First Poet Laureate of St. John’s: Agnes Walsh

This morning I was delighted to wake up and hear that one of my favourite poets and people, Agnes Walsh, had been named the first Poet Laureate of the city of St. John’s, Newfoundland. The last time I had a chance to talk to Agnes –a very multi-talented person– she made a remark about not being comfortable with any one label, whether that was as poet, writer, or performer. But I have a feeling she has to be happy (if not yet comfortable) with this latest title.

I treasure my little first-edition copy of her first book In the Old Country of My Heart for two reasons: her words resonate with me; and I was honored with having one of my paintings placed on the cover.

All angels...", Oil on Canvas, J. Pohl, 1995
“All angels… “, Oil on Canvas; © Jennifer Pohl

She once told me that she stood in the gallery with a glass of red wine, in front of this portrait of an angel, and experienced the feeling of falling in love. This is perhaps one of the nicest compliments any of my paintings has ever received. Strangely enough, I experience the same feelings whenever I take a moment for myself and revisit any of her poems.

Above, you will see the painting in its original form, currently owned by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. The text, which was removed for the book cover, reads “But, he said, ‘ you do know, don’t you, that all angels are men?” (But that’s another story.)

You can hear a sample of Anges’ work and read other reviews here. I must admit, I really love the new cover for the audio version of the book.

If you look above in the header bar, you’ll notice a new section: my new online gallery!

I’d like to say thank you to my husband for designing and developing the site. I think he did a pretty great job; I hope you agree.

Painted Feet
My feet after a late night of painting.

In case anyone was wondering why I had to switch from oil to egg tempera, I thought this candid image probably says it all. A friend shot this, having found me sleeping after one of many all-night painting sessions. (Believe it or not I had showered before passing out.) I was never one of those painters that could walk into the studio with a white lab coat and emerge without a mark on me. Even a few years of painting like this can take a serious toll on your health, and of course, this matters a lot more if you’re pregnant (I’m due in mid June). I still love oil painting but –for the sake of my health and my family– when I return to it, I’ll have make sure of a few things:

  1. proper ventilation and lighting (not always easy in northern climates and on a painter’s budget, but essential no matter how tortured an artist you are);
  2. plants and air cleaners in the studio;
  3. Nox-Out pellets for absorbing toxic chemicals;
  4. wearing barrier creams and gloves (when possible), and masks during varnishing;
  5. a special blood test: a build up of lead can be leached from the bones during pregnancy, and it’s possible to determine the levels. If necessary the blood can be cleaned; chelation therapy is a fairly expensive procedure but something to think about if you have been exposed to large amounts of lead.
Dizzy at Seashore
Soothing tired feet in Pouch Cove, Newfoundland.

I love the memory this second photo evokes. The same friend had just found me on the lawn of my boarding house, having passed out from fumes after another night of painting in my tiny downtown studio preparing for an upcoming show. I was working very long hours, and the fumes had been flying in the heat. He did me the great favour of taking me on a short day trip to a nearby cove to get some fresh sea air and revive my spirits. On the way back, he took it upon himself to buy a fan to help improve the ventilation. A good friend, and not a bad photographer. Thanks, Greg!

Reading Dorian Gray (Portrait of the Artist
Reading Dorian Gray (Portrait of the Artist’s Sister), Oil on Canvas; © Jennifer Pohl

I posted a detail of this painting several weeks ago, but the word for this week’s Illustration Friday seems as good a reason as any to reveal the rest of the image.

Between ultrasounds and looking after our first born, I’ve been keeping pretty busy these days, but I’m also well underway with work in pastel and egg tempera and expect to be able to post more new pieces soon. After a stormy couple of days I was able to get out for a walk and some oxygen and the light was beautiful.