The Orange Tree Front CoverA few months ago I received a lovely email from Maggie Murphy asking me if she could have permission to use one of my artworks for a poetry project. With a huge soft spot for poetry and art I was only too glad to help.

However, even with my permission my experience with grand poetry projects has been that they don’t always come to fruition, a common curse known to ‘artistic types’ of which I fondly identified myself as previously.

A few days ago I was pleasantly surprised to receive a package in the mail, which had a finalised version of the product, marking an evolution of the artwork I created in 2006, “The Orange Tree”

'The Orange Tree' 2006 Oil on Canvas 100x75cm

‘The Orange Tree’ 2006 Oil on Canvas 100x75cm


‘The Orange Tree’ was the winning entrant in the 2006 John Shaw Neilson Prize, an artistic interpretation of a poem by John Shaw Neilson by the same name. It was painting during a remarkable artistic period of my life when I was serving a stint in my first teaching placement after university, in the remarkably artistic and wine infused town of Penola.

The Orange Tree by John Shaw Neilson

The young girl stood beside me. I
Saw not what her young eyes could see:
– A light, she said, not of the sky
Lives somewhere in the Orange Tree.

– Is it, I said, of east or west?
The heartbeat of a luminous boy
Who with his faltering flute confessed
Only the edges of his joy?

Was he, I said, borne to the blue
In a mad escapade of Spring
Ere he could make a fond adieu
To his love in the blossoming?

– Listen! the young girl said. There calls
No voice, no music beats on me;
But it is almost sound: it falls
This evening on the Orange Tree.

– Does he, I said, so fear the Spring
Ere the white sap too far can climb?
See in the full gold evening
All happenings of the olden time?

Is he so goaded by the green?
Does the compulsion of the dew
Make him unknowable but keen
Asking with beauty of the blue?

– Listen! the young girl said. For all
Your hapless talk you fail to see
There is a light, a step, a call
This evening on the Orange Tree.

– Is it, I said, a waste of love
Imperishably old in pain,
Moving as an affrighted dove
Under the sunlight or the rain?

Is it a fluttering heart that gave
Too willingly and was reviled?
Is it the stammering at a grave,
The last word of a little child?

– Silence! the young girl said. Oh, why,
Why will you talk to weary me?
Plague me no longer now, for I
Am listening like the Orange Tree.

The Orange Tree Unpacking