"Pen-scribbled o’er with ink"
The Dovecot, John Clare Cottage
screen print, stitch, fabric
Clare wrote many poems about birds and, as a naturalist, compiled at least four bird lists, which included many county records. A pioneer in the authentic interpretation of birdsong, Clare famously attempted to record the song of the nightingale in his poem The Progress of Rhyme. He thought that poetry existed independently of language, as natural as birdsong.
Five eggs, pen-scribbled o’er with ink their shells
Resembling writing scrawls which fancy reads
As nature’s poesy and pastoral spells
John Clare, The Yellowhammers Nest
Clare often wrote his initial ideas on scraps of paper such as envelopes and receipts, even tree bark. He wrote in pencil, erasing and rewriting, or made his own ink that subsequently rotted the paper. Later in his asylum years, he lost the ability to converse but was still able to write poetry, sometimes resorting to his own shorthand code. His legacy is an archive of works rich in character, the text multi-layered and often obscured, but resonant of his own hand.
Anita is interested in this authenticity of Clare’s written voice and language and it’s manifestation in paper, ink and text. ‘Pen-scribbled o-er with ink’ combines these elements of Clare’s work, with the received descriptions of birdsong in contemporary field guides, a language familiar only to ornithologists. Her asemic writing connects to Clare’s belief in nature’s poetry without language and to her own response to this familiar environment. The flock of birds reflect Clare’s jottings, camouflaging Clare’s words in the pattern of their plumage.