As a practicing designer I?ve worked for several years with the archive of two women Modernist textile designers, Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher, who in partnership practiced their craft together ? between the First and Second World War. As Hand block printers and dyers both women experienced the First World War in very different ways ? Phyllis in Belgium, Dorothy in India. My book Walking the Block explores their life work and creative practices. I?ve included two poems that explore Phyllis?s experience as a VAD nursing on the Belgian front... Both poems examine the nature of creativity and imagination and the impact the war had, both ...

As a practicing designer I?ve worked for several years with the archive of two women Modernist textile designers, Phyllis Barron and Dorothy Larcher, who in partnership practiced their craft together ? between the First and Second World War. As Hand block printers and dyers both women experienced the First World War in very different ways ? Phyllis in Belgium, Dorothy in India. My book Walking the Block explores their life work and creative practices. I?ve included two poems that explore Phyllis?s experience as a VAD nursing on the Belgian front... Both poems examine the nature of creativity and imagination and the impact the war had, both personally and creatively. Phyllis Barron, like many other artists and makers of the period, such as the painters Paul Nash, Stanley Spencer, never lost her ability to think, absorb, learn, create and interpret: despite the horrors she witnessed she was trying to make sense of it all. (Read in the voice of Phyllis Barron.)

Read more

1914, Working With Red in a Field Hospital, Belgium

Back in the workshop I look
for any kind of flux, discrepancy,
or break from the uniform,
when dyeing wild madder with gromwell,
or common sorrel with bedstraw, but not here.

The men lie, abstract shapes & sizes
angled & shattered in beds,
a fraction between types & ages.
Without exception all dye red,
grimy sheets, make do blankets.

I notice little variation in shade
or depth of shade, or length of spread or seep,
or smear or splatter;
where the bandage unravels,
or the flesh stitches bloom & split.

Take this boy – he won’t mind me showing you.
His wound replicates early nineteenth century anilines –
look closely at his right buttock,
see mauve going green, going flinch black –
no amount of handiwork can stop
the corruption that imprints flesh,
there are no mordants for miles around.

From Walking the Block (Templar, 2008), Jane Weir 2008, used by permission of the author and the publisher

Jane Weir in the Poetry Store

The free tracks you can enjoy in the Poetry Archive are a selection of a poet’s work. Our catalogue store includes many more recordings which you can download to your device.

Featured in the archive

Close