birthday through a fifth of Jack

when all his friends pitched in to buy him a guitar.

Two months it sat in silence. Then one day he found

that he could play whatever came into his head.

And such was his surprise each time he picked it up,

he couldn’t hear himself above the sounds he made…

It reminded me of this drawing, completed three years ago as a birthday gift for one of my dearest friends, someone who can also ‘play whatever came into his head’. The folk singer in the drawing refers to my friend’s early career in the smoke-filled folk clubs of the 1970s, and owes something to the famous photograph of John Sebastian at Woodstock (now used on his Life and Times compilation). As we’re both of that generation, and life has led us both down different paths from our hoped-for careers as Famous Artists, it seemed appropriate.

PS I cannot recommend 40 Sonnets highly enough. ‘Mercies’ is the most moving poem about a dog that you’ll ever read.