The job writers do.

blogging, books, illustration, literature, poetry

Anne Corr Card illustration

 

I’m not sure this is quite true at the moment, I am listening to the singing birds as they trill their hearts out at the back of my house, and I do know what Christina Rossetti was getting at when she said it.  The truth is, I like the sentiment, and when I’m not feeling it, it helps to see the words in print to connect me to the memory of the feeling.  Does that make sense?  I have been thinking alot about this lately, the job that writers do.  In my life I can say it has been critical to my sense of who I am.  I would not have opened up my thoughts and feelings to the extent that I have were it not for the courage, resilience and imagination of authors like Golding, Jeannette Winterson, Ali Smith, Shakespeare, John Donne, Tolstoy. The list is long.  How does a writer feel about the impact they have on a fellow human beings life?  Sometimes I want a line to them directly, just to say thank you. Anyway, I love the fact that years, sometimes decades or centuries after their death, there is a connection that links me to them. A line, or a passage, and I want to use it in an illustration, or a card. Fantastic. Connections- I come back to this word time and time again. It thrills me how the whole world has an interconnectedness, and I want to bring attention to it.  So we all have some perception about how time and place are not barriers to feeling shared humanity. Just saying.

“..how to walk a clean path between obscenities.”

Art, books

Yala Yal Gibbs Tjungurrayi

‘Do you come to art to be comforted, or do you come to art to be reskinned?’ she asked in a 2003 interview with Jeanette Winterson.

The ‘she’ mentioned is one Ali Smith, novelist extraordinaire.  Ali Smith was born the year after me, and it is always interesting reading a contemporaries view of the human experience.  Reading Ali Smith is like submerging in a more real world than the one I live in.  This is why reading excites me so much when the writing is so good you want to be there.  Or aroundabouts, not necessarily in the middle of.  But the things she writes speak more articulately to me than the world around me does. Increasingly I find myself an uncomfortable fit in a perplexing world of paradoxes.  It is a world where we know more about the laws governing the universe than we have ever known before, and yet it is one that apparently is content to live at the surface of reality, less capable or desirous of teasing out meaning.

Ali Smith touches on this with the deftness and lightness of touch that invites you to the party. I want to keep reading and I don’t want to finish because when I finish it I have to re-emerge into today and the here and my now. Not always as stimulating I have to say, thinking about dragging the hoover, which isn’t a hoover its a Dyson but you will know what I mean. That’s the  puzzling and delight of language. I use a word to describe a machine which is generically understood by the manufacturer of one of the original machines, but my machine is different and engineered by a more recent manufacturer.

So what I need to advise you is this – read ‘There but for the’ and I can almost guarantee you will find something in it that will delight you.  Do I want to be Ali Smith?  Probably . Well , I want to have her talent, and the energy and drive to work at finding a voice as compelling as hers.  It entertains, it stimulates, it challenges, what’s not to like?

And as an aside, ‘There but for the… ‘ is one of my mantras.  It has been a running commentary in my head since I was born into language.  Great mantra, because it invites empathy and compassion at times when I might be feeling bad tempered, or  mad.

If you want to read about the book there is a review here, but it is dusty compared to the book.  Dive straight in, and forget the observations. It would be THE best read for a book group as it brings up lots of talking points to get controversial over.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2011/jun/01/ali-smith-there-but-for-the-review

Go back to the title of the post; this is the morality behind all good art, all good human endeavour –  the attempt to find a way of living our lives cleanly amongst the greed and envy of the human species,  how to find wonder and glory and love amongst the debris from terror atrocities such as the young man hacked to death by a fellow human wielding a machete, just one example . Ali Smith relates an incident of such horrific violence . I won’t tell you more, only that it connects me to what I value about being human, our interconnectedness and reliance on one another as a species.  I want to tell her.

 

The Sanctuary of Trees

Art, blogging, books, Life, philosophy, Thoughts

trees book Anne Corr Trees book by Anne

I have spent the morning trying to engage with the trees opposite in an attempt to lift the mood.  An encroaching blackness threatens, and a roam with the dogs listening to the birds seemed the most likely candidate to help.  Hesse speaks volumes to me,  and his reflections on trees perfectly encapsulate my feelings about them.  Wondrous entities offer solace, peace , mystery, who wouldn’t be moved by the serenity of trees?

Herman Hesse wrote too about the mind set that is my companion through life, a propensity for melancholia and self annihilation   He wrote best about it to my mind, in Steppenwolf, in which his protagonist reveals the reality about the  ‘suicides.’  These are people not necessarily prepared to commit the physical act, but those with a psychological bent of mind that sees no difference between the states of being and non-being, and therefore search for meaning while in a state of being.  The futility of life is a constant melody that plays throughout the mortal existence. I wrote a more thorough piece about Steppenwolf here,

https://amonikabyanyuvva.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/magic-theater-entrance-not-for-everybody/

This seems to be a post about depression, but it isn’t. It is about realism, about being able to accept the flow of mood, and to live within that flow . It’s about my learning how to handle that river of human beingness without being overwhelmed by my natural propensity to depression. It’s about living well, and not just surviving.

Trees have helped to show me how.

Have a weekend of good things, go find them, whatever they are for you.

What do I know?

blogging, books, culture, history, Life, literature

montaigne essays

William Hazlitt remarked on the subject of Montaigne that he was the ‘first to have the courage to say as an author what he thought as a man.’

Who was he and why should you care?  Because he was one of the first freethinkers and influenced not only policy making in his lifetime, but showed subsequent thinkers and writers a way of  being in the world.  His motto was ‘ What do I know?’ – a fashionable phrase at the moment, but then a radical statement that open mindedness can only lead to new knowledge, new perceptions. Remember to think about Montaigne in the context of his history, and you will be amazed by his humanism, and his acuity.  I think I am in love, And this is a man who did not mind sharing his shortcomings, one of which was a small penis. Though I suppose everything is relative.

This was his secret – he wrote as though in dialogue with his soul mate, as though he was sitting across from him sipping a glass of wine and warming his feet on the fire.  He was intimate. He shared.  And what  a lot he had to share,  a life of fascinating experiences, I can only show you by giving a very potted biography.

His father belonged to the  nouveau riche in France, and Montaigne was born 1533 into a century of discovery, intrigue, political upheaval, and scientific exploration. The world was changing. As a father, he wanted Montaigne to grow up  into inheriting an estate requiring the skills of an astute manager, thus he sent his son to be weaned by a wet nurse, and he subsequently spent his formative years within a very ordinary family. Montaigne was to understand first hand the needs and preoccupations of the common man. From that early upbringing he was then brought back into the Montaigne household where he had a German tutor who was to converse with Montaigne only in Latin, along with the rest of the household. Latin was a requisite for French aristocracy, and if Montaigne was going to lift the family’s status it was imperative that he could converse in it as his first language. It meant Montaigne could read all the classical scholars without translation. At the age of 6 he was sent to a prestigious establishment for his education by the best tutors, some of the leading humanists of the day. Montaigne went on to study law at the University of Toulouse.

His young adulthood was spent amongst policy makers, and it was around 1559 that he met the man who was to become so important to him, a relationship as powerful as one we would view as romantic love. In the context of the time, men turned to other men for the companionship of intellectual and spiritual sharing; these two shared a common understanding that formed the foundation of a fulfilling, satisfying friendship. Etienne de La Boétie, the friend, was to die early aged 3,2 about 4 years after meeting Montaigne. He had written a radical piece about how tyrannical rulers should be stripped of power. Montaigne wanted to include it within his own essays, but realised his work would be censored if he did so, and included some of his poetry only.

He retired from public duties relatively early in life, aged about 38, and decided to study and record his thoughts from the comfort of his tower.  He liked his own company, and although married, he and his wife had separate living quarters.  He had travelled fairly extensively, had met the pope, and was friendly with Henry of Navarre, accepted at courts both Catholic and Protestant.  These were very troubled times politically , requiring tact and diplomacy when abroad.  France was in uproar, and atrocities were being committed in the name of religion.

When he retired to write, he drew upon his extensive knowledge of the classical authors, particularly enjoying Plutarch. Seneca and Lucretius.  He favoured a stoic distancing from the melee of upheaval, and passed on his understanding that man has no absolute’s, but is reliant on his identity with a cultural context.  He was asking the question ‘ How should man live’, and he brought to this search a stoicism and a sympathetic imagination.  Contrary to popular belief he postulated that   ”The laws of conscience, which we pretend to be derived from nature, proceed from custom; ‘  and ‘in short, to my way of thinking, there is nothing that custom will not or cannot do’.

He wrote about himself and about the human condition. He wrote from an anthropological viewpoint before the word itself was considered.  He influenced the thinkers and policy makers of the time, consorted with kings, yet radically wrote in a manner that was to inform with honesty about his life, and his times.  He didn’t view himself as a philosopher foremost, but he formed the philosophies of life fro subsequent thinkers.  A writer of perceptive observation and witty, poetic style,  his legacy can inform modern statesmen and policy makers.

I have posted previously on Montaigne, and the extremely good book that Sarah Bakewell wrote

.https://amonikabyanyuvva.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/how-to-live-montaigne-style/

Thanks to Melvyn Bragg and Radio 4 for a great programme this morning , Listen if you can!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01s0qmj

The story of an unhappy Doge.

books, earth, history, illustration

Willima Frazers 19th centrfrf Willima Frazers 19th centrf Willima Frazers 19th centr fhgyWillima Frazers 19th centrf

 

Spending the day researching and producing my latest project.  Whilst wandering in virtual space through the exhibition space at the British Library, I came across this beautiful 19th century copy of an older map of the world.  The detail is breathtaking, and the map itself records not just the geographical understanding of that time, but also the belief systems that dominated the European viewpoint in the 1400’s .

In  William Frazers 19th century copy of a map made in 1450 by Fra Mauro, South is at the top, and thus appears upside down to us.  Europe is top right , Africa below, Asia to the right. When the original was drawn the Europeans had not yet discovered the Americas or Australia.

Fra Mauro was commissioned by the Venetians to produce the map, but the Doge was unhappy at the small size of Venice in relation to the world. He was reported to say ‘ then make the world smaller’. Twas ever thus.  But glad to say he didn’t get his way.

Mauro placed the Garden of Eden outside the world, unusually for the time as it was generally portrayed to be in the extreme East.  Theologians were pondering where paradise could exist on earth, and in Mauro’s map Eden is linked symbolically to the world through the landscape and the four rivers flowing through the walls.

The elements are represented by the diagram in the top right, earth is brown and green, then water followed by fire and the outer ring of air.

In the left hand corner is the diagram of the Ptolemaic system, an antecedent of the map of the solar system. This understanding was generally accepted until the 16th century , when astronomers put forward alternative theories.

The exhibition is now closed, but the online link is http://www.bl.uk/magnificentmaps/map2.html

Willima Frazers 19th centrfrfs

 

 

 

A writer’s view of falling in love.

Art, books, culture, Life, LOVE, Thoughts, United Kingdom
Quotation from Jeanette Winterson

Quotation from Jeanette Winterson

Thanks to brainpickings for showing me Jeanette’s great response to being asked to write for young people on big topics.

http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/12/07/best-childrens-books-2012/

Envy and Greed – the dust of the world.

Art, books, illustration, Life, literature

Joris Hoefnagel 16 th century flemish

Flee from the press, and dwell in truthfulness,
Let your fortunes suffice, though they be small;
For hoarding breeds hate, and status ambiguousness.
The mob’s filled with envy and blinded by wealth overall.
Desire only things which meet needs most crucial.
Control yourself well, if you’d be others’ gauge;
And the Truth shall you deliver, of that be not afraid.

Haste not to redress all crookedness
Placing trust in her who turns like a ball.
Great good comes from spurning busy-ness;
Beware then, not to kick against an awl;
Don’t strive like a crock against a wall.
To subdue others’ deeds, you must yourself first tame,
And the Truth shall you deliver, of that be not afraid.

That which you’re sent, receive in humbleness;
Wrestling after this World is just begging for a fall.
This is no Home. It’s naught but Wilderness.
Forth, Pilgrim, forth! Forth, beast, out of your stall!
Know your true country! Look up! Thank God for all!
Let your spirit lead, and hold to the High Way,
And the Truth shall you deliver, of that be not afraid.

Modern version of Chaucer’s ‘Truth’

Truth

Fle fro the pres, and dwelle with sothefastnesse,
Suffise thin owen thing, thei it be smal;
For hord hath hate, and clymbyng tykelnesse,
Prees hath envye, and wele blent overal.
Savour no more thanne the byhove schal;
Reule weel thiself, that other folk canst reede;
And trouthe schal delyvere, it is no drede.

Tempest the nought al croked to redresse,
In trust of hire that tourneth as a bal.
Myche wele stant in litel besynesse;
Bywar therfore to spurne ayeyns an al;
Stryve not as doth the crokke with the wal.
Daunte thiself, that dauntest otheres dede;
And trouthe shal delyvere, it is no drede.

That the is sent, receyve in buxumnesse;
The wrestlyng for the worlde axeth a fal.
Here is non home, here nys but wyldernesse.
Forth, pylgryme, forth! forth, beste, out of thi stal!
Know thi contré! loke up! thonk God of al!
Hold the heye weye, and lat thi gost the lede;
And trouthe shal delyvere, it is no drede.

[L’envoy.]
Therfore, thou Vache, leve thine olde wrechednesse;
Unto the world leve now to be thral.
Crie hym mercy, that of hys hie godnesse
Made the of nought, and in espec{.i}al
Draw unto hym, and pray in general
For the, and eke for other, hevenelyche mede;
And trouthe schal delyvere, it is no drede.

‘But words are things’

Art, books, literature, photogaphy, poetry
~Wooded walk

~Wooded walk

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books
that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be
able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it,
live along some distant day into the answer.”

This is an excerpt from the enormously popular poet Rainer Maria Wilke,  from ‘Letters to a young poet’, published after his death.  He wrote a correspondence to a young man in the Austro Hungrian army between 1902 and 1908; Franz Kappus was a young man struggling with his own poetry and turned to Rilke for advice.  He certainly got it.   He advised Franz to look inward and not rely on the capriciousness of the market place. Rilke didn’t critique the young man’s poetry, but instead wrote with greater impact, about soul and shared profound insights about creativity, soul, reflection, relationships, sexuality,  love, and life. The letters were published by Franz after Rilkes death, and have been admired as literary masterpieces. They can be read here in translation.; http://www.carrothers.com/rilke2.htm

 Like Rumi, Rilke is a mystical wordsmith, and his words have gone on to inspire and solace in equal measure.  In the words of an English poet, Lord Byron, 

 

But words are things, and a small drop of ink,

Falling, like dew, upon a thought produces

That which makes thousands, perhaps millions think.

Lord Byron, Don Juan (written between 1818 to 1824), Canto III, Stanza 88.

Rooted in the present, branching out.

blogging, books, illustration, Life, literature, photogaphy
When we are stricken and cannot bear our lives any longer, then a tree has something to say to us: Be still! Be still! Look at me! Life is not easy, life is not difficult. Those are childish thoughts. . . . Home is neither here nor there. Home is within you, or home is nowhere at all.
A longing to wander tears my heart when I hear trees rustling in the wind at evening. If one listens to them silently for a long time, this longing trees study  Anne Corrreveals its kernel, its meaning. It is not so much a matter of escaping from one’s suffering, though it may seem to be so. It is a longing for home, for a memory of the mother, for new metaphors for life. It leads home. Every path leads homeward, every step is birth, every step is death, every grave is mother.
So the tree rustles in the evening, when we stand uneasy before our own childish thoughts: Trees have long thoughts, long-breathing and restful, just as they have longer lives than ours. They are wiser than we are, as long as we do not listen to them. But when we have learned how to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy. Whoever has learned how to listen to trees no longer wants to be a tree. He wants to be nothing except what he is. That is home. That is happiness.woods 1V  anne corr

 

 

 

 Words by Hermann Hesse

Beetles, botany and a man for all seasons.

Art, books, illustration, poetry
Alexander Marshalls watercolours 17th century

Alexander Marshalls watercolours 17th century

I have just finished another miniature book, and one that has given me immense pleasure researching and adapting into a further sample for my collection of collectables.

It is based on the engaging watercolour illustrations that Alexander Marshal created over thirty years during the 1600’s.  I am always drawn to the endeavours of creative people from the past, connecting me to a shared experience , a common humanity.  This was a man of private means, and fortunate enough to occupy himself fully in his chosen preoccupation.  Fortunate for him and for us, since the consequent 159 plates were eventually passed from his descendants to the Royal Collection, and rightly so.  A modest man, he refused to sell them to anyone during his lifetime, preferring to share them only with friends.  That highlights for me how the passion he held was for the joy it gave him, and for no other reason, like making a living.  He didn’t produce these exquisite drawings to catalogue , some he barely referred to , he just wanted to see the treasures of nature and record them in his own masterly way. A keen gardener  he collected new species of horticulture and was instrumental in helping to import some from the newly discovered Americas and supplying them to the great gardens across Britain.

I like gardeners in general, they seem to me to have the virtues of patience and consideration,  often combined with a poetic sensibility.  One of my favourite poets was a gardener, Stanley Kunitz.  I think he  would have approved on Marshals lifetime endeavour.  In tribute to both Marshal and Kunitz , here is one of his poems about an insect!

Hornworm: Autumn Lamentation by Stanley Kunitz
Since that first morning when I crawled
into the world, a naked grubby thing,
and found the world unkind,
my dearest faith has been that this
is but a trial: I shall be changed.
In my imaginings I have already spent
my brooding winter underground,
unfolded silky powdered wings, and climbed
into the air, free as a puff of cloud
to sail over the steaming fields,
alighting anywhere I pleased,
thrusting into deep tubular flowers.It is not so: there may be nectar
in those cups, but not for me.
All day, all night, I carry on my back
embedded in my flesh, two rows
of little white cocoons,
so neatly stacked
they look like eggs in a crate.
And I am eaten half away.

If I can gather strength enough
I’ll try to burrow under a stone
and spin myself a purse
in which to sleep away the cold;
though when the sun kisses the earth
again, I know I won’t be there.
Instead, out of my chrysalis
will break, like robbers from a tomb,
a swarm of parasitic flies,
leaving my wasted husk behind.

Sir, you with the red snippers
in your hand, hovering over me,
casting your shadow, I greet you,
whether you come as an angel of death
or of mercy. But tell me,
before you choose to slice me in two:
Who can understand the ways
of the Great Worm in the Sky?

If you are curious to see the resultant book that I have compiled, then you can see it from my Etsy page.  You can even buy it.