LEFT to RIGHT: Night-blowing Cereus or Queen of the Night by Reinagle from Thornton's Temple of Flora 1799; Grass Tree Forest Barrington
Tops National Park Australia; Bach Aria da Capo e Fine; Morris Cox frontispiece for Alan Tucker's poem 'The Narrow Boat’.

Alan Tucker

Thirty Flowers

I would have to learn the steps of an exceedingly antique dance

— W B Yeats, Rosa Alchemica 1897

Thirty flowers.

Morris Cox, who was a customer buying books for some time before we met, never failed to order from our catalogues. One of his early purchases was a Victorian Language of Flowers. At that time he was collecting together material of the kind he used in his Medieval Dreambook – which was to have been followed by a Victorian Dreambook.

Cox always valued neglected periods of art, particularly the mass-market Victoriana being destroyed by the lorry-load. His studio/bedroom was crammed with material he could transform into Gogmagog books and poems. In later years, when he was troubled with physical disabilities, he took to collage, following (specifically) the examples of Picasso, Max Ernst and Roland Penrose. He was particularly drawn to pedagogic illustrations in early children's books; the root system of the potato comes to mind, along with more exotic representations.

You can only do what you can do, aspiring to make the most of your materials and abilities. Morris and I shared a delight in works of art that discover themselves. Their energy comes from moments of perception when things fall into place and make marvellous sense out of ordinary events – or coincidences – or nonsense.

When I was in my late seventies Bradford Haas drew my attention to Louis Zukofsky's Eighty Flowers. This master-work offers the reader a hortus conclusus where words create a place in the mind, and language becomes a refuge for the intellect to delight in. I loved the story of their writing – eighty poems to be completed in time to celebrate his eightieth birthday. I determined to follow Zukofsky's example, though clearly not his style. I wrote on average one eighty word poem per day: 5x4x2 = 40, five words to a line, four lines of two stanzas, to be doubled/paired at final revision. Fine. Then events, days going and wits going, I reach eighty years, more fortunate than Zukofsky (the good die young) who died just before his birthday and publication of his completed work. Now I have more material than I can handle, on a level with Morris Cox's hoard of decaying newsprint and barrow-price tattered books, most of which went to the dump.

Method: relisting the file in alphabetical order I found for a start twenty-eight poems/flowers under the letter A. I have taken one, occasionally two, poems from each letter. Selection begins to decide itself in an attempt to present some sort of cohesion and sense. I could make innumerable patterns in the same random way that I wrote the poems, so take to heart a line from Queneau's harliquinade One hundred million million poems: 'Folks warned such trips end in catastrophe' (John Crombie's translation from his Kickshaws edition).

The flowers have come as much from books and music as from lived experience – and from botanising as a schoolboy. The latin names are essential. Here are two quotes that annotate the "The Ice plant Drosanthemum speciosum" and by extension the whole idea of the collection:

'And then I must confide to you that I am very close to discovering the secret of the creation and organization of plants.'

— Goethe, Italian Journey 17 April 1782*

'It is the strangest claim in the world – that one should present experiences without any theoretical link between them, and leave it to the reader to form his own convictions. But the mere looking at a thing is of no use whatever. Looking at a thing gradually merges into contemplation, contemplation into thinking; thinking is establishing connections, thus it is possible to say that every attentive glance which we cast on the world is an act of theorising. This however ought to be done with consciousness, self-criticism, freedom, and, to use a daring word, irony…'

— Goethe, Works (J.A.) vol XL p63

Both passages translated and quoted by Erich Heller The Disinherited Mind Pelican 1961.

*Heller's translation differs notably from that of W.H.Auden and Elizabeth Mayer, Collins 1962

Alan Tucker

Thirty Flowers

Acanthus trial.pdf
Black roses Svarta rosor.pdf
Cherry Prunus avium.pdf
Death cap Amanita phalloides.pdf
Faerielocks Celtica subsponsa.pdf
Gardenia Gardenia jasminoides Z.pdf
Henbane Hyoscyamus niger.pdf
Im grunen.pdf
Japanese Banana Musa basjoo.pdf
Kansas lilac.pdf
Laurel Laurus nobilis.pdf
Mangelwurzel Beta vulgaris vulgaris.pdf
Nipplewort Lapsana communis.pdf
Nipplewort Umbilicus rupestris.pdf
Oak Quercus robur.pdf
Paeony Paeonia sp.pdf
Queen of the night.pdf
Redcurrant Ribes rubrum.pdf
Rilke's rose.pdf
Sally willow Salix infelix.pdf
The Ice plant.pdf
Thimbleberry Rubus parviflorus.pdf
Thoroughwort Eupatrorium chinense.pdf
Umbrella Pine Pinus pinea.pdf
Venus Looking Glass.pdf
Western Prairie Fringed Orchid.pdf
Xanthorrhoea X glauca.pdf
Yellow whitlowgrass rev.pdf
Zinnia Zinnia elegans.pdf