Only Connect

Art, books, craft, illustration, poetry, wellbeing

You would think nothing would be easier wouldn’t you than to be able to create connection – but it isn’t always. So when something comes along in your week to lift you up , something that prompts you into that exalted state of thrilling to create, its a big bonus.

I was in a slump, but keeping going, as lots of us are in this limbo existence of Covid lockdown. Nothing really bringing savour to the day, when a message arrives in my Etsy mail asking me to produce a book to present a poem. That made me sit up , and as I dug deeper into the project, it sat perfectly with my own sensibilities. Tom Pickard established the Morden Tower reading series in Newcastle in the 1960s and ‘70s with his first wife Connie, hosting readings by international and British poets, including Basil Bunting, Allen Ginsberg, Heaney, Hughes and his poetry is published by Carcanet Books as well as being available at the Poetry Foundation. I was awe struck by that history! I have included a few pictures of the book gift that his wife commissioned for Tom from me to show the finished project. It does not show the complete poem.

Tom’s poem took me to the places I go when I scout the beaches in Scotland, and find myself nourished by the invigorating sense of belonging in nature, and existing as part of a much greater consciousness outside my own.

The poem is protected by copyright belonging to Tom, and is available from Carcanet Books ‘Winter Migrants’ and my thanks to Gill Pickard for letting me share this here.

Please let me know if you have any project you would like me to make a book from – I am happy to discuss any ideas! If you want to see the sort of books I have created to date, please pop to my etsy store https://www.etsy.com/uk/shop/modestly

Keats et al

books, etsy, poetry, poets, writers

Beauty is truth, truth beauty

John Keats ‘Ode on a Grecian Urn’

What a week of loveliness – I have invested some time in finally getting around to researching, designing, printing and binding my homage to John Keats. It has been a splendid time of learning and remembering – I listened to the fabulous Jacke Wilson on The History of Literature podcast to deep me in the mood of ‘negative capability’ and was pretty pleased with the end result. Thanks have to go to my lovely customer who prodded me into creating it as I had forgotten that it was on my to do list. ( To do lists live in my head and rarely see the light of day). Years ago I was in Rome with my husband, enjoying the vibe and drinking in the sights and sounds that saturate, when we came across the tiny museum that houses Keats memorabilia, and which were the rooms where he had removed himself when his tuberculosis was at a stage he understood as life threatening. He spent some happy moments there before the disease totally incapacitated him, and spent the final days and weeks with his friend and companion Joseph Severn. One of the remarkable insights you get into Keats by reading his letters is the intensity of the connections that he made – his friends were incredible at giving him care and celebrating him. Whilst I was moving from room to room in that museum, I was struck by a very powerful sense of the poet – an almost uncanny sense. I was entranced really, and extremely moved by the experience. I later wrote a poem about it, and that has made it’s way into my homage too. It can’t be called poetry in the same sense that John Keats wrote poetry – but it does record my moment of transcendent delight and sadness that day.

The facts that surround Keat’s young life are themselves a fascinating insight into a young man of genius – his early life of losing a father at 8 years old, a mother at 14 , then going on to nurse and subsequently lose his beloved brother Tom to the same disease that killed him – form a character that goes on to dedicate himself to the power of the imagination . He trained as a medical practitioner, but changed his choice of career to become a writer – although financially he was always on a back foot, having been swindled out of his inheritance (another Dickensian sub plot.

And so he goes on to write some of the most memorable lines in English poetry ever written . Thank goodness. Please check out the podcast I mentioned if you are interested – it is such easy listening. http://historyofliterature.com/208-john-keats/

Homage to John Keats

If you want to see more from my book, you can find it at Etsy https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/891592042/john-keats-handmade-artist-book-of

…. and then there is that poem about finding Keats in Rome…. here it is!

Song of Myself

craft, Life, literature, poetry, poets

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This has been such a joy to create – I have been meaning to create a handmade book based on some of the epic poem by the American poet Walt Whitman for some years, so this lockdown crisis created the perfect opportunity.  Whitman wrote to a friend that the poet Emerson had brought him to a boil – ‘I was simmering, simmering, simmering’..On completion of Song of Myself, he sent his hero  a copy of Leaves of Grass, to which Emerson wrote the reply, “It has the best merits,namely, of fortifying and encouraging.” That it does, and continues to do so. ‘Leaves of Grass’ is the ultimate expression of a large man – an expansive, modern man. There are lots of very good essays available on the biography of Whitman, and  a host of work on his work. The best thing of all is to get straight into the poems, and rest there.

I have chosen some of my favourite pieces – no doubt those choices will change over time, and illustrated them , then printed and sewn into a small book to add to a collection somewhere!

You can find it available in my store at Etsy.  Book at Etsy

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Lost

blogging, Life, literature, poetry, Thoughts

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I am feeling loss – and yet have only blessings in my life to feel grateful about. My transition is from feeling necessary to being somewhat spare partish. My youngest son is moving through his life – and I am so proud he is where he is, doing what he is, as I am of my eldest and my stepsons – I have nothing to be particularly grievously worried about apart  from the parlous state of the world we are leaving them to sort out. And yet I feel hollow. I need to connect to something that creates meaning for me, and all my strategies I have used to date are not quite doing it for me. I keep turning up – trying to create something I am proud of – but it’s not really working. I know I need to go out into the world, but am not quite ready to face that. I know no answers exist, I know it remains within my own hands (or head) , and yet I am only faced with a feeling of hopelessness.  Where are those bootstraps I need to pull up?  My first port of call in the past has always been to find solace in the writing of others – and that has created a safe haven for me in the past – but one of my losses is the facility to read. Somehow I am unable to find it within me. This too , I hope will pass.

It’s a river, and I am at one of those sticky creeks, I need to haul myself out of the mud and find some rapids.

Hope everyone finds some kindness to share today, this week, this life.

Spring fever

Art, books, craft, poetry

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Sharing a few images of my work in progress – I am making a new title to sell in my Etsy store – handmade coptic stitched books that connect you to the beauty already in the world – I have found amazing solace and inspiration from writers down the ages – and this little volume focuses on work by Emily Dickinson and Thoreau – both loved observers of the natural world. I have found inspiration for illustration from historical botanical painting, and found the natural complement to the written word. A celebration of new life, from old – Spring always follows Winter. I was recently very moved by a dedication requested by a customer  for my Mindfulness book – and it reminded me why I love making my keepsake books – sometimes we all need a time for reflection and consideration of what is really important – the connection I make with my customers is special.

Etsy store of Handmade books

Learning from a master

Life, poetry, poets, T.S.Eliot, W.B.Yeats

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A portion, of course, from East Coker  ‘The  Four Quartets’ by T. S Eliot, a poem in its entirety that continues to move and intrigue me as I spend my portion of life on an increasingly perturbed island on the edge of Europe, very much greater in it’s own mind than is realistic or desirable.  But then in his words ‘Mankind cannot bear too much reality’

This is where I come in – reality is where I live and it hurts.  I notice others can perform the human dance a lot better than I  – there is a dissembling in order to accommodate and I find it a tricky route. I feel stranger than perhaps I am – a half century on feeling on the edge of a tribe, and never within it.. Even the one I produced myself , of which I am inordinately pleased with.

I would liked to have met Thomas Stearns, spent an evening of ordinary discourse, shared a bottle of wine and a meal. It’s not going to happen. But like Mr W.B. Yeats, he is as much a presence in my life as the living, and a very welcome one that.

I shall be raising a glass to both my companions, and feel gratitude that they were here – in their end was my beginning.

Autumn shots

nature, photography, poetry, United Kingdom

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The cygnets on Attenborough nature reserve are growing up now – I saw them first when they were teeny – lovely to keep up with them.

The tree is my brothers favourite on one of my dog walks – and therefore deserves some attention – I took a photo and then altered it digitally.

The berries speak for themselves.

 

…and a poem to share – not mine!

The Present

For the present there is just one moon,

though every level pond gives back another.

But the bright disc shining in the black lagoon,

perceived by astrophysicist and lover,

is milliseconds old. And even that light’s

seven minutes older than its source.

And the stars we think we see on moonless nights

are long extinguished. And, of course,

this very moment, as you read this line,

is literally gone before you know it.

Forget the here-and-now. We have no time

but this device of wantonness and wit.

Make me this present then: your hand in mine,

and we’ll live out our lives in it.

-Michael Donaghy

Brief encounter

blogging, daily living, Life, poetry, United Kingdom, wellbeing

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It isn’t rare to have an encounter with deer here in the Highlands of Scotland – and in our village at Kinlochleven they frequently come down to the river, or sojourn on the green for a short while. I have been taking out my new rescue Patterdale morning , noon and night – we are more often out than in, and yesterday evening we met a beautiful young stag . He had arrived on the green just as we did, bounded onto the bridge and leapt over following the line of the river.  We caught up with him – the light was still hanging around although it was past ten at night – the village was quiet. Reggie and I stood rapt as the young stag was totally still in our presence. It was as though he had invited us into his space. And then he bowed his head to eat some grass – I bowed mine back – and we mimicked one anothers gestures twice more. Reggie was as quiet as a mouse – no barking, no growling, no pulling – just a three way dialogue of enjoying the meeting. Extraodinary. And uplifting – my spirits are needing more of this.

The place I want to get back to

is where

in the pinewoods

in the moments between

the darkness

and first light

two deer

came walking down the hill

and when they saw me

they said to each other, okay,

this one is okay,

let’s see who she is

and why she is sitting

on the ground like that,

so quiet, as if

asleep, or in a dream,

but, anyway, harmless;

and so they came

on their slender legs

and gazed upon me

not unlike the way

I go out to the dunes and look

and look and look

into the faces of the flowers;

and then one of them leaned forward

and nuzzled my hand, and what can my life

bring to me that could exceed

that brief moment?

For twenty years

I have gone every day to the same woods,

not waiting, exactly, just lingering.

Such gifts, bestowed,

can’t be repeated.

If you want to talk about this

come to visit. I live in the house

near the corner, which I have named

Gratitude.

(c) Mary Oliver

 

With Flowers

poetry

With Flowers.

 

South winds jostle them,

Bumblebees come,

Hover, hesitate,

Drink, and are gone.

 

Butterflies pause

On their passage Cashmere;

I, softly plucking,

Present them here!

 

Emily Dickinson remains one of my poets I return to time and again. She was 56 – my age- when she died , and in that span had written around 1100 poems. She didn’t publish in her lifetime, lived a life that has been described as reclusive and yet her writing exposes a fullness of human experience. I am left curious, and moved by her poetry. It is no surprise that her poetry is so enjoyed . I think I may just have my next project!

based on leoversin smudge copy

Finished!

blogging, books, literature, poetry, poets

A Tribute to W.B.Yeats

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Every now and again I manage to complete one of my ongoing projects!  This one has been on the back burner for some time – I already have a title that includes three of this poet’s work , but I wanted to investigate the poet a little further.

I was an early fan of his poetry – the musicality within it is magical – and I really do know how much my life has been influenced by listening to the power of the written word by a genius.  I count my poet influencers amongst my friends – they have informed my thinking and feeling for the majority of my life.  I truly believe they are life savers.

What I really find out when I dig deeper about any of my literary heroes, is how human they are – how full of paradox and confusion – and that endears me more. They above all others have shown me how truly miraculous it is to be human and alive and suffering as well as exalting. I lead a secular existence – and I am no apologist about that – but the spiritual exists within and poets help me to embrace that side of my nature.

 

A deep gratitude to artists everywhere, for the attempt to connect.  And to Mr W. B Yeats – the everlasting love of the listener and the reader.

 

‘Like along-legged fly upon the stream

His mind moves upon the silence’

 

If you are interested in seeing more of my finished tribute, it is going to be available here    Tribute hand made book at Etsy