One of the first things I did when getting my office here some five years ago was to cover the walls, arrange a coffee system, accommodate my own books next to those I inherited (several bound volumes of Poetry magazine), get in a couple of table lamps and a cloth to cover the low filing cabinets on which the coffee equipment sits.
All this is simply an effort to make the impersonal less so. Ideally, the room would be a good-sized private box in a Central European Jugendstil restaurant with service to match. I want one wizened elderly Austrian waiter to bring suitable refreshments and engage in gossip and small talk between classes, tutorials and supervisions. A Wings of Desire-style angel should haunt the corridor and a beautiful female acrobat should appear now and then as if by chance. It would be the full Tennysonian Palace of Art.
As it is, there are postcards, poems and photos on the wall. Let me itemise some of them:
1. A photograph of Miklos Haraszti's Budapest flat (2nd row extreme left) where we spent most of 1989 while he was being Dissident in Residence at Bard College. That suits me fine as I could one day be Bard in Residence at Dissident College.But then we're all cats here in a dog world where dog occasionally eats dog. Have I mentioned the Blake, the Goya, the Chagall, the Poussin, the Picasso, the Oldenburg and the Cezanne? Have I mentioned La Dame au Licorne? Have I mentioned my feet? Have I mentioned my essential perceptions of the universe? Have I mentioned the slight itch at the side of my nose?
2. Directly below it, a photograph of the lobby of the Tucson hotel where I spent the night in the dead man's room while the hootenanny raved below and the wonderful train made wonderful train noises when passing through the station not too far away.
3. Next to it another photograph, taken by Anthony Thwaite, showing Ian Duhig, the marvellous, late, Julia Darling and myself with Patricia Aydelotte, one of our fine US hosts. We are in Monument Valley besieged by Apaches, the Seventh Cavalry nowhere in sight.
4. To the right of that is C in her studio, looking early Julie Christie-ish, her hair long but gathered up. She is in a white apron leaning against her bench. It doesn't seem long ago but it may be ten years or more.
5. A series of jazz legends lines up next to her: Wynton Marsalis, Charlie Parker, Clint Weaver, and Ella F, all taken by William Claxton. Poem cards below them by the late wife of a colleague, Sue Fitzpatrick, sharp, poignant, wise verses, and at the end a very early poem card by me, Snow, from my very first book.
6. This could get tedious so, to the left of the bottom photograph, two photographs of the absolutely new born Marlie in her first hour of life, and at the bottom a cartoon appropriate for a Bard in residence at Dissident College (see top photograph). It's the well-known one of two dogs in suits addressing a cat in a suit at some kind of interrogation, one dog whispering to the other: You'll have to phrase it another way. They have no word for fetch.
A few more wall items may be worth one more post.