Today’s Session covered Francis Webb’s most well known poem (and his own favourite) “Five Days Old” with its celebration of the way a young child can awaken an experience of transformation in an adult. We then turned to Webb’s exploration of the creative power of St Francis of Assisi, the sequence of poems The Canticle. This sequence focusses on the way in which St Francis’s spirit, embodied in his own amazing poem Il Cantico Del Frate Sole , has a transformative effect on all who met the saint. We looked at “The Leper” which mirrors Francis Webb’s sense of his own condition, while simultaneously expressing that moment in St Francis life where he was empowered to turn away from his own career path and lead a life of simplicity in service to those in real need. This was a path mirrored in our own time by the likes of Jean Vanier.
Our session finished by looking at two poems from Webb’s Ward Two sequence: “A Man” and “Wild Honey”. We had the good fortune to have with us for this event the artist Peter Solway -onetime mental nurse- who had known Webb in Rydalemere Hospital in Sydney and who had painted a large canvas which celebrates each of the poems in Webb’s Ward Two sequence.
Here is Peter Solway’s image of “The Man”:
Peter said that he remembered Frank Webb in this posture at times: an immovable figure shaped by an inner grief.
And here is is image for “Wild Honey”:
Here Peter Solway has captured that amazing moment in Webb’s sequence where he confronts and transforms his own response to this moment of sheer beauty.