Paul Adrian

About

Paul Adrian was born in West Yorkshire in 1984, and still lives there. Previously unpublished until winning the 2010 National Poetry Competition, his inspirations are “are the myriad tiny, domestic ways in which we reaffirm our connections with the flux of the world around us.”
He has been the Books Editor of Leeds Guide Magazine and currently works in a bookshop and is a Volunteer Reading Helper.

Introduction

“For this project, I wanted to concentrate on the often unacknowledged impact objects can have upon our lives and our world; how objects can bear witness to, or be influential in, our most important thoughts, actions and events. With this in mind, I realised three dramatic poems which imagine how objects from this Collection may have held significance in major events in the lives of various personalities, both real and fictional. The objects I chose for this all held immediate aesthetic interest for me, but also suggested a supporting narrative which would lend each item significant emotional value.”

Ophelia (Deleted Scene)

Ophelia (Deleted Scene)

Willow wood does not break easily – their first clue.
Their second, that I went down singing,
coughing up a tune even as my head went under,
mouth open, icy water pouring in the corners.
My notes floated to the ear of a passing shepherd
who came to find me blueing in the stream,
and rushed in return with men to haul me out.
They thought me heavy from the drench,
my hems water-weighted,
my hair ribboned with the drag of freshwater weeds.
Even when they banged me, still dripping,
onto the doctor’s boards they did not notice,
so panicked they were at what wild directions
a lost marriage might throw upon their skittish prince.
Only later did the tending maid discover
I had planted a counterbalance to instinct.
My leaded seams, a heft of midnight conviction
to be sure I felt its temper when my plan found the surface,
without which their spread would have borne me back to doubt.
But they would not hear of it,
even from a man of God, they would not hear
of the calmness that I held to the bottom of the brook.
For added measure I grasped the silt,
feeling the cold grains between my fingers,
and stared up through a garland of falling wildflowers
one by one succumbing to their sink.
My melody took on a swampy thickness
as I breathed in the water to sing it,
all memory of me bedded
with this final, unspoken weight.

“Ophelia (Deleted Scene)” accompanies Julie Cook's Asentamiento Dress. In it, Hamlet's bride to be speaks from the ether and lays to rest the debate over whether her death was suicide or not, which is subtly touched upon in Shakespeare's text.

Recording: Paul Adrian reading ‘Ophelia (Deleted Scene)’, 2011, Leeds.

Mandelbrot’s Winter

Mandelbrot’s Winter

Arm in arm, we made our stitch
and strolled around the frozen park.
In love, our thoughts tangled.
To see the human race as fractal,
note how each mind holds itself centre,
yet knits itself into the human fabric,
building synapses of love and friendship.
I pointed her towards the rococo order of snowflakes
carefully caught on bare fingertips.
Soon she was rejoicing in fractured arrangements of ice,
thorny symmetries of frost on glass.
I stole her innocence, taught her the analysis of beauty,
how to find the veiled logics
of mountain, leaf and blizzard.
She fell for me.
As a gift, she made for me a self-similar glove.
Fingertips sprouted from its fingertips,
the threads winding through a pattern
measured in proportion to its own form.
All the better for combing snowflakes from the air.
Once aware, it’s impossible to unsee the systems,
and some might think it cold of me
to force this enlightenment,
but all poetry rests on correlation,
and sifting resemblances out of chaos.

“Mandelbrot's Winter” is a fictional episode from the life of the mathematician Benoît Mandelbrot, which imagines him charming a lover with theories of systems and natural order. It accompanies Hand of Good, Hand of God by Freddie Robins.

Recording: Paul Adrian reading ‘Mandelbrot’s Winter’ 2011, Leeds.

Artist of the Regime

Artist of the Regime

The Regime does not like gaps.
Once the brute work is done,
boot-black and deadly swift in the moonlight,
and all directly possessed by the subject
has been deleted or incinerated,
the real work begins in the places where lives meet
and association must be delicately removed.

Buried in the glare of his floodlit anti-studio,
the Artist of the Regime sets to his task.
An architect of deconstruction,
he smoothes out the wake, tidies lives
to a wrinkle of someone else’s thought.
He works backwards, peeling back the layers of portraits,
de-painting in umbers, ochres, ivory blacks,
nimble-fingered, staring close at the canvas, replacing faces,
or spending hours rearranging watercolours with a needle-tip sponge.
He rewrites the scenes of diaries around stolen characters,
developing new reasons for heartbreak and celebration;
clever, he consults his vials
and threads his long narrative through years
of carefully matched ink shades.
He cuts and pastes photographs, taking everything,
even glimpsed elbows and the backs of heads.
He unpicks names from bridal tapestries.
He reads autobiographies with a scalpel in hand.
He deftly untattoos; lovers and relatives
wake up in strange places with only soreness
and the memory of a name.

We do our best to slow him down.
We slip our communiqué into artworks, exhibitions,
weave our propaganda with silk, code messages into mosaics.
It is a subterfuge of subtle culture,
which he works hard to make a trick of the mind.
You must learn to recognise the ambush of our voice
in brief, unexpected places, and listen.
Like here.
Like now.
The effort will often be in vain.
Creations will be replaced with other creations.
Neither of us will tire.
Sooner or later,
he will come for this poem.

“Artist of the Regime” takes the form of a piece of propaganda against an oppressive, totalitarian government, rendered as a poem. The poem itself explains why. It is inspired by the piece Observed Incident by Audrey Walker.

Recording: Paul Adrian reading ‘Mandelbrot’s Winter’ 2011, Leeds.