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,
an amber glow at twilight,
kaleidoscope of each season's 
poetry and art in the discerning eye
of body-mind-spirit...
the Candle Holder, 
blending with shadows, discovering 
here, there, everywhere, 
what the naked eye 
cannot see, visions of the mind 
anticipating eternity

Braveheart, ventures 
to France, Italy, exploring new paths 
of creativity,
imploring mind-body-spirit
let artistic expression 
go free, establish its identity; 
in a New World society
busy chasing gold tales, find art 
and poetry marking out
their own trails across landscapes 
of a land in its youth, 
not least by a young man's
passion for truth

Where life's candle long since snuffed out, 
a painter-poet's passion lives on 
as its art and nature wills in each leaf that falls
among crowded Piedmont hills

Copyright R. N. Taber 2000; 2017

[Note: an earlier version of this poem appears in Love and Human Remains by R. N. Taber, Assembly Books, 2001; rev. ed. in e-format in preparation.]

UPDATE: More about Arthur at: