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

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.

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.

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

 

The moment, not the bird, divine

daily challenge, Life, photography, weekly wordpress challenge

 

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Perfect in mid air

See how against the weight in the bone
the hawk hangs perfect in mid-air-
the blood pays dear to raise it there,
the moment, not the bird, divine.                               from Envoi by Kathleen Raine

This is my take on WordPress Photo challenge ‘Temporary’  link ; Temporary photo challenge

Solace

blogging, illustration, photography, United Kingdom

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Hills of the Western Highlands

Solace; You give deep solace.
I sink into this place,
dig into pillows, fresh, green
and clean purity of space.
Hills, stately as galleons
offer refuge, all burden
is gone, the eye free
to stare, and stare,
unhindered, all care
abandoned, weight
supported
by invisible, magic air.
Memories flow
as surely as streams
that silver through
green,lush valleys.
Timelessness,
and energy ,
the lifeforces within
and without.
Form and beauty
are rocks inheritance,
shared freely and
without counting a cost.

poetry and images my own – please ask permission before using.

Images are of Kinlochleven and this is the link to the Wanderlust post  Wanderlust challenge link

Simply Human

Art, Life, poetry, poets, uk, wellbeing, world

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On National Women’s day I want to say something. It’s not radical, it’s not clever, it’s not even controversial – at least from where I am. And that is the point. I am writing from a position of privilege , I have been educated to the same standard as my brothers, I have worked in a male dominated industry and been accepted as successful within my career, and I have a marriage which is traditional in values but recognises my strengths ( and my weaknesses).

I want to say thank you – to all the women and the men who went before me and worked quietly in the background to remove barriers in the system.  It’s not perfect, and I myself worked hard two decades ago to change attitudes within the company I worked. But the change has been remarkable in my lifetime.

The challenge for our society – U.K – is different now. It is to accept the equality between genders and to understand that equality retains the opportunity for difference. It is to accept responsibilities and duties that are incumbent on everyone to work hard, and to embrace challenge together, both in the workplace, in the community and in the domestic arena.

I would like to see less commodification of sexuality, which starts at birth now – the baby vests that promote the princess in the female , the five year old pageants, the sexting of teens.  Do grown ups that have sex really need to display this sense of rampant horniness in the everyday and in the inappropriate age groups of the tender young.

I don’t know what a day can do to promote the values of women – I don’t even know what they are. My values are different to my friends, let alone those who think I am ridiculous. I just want a world where we can be confident enough to have a dialogue with one another beyond gender, race, abilities. It’s a bit of dream but we have arrived at a place undreamt of by my female ancestors.

My illustration for a challenge at Redbubble provoked me to produce the illustration above – it has man and woman side by side, potent with possibility.( and available here  redbubble and  at  Society6

 

On a final note I defer to the poet laureate Wislawa  Szymborska, succinct and brilliant .
It’s a political age.

All day long, all through the night,
all affairs–yours, ours, theirs–
are political affairs.

Whether you like it or not,
your genes have a political past,
your skin, a political cast,
your eyes, a political slant.

Whatever you say reverberates,
whatever you don’t say speaks for itself.
So either way you’re talking politics.

Even when you take to the woods,
you’re taking political steps
on political grounds.

Apolitical poems are also political,
and above us shines a moon
no longer purely lunar.
To be or not to be, that is the question.
And though it troubles the digestion
it’s a question, as always, of politics.

To acquire a political meaning
you don’t even have to be human.
Raw material will do,
or protein feed, or crude oil,

or a conference table whose shape
was quarreled over for months;
Should we arbitrate life and death
at a round table or a square one?

Meanwhile, people perished,
animals died,
houses burned,
and the fields ran wild
just as in times immemorial
and less political.

Notes to Self

blogging, Life, literature, philosophy, Thoughts, zen

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The guy who wrote the original did so in Greek, but was actually an intellectual Roman who was to govern Rome after succeeding the Emperor Antoninus Pius, spending a couple of decades trying to placate the Senate and put down minor rebellions. It was some time ago.

Marcus Aurelius lives long in the mind – this is a book that belongs in the bookshelves of the great and the good throughout history – it has shaped the thinking of men. And yet it was not written for publication – it was written as an ongoing discourse with himself as to how to live a life, how to wrestle with the challenges that being human brings , a ‘design for living’. He is setting  out his set of rules, quite unaware that it would become a key text in later attempting to understand the Roman Stoic philosophy.

 

I am fascinated how threads of understanding weave themselves through history – occurring separately to thinkers from disparate cultures and times – and how those threads resonate generations later, making a fascinating complexity of human thought spinning itself through time and place.

I am reminded of these words,

Knee-deep in the cosmic overwhelm, I’m stricken

by the ricochet wonder of it all: the plain

everythingness of everything, in cahoots

with the everythingness of everything else.       Carl Sagan  ‘Diffraction’

and from Edgar Allen Poe

 “that space and duration are one”