Saturday, 20 June 2009

Arthur Atkins (Painter-Poet) Liverpool/ San Francisco

I love Liverpool but rarely get an opportunity to visit these days. Among many places of interest there is a wonderful little bookstore called News From Nowhere.

Only recently, I got chatting to a young Liverpudlian (in a pub, where else?) initially about the bookstore. He seemed genuinely interested in my poetry and was even familiar with some of my better known poems. However, he was even more interested to hear about Arthur Atkins, not least because he shares the same surname. While he thinks it is very unlikely that he is related to the painter, he promised to do a genealogy search and confirm.

Arthur Atkins is something of a romantic figure to me and one of my heroes, so much so that I dedicated Love And Human Remains - volume one of my poetry quartet of the same name - to him.

Arthur Atkins in Bruce Porter's studio, spring 1898

William Arthur Atkins - known as Arthur - was an English artist, raised in the Liverpool area. He studied art in Paris but never exhibited in Europe. His paintings were frequently on show in the San Francisco Bay area of California before his untimely death at the age of 25. One of a group of painter-poets responsible for an arts magazine called The Lark that was published in the San Francisco area during the late 19th century, this remarkable young man has long been an inspiration to me. His grave overlooks the same Piedmont hills he loved and painted, although now encroached upon by urban spread. A friend of mine in the US (also a painter) owns several of his paintings and has made contact with descendants of Arthur's immediate family.


Spirit of Liverpool, burning bright,
like autumn leaves in the glare of day;
Sombre, in twilight - kaleidoscope
Candle holder, seeking here and there
all the naked eye cannot see;
Visions of the mind, across
Braveheart, ventures to France, Italy,
exploring paths of creativity,
imploring the soul
a native anxiety;
Bursts upon a New World society
chasing gold tales. Let love, art
and poetry leave their
own trails;
To the landscape of a land
in its flowering youth - the lonely,
lively passion of a pilgrim
seeking truth;
Life, snuffed like a candle by Nature
left unmoved, even by devotion;
Persists, the subtle flame - of
a painter-poet's passion…

in each tawny leaf that falls, among
crowded Piedmont hills

[From: Love And Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001]

UPDATE: More about Arthur at: