A Set of Signs for Chopin’s Twenty Four Preludes

Desmond Graham’s first publication from the Villa Vic Press, Newcastle, available in Limited and Special Editions, with Copper Engravings by Chris Daunt (Newcastle upon Tyne 1990: 12 specially bound copies with an extra suite of engravings, and 500 numbered copies signed by author and artist).

The poems were first published in ‘Dziennik Bałtycki’ in 1987 in a Polish translation by Zbigniew Joachimiak.

Twenty-four poems written in response to each of Chopin’s Preludes, drawn from Graham’s impressions of Poland and conversations with Poles in 1984 and after (see his ‘A Gdańsk Sketchbook’, Gdańsk, 2009). The Romantic moods of Chopin’s pieces are echoed or countered in poems paralleling romantic love and love of country, enacted through resistance, anguish, ironic humour and celebration.

First performed with the pianist Viola Heise in Keil, Germany in 1990; a programme in the poems was read before or after the accompanying prelude was played by Viola Heise on the piano, toured Mannheim, Heidelberg and Newcastle, with a further performance in Trier.

No 4


if you take each letter separately

they do not add up to much,

together they make a fence

surrounding a picture – if the people

pushing that laden cart

up the ice-locked hill

step out of the frame

they will not find their way

back. The cart’s weight

for a moment, will press

more heavily back

then it will lighten

as others take up their place.

No 21

A mother is pushing a swing

for her baby. On the swing beside her

a young girl trails her foot

through dust. She spins the ropes

of the swing to a plait of long hair

let down from the tower of childhood

not ready yet to dream a lover.

A mother is pushing a swing

for her baby, dreaming of long hair

she wore through her childhood,

feeling the weight of two plaits

in her fingers, too shy

to look up at her lover.

A mother is pushing a swing

for her baby, above its head

two plaits of long hair let down

to draw it up into childhood:

when it reaches the window ledge

the girl on the swing beside her

will already have found her lover.


Copper engraving by Chris Daunt