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SHJ Issue 6
Fall 2012

[Four Poems + Two Paintings]

by Anabel Chapman

Untitled Painting of Orange Fish, By Anabel Chapman
[Orange Fish]
Detail From Untitled Painting
Photo Edited by Rosalie Herion
(click on image to enlarge)

The Last Day of Autumn

The clouds drifted across the evening sky
Like smoke...
I let my gaze drift with them
Accepting wind and ice and snow
Accepting sleet and shivers
And the crawling of ancestral bones
As autumn and her sacrificial month
Drew to a sacred close...


Just on the Other Side

Just on the other side of knowing
I pinned a picture on my board
A burst cloud of a picture
Of a man flaunting a bloody cloth
Of a woman aiming a gun
Of a rainbow eaten by a dove
Of some dark spirit
Strutting into Hell
As if he had poisoned
And thus acquired a crown...

So,  just on the border-line of light and dark
I tore the picture down...


Untitled Painting of Blue Owl, By Anabel Chapman
[Blue Owl]
Detail From Untitled Painting
Photo Edited by Rosalie Herion
(click on image to enlarge)

For John Robin

Your gaze still fills me
Like the first sight of the sea
After a long journey...


Tambourine Lifetime

Did I dance like a monkey for you
In camouflage in Carthage
Watching for your winks out of the
Corner of my eye
Whilst the copper coins clinked
Into our begging vessel
Like metallic drops of rain?

And did you lower your mouth to mine
When the passers-by passed by no longer
And only dogs and darkness stealthed
Along the still-warm street
As the good folk closed their shutters
To the night
And we had to walk back to our room
You ready with your dagger fine, careful for 
Poorer even than ourselves?

And if it was so, who are you now?
I want to know.

I want to know
In the maw of the night
I still feel the tug of the cord you held
As I skipped and twisted in my leopard skin
Still glancing to catch the gold of your
Still hungry for the next white loaf.

And am I still dancing for you,
Nameless, faceless one
Controller of my steps?
Could be...
For so I sometimes feel it
In the solitude of my mod-con kitchen
When I have gulped down enough red wine
And it is very, very late at night.
Yes. It is then I hear your tambourine...


SHJ Issue 6
Fall 2012

Anabel Chapman

British poet, painter, and writer who has lived in Denmark for nearly fifty years. Author of a self-published collection of poetry, Just on the Other Side: Poems 1979-1986; and two novels-in-manuscript, one of which, Troutboy, tells about a witch who catches a trout in the river one day and takes it home to fry it. But the fish jumps from her grasp and turns into a boy, which the witch then brings up.

Ms. Chapman wrote about Troutboy’s adventures “long before the Potter woman appeared,” yet her novels remain unpublished. We hope to help spread the word about her work by offering more of it in upcoming issues.

For more about this artist, read on below...


1919 words
SHJ Issue 6
Fall 2012

Anabel Chapman: An Introduction

by Thomas E. Kennedy

I met Annabel Chapman and discovered her poetry and her art by coincidence—a series of coincidences. In a west-side Copenhagen bar named Café Snork with a couple of friends, we got to talking with the couple at the next table. He was, as it turned out, a well-known Danish rock musician, Johan Olsen, with the group “The Corridors of Power” (Magtens Korridorer), as well as an associate professor of biochemistry at the University of Copenhagen. She was Daisy Lykkeberg, a teacher in the Copenhagen public schools. They were a handsome couple, blond, in their prime, probably a quarter century younger than I.

It turned out she was half British, and they both often read English-language books; by chance I happened to have a paperback copy of one of my novels with me and asked if they would like it. Johan, in turn, gave me his latest double CD and signed the case for me with a special, silver-inked marker.

Daisy began to leaf through my novel, read one page intensely for several moments, then put the book aside and began to tell me about her mother and father and older brother. The reason she told me about them was because she had discovered that in my novel one of the characters has a child who commits suicide at the age of seventeen. Daisy’s older brother took his life at that age. Her mother’s name is Annabel Chapman, and she would turn seventy in a week. She lived in an assisted living apartment on Absolon Street—one of the west-side streets I crossed on my walk from the Central Station to this Café. Daisy told me that her mother longed to have more English around her.

Annabel is British. When she was nineteen, she married Johs. Lykkeberg—Daisy’s father, a Danish physician, who was twenty-two years older than she. Annabel moved from England to Denmark at the age of twenty-three. Johs. died last year at ninety-one. Daisy’s older brother, John Robin, was born in 1967. She removed from her handbag a piece of paper, on which was printed Annabel’s words about John Robin—it looked like a page from a book—who:

“...died voluntarily at 12 noon, Saturday, March 31st, 1984. He was 17. He took his life unselfishly. He was neither drugged, insane, nor neurotic. His courage matched his beauty. News of his death did not reach us until Sunday morning. After supper on the day of his death I was sitting in my kitchen when suddenly there he was opposite me at the table, radiant and happy. I was not surprised by his presence. I merely accepted it in all its reality. We talked together for ½ hour. This happened.”

Beneath that was printed:

For John Robin
Your gaze still fills me
Like the first sight of the sea
After a long journey...

I still was not aware that Annabel was a writer and an artist. And I didn’t tell Daisy that I lost my “little brother” in an untimely fashion as well when he was young, just four years after John Robin died, and that he had been an accomplished rock guitarist and composer. He was actually my nephew, only eight years younger than I, but we were as close as any brothers can be. We had written about a hundred songs together. I know that one never gets over something like that, and I felt an affinity for Annabel. My little brother’s name was also John—John Anthony, but we called him Jack, and like Annabel, I had also experienced a remarkable occurrence, though in my case it had been two months after Jack’s death. I was visiting Lesbos, standing on the balcony of my hotel room one evening, and there was a furious wind that night, clattering trash cans down on the sidewalk. I looked up at the dark-blue sky. There was a bright moon silvering the clouds, and somehow I could see the wind ascending to the apex of the skies, and a voice inside my mind told me that it was Jack, that he was ascending to a higher place now, where he would have peace. It was not experienced as a metaphor. As Annabel had written: “This happened.”

Daisy asked then, “Would you visit my mother and speak English to her?”

Annabel Chapman lives in a two-room apartment on Absalon Street in a county building. Johan meets me on the street to escort me up to her floor. Daisy is staying home with her son, who is sick that day. The first room of the apartment is large, comprising a kitchen and dining space, a sitting area, a broad, tall bookcase against one wall. The big room is bright with afternoon sunlight through several windows at the outer wall that looks down to the street.

Annabel is sitting on the edge of her mattress in the much smaller bedroom. I cannot see her at first because Johan is tall and precedes me into the room. Then I see her—pale blue eyes, slightly tense posture as she sits there, her palms flat on the mattress on either side of her, shoulders slumped, feet barely touching the floor in oversized gray socks. Her hair is white and short, her skin pale. Johan suggests that we go out to the sitting room by the windows.

“I might need a little help,” Annabel says, and he offers his arm to support her from the bed. As we move in to the wicker chairs, Johan scolds himself for forgetting to bring the book of poems that Annabel had given Daisy for me, but Annabel says that she has several copies here and picks one out of the bookcase—a slender rainbow-covered volume. (In fact, as I walk back later along Istedsgade, the book under my arm, a woman standing beside a wall—a street-walker—remarks to me, “That’s the color of the rainbow, baby!”) The book is entitled Just on the Other Side, Poems 1979-1986, Annabel Chapman. There is no publisher or city or copyright date so I assume it has been self-published.

Inside is a photograph of Annabel from 1980, seated on what appears to be the side of a boat, both hands gripped round what seems to be a jibboom, smiling with her round high-cheek-boned face, her eyes, her mouth, its full lower lip. Her eyes are light, accentuated by dark brows, her hair short and dark, delicately wind-fanned across her forehead, her skin pale. She wears a heavy dark sweater and light jeans on her slender frame. She is looking off to her left and her smile is ineffable, perhaps sensuous, perhaps dreamy, perhaps both. She was thirty-eight then—thirty-two years before.

I ask if she will sign the collection for me and hand her the book and my Montblanc. She takes the pen and admires it, but then sits holding pen and book and seems to be lost in thought for a moment. She looks a little frightened, confused perhaps, a little bit lost, and I want to make her feel safe. Johan has told me that the day before, on her 70th birthday, she said that she no longer feels there is a reason for her to be here.

“You live?” he asked. She nodded. He didn’t quite know what to say, so he offered her a cigarette. “Here, then—smoke,” he said and laughed, and she joined his laughter complicitly.

I brought two packs of cigarettes for her—the brand Daisy had suggested, Manitou (no additives), and now she opens a pack and lights one with Johan’s plastic lighter. “I only smoke for the balance of it,” she explains. “It makes me feel balanced to have a cigarette.” I do not quite understand what she means, but it is good to see her smoking, to smell the tobacco burning. I have always liked the smell of cigarettes, though I quit over thirty years ago, when my first child was born. I also brought her a copy of The Literary Review’s “New Danish Writing” issue which I guest-edited three years before, with English translations of a variety of contemporary writers. Daisy has been reading chapters from my book aloud for Annabel which apparently she is enjoying.

“Where are your paintings, Annabel?” Johan asks suddenly.

“I took them down,” she says.

“Annabel is a very talented artist,” Johan tells me, looking around the room for the pictures. “Why did you take them down? Where did you put them?” Johan asks, but she is silent. “Ah, here they are!” he says, discovering them in the bedroom, stacked face-in against the wall in two or three piles. He takes one out to show me—an owl which seems to be painted in the fashion of a mosaic of sharp color. It is strong and sharp and beautiful.

Then Johan suggests that he go down to buy something for us to drink, and Annabel and I sit alone for a bit while she signs her book to me. “For Thomas, with love, Annabel, 27th April 2012.” She prints a large “X” before her name. We have no trouble talking. It almost seems as though I have known her a long time ago, but have not seen her for years, and we have to catch up. I feel as though I ought to be here. I could be her two-years-younger brother.

“Daisy told me that you like wine, but I couldn’t find out what kind to bring—red, white or bubbly.”

“I like them all,” she says. “Do you like bubbly?”

“Of course—you know what Karen Blixen said. Remember always to take a little bubbly with your predicament.”

Annabel smiles. “Did she say that?”

“Yes. I’ll bring some next time. If I may come back again?”

“Of course you can come back again,” she says.

Johan returns with a six-pack of beer and pours us each a glass. Annabel tells that she has been writing since she was six, that she has written two novels. Johan affirms that they are extraordinary—one is entitled Troutboy, about a witch who catches a trout in the river one day and takes it home to fry it, but the fish jumps from her grasp and turns into a boy, and the witch brings him up. The novel is about Troutboy’s adventures. He promises to lend me his copy of the manuscript—perhaps we can publish an excerpt from it. Henrik Stangerup, a prominent Danish novelist who died in the ’90s, was very taken by it, but for one reason or another, it was never published, as so many worthy novels are never published, or published and ignored.

“And I wrote that long before the Potter woman appeared,” Annabel says. She adds that nothing of hers was ever published—just the journalism she worked with—and she has no motivation to begin to write again.

“Why not keep a journal?” I suggest. “Sometimes that helps.”

“I’ve done that for years,” she says mildly. “They’re all stacked under my bed.”

That night, at home, having passed nearly three hours of the afternoon with Annabel, I open her book of poems and read them through. Many of them have a particularly haunting quality, polished and moving, complex but accessible, with startling but exact word choices. I begin to select poems that I would like to send out for publication in the U.S. if she will allow me to. Perhaps it will motivate her to begin writing again.

It would be good to see Annabel writing again, to read what she might write now.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury