The Painting Lesson

The Painting Lesson
KIRA 

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Geoff is teaching the participants in the creative retreat how to paint a cone flower. He plucked several on the way to the workshop and placed a couple in a cup of water so we could study them in close up. Mine are on the table just to my left hand. The golf cart outside is the main means of transport when it is time to move me from place to place. It’s so much easier to sit in comfort rather than to pick my way carefully over slightly uneven grass. Geoff has shown me how to paint the background to my flower. Alas, my background is nothing like his background. I often wonder if this is because I went to school in England, while he went to school in Canada. Certainly our backgrounds are very different. Geoff took the Golf Cart keys from Mad Max. Hence the drive over to Studio #1, where I wrote for a month in June 2017 was very smooth. Mad Max is very kind and gentle. Until he gets behind the wheel of a golf cart. Then he earns his nick-name: Mad Max. My plastic chair is about to collapse and land me on the floor. But I don’t yet know that. It will happen about three minutes after this photo was taken, but the camera had gone by then. Fortunately. Or the next picture would show my rear end raised into the air in all its glory with my little legs kicking.

 

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This next photo shows my painting with my lovely cone flower painted in. My cone flower does not resemble Geoff’s cone flower, nor does it look like the real thing that sits on the desk in front of me. I hope you can see my  cone flower in the painting, but if you can’t, don’t worry. My best advice is search for something that doesn’t look like a cone flower and you will find mine. We are not sure what happens when I paint. Whereas all the obedient students have only one large realistic flower in their painting, my painting sprouts flowers as if by magic. They just appear, like dandelions. They are everywhere and in all colors. It’s quite the bouquet, really, though that is not what it was meant to be. It was meant to be a cone flower. Geoff says I have a unique and powerful style of my own. I think this is instructor-speak for “Roger, you can’t paint for love or money and, as a painter, you are as dumb and stubborn and inflexible as a knot in a lump of wood, but shucks, I’m not a negative person, so I’ll call your messy message unique.” Thanks, Geoff. It’s nice to be unique. Much better than being an abject failure. When Clare saw my painting, she thought my eye-sight was going, so she made an appointment for me to see the optician, or whatever he’s called, next week. Or the week after. I couldn’t make out the date. Her hand-writing is so blurred. Maybe her hand-writing is unique, too. Either that or she also needs an eye-appointment.

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This is the final product. Geoff says it is very strong and demonstrates the strength of my personality. I think it looks like a cross between a Tangled Garden, a nightmare bristling on the facade of one of Monet’s Cathedrals, a Van Gogh flowery sky, and a walk in the park with Picasso when he was trying to relearn how to paint as a very young child would paint. The other participants say they like the energy of my brush strokes. Brush strokes, a lovely idea. I hold the brush like a carving knife and, pretending the canvas is a lump of recalcitrant cheddar cheese or a fierce Shropshire Blue, I attack it with my bristle sword, hacking it into colorful lumps that can be whatever the viewer thinks they might be. Speaking of cheese, this painting is the sort of dream that comes in the night to haunt me when I have eaten too much cheese. The slashing of the nightmare with the paintbrush sword brings a moment of release and a wonderful feeling of relief and relaxation when canvas and cheese are cheerfully hacked and the contents of their souls released into a heaven-haven of paint. Ah soul: I think you can see one or two souls flitting through my tangled garden. I’ll tell you a secret, though: I don’t know how they got there. I thought I was painting butterflies at the time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surrealism

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Surrealism
KIRA Retreat Day 4

Only one of the Kingsbrae alpacas could understand and illustrate what we did today. This one showed us so many things. Luckily we smuggled him into the writing classes and the art classes and nobody was any the wiser. In fact he taught one class himself, and one participant served as translator, moving from Spanish to English with almost as much ease as he taught.

He began this morning with a reading that linked Symbolism to Surrealism to Magical Realism. It was a fascinating piece that nobody in the room, myself included, had ever heard before. So, we began with a concrete, literary example, then moved to a theoretical session. The alpaca began by explaining the difference between a lama, an alpaca, and a vicuña. This was extremely interesting, and something we hadn’t considered before. Luckily, these three creatures, two of them mythical (but which two?), do not have-isms attached to them and were therefore much easier to understand.

The lama began the theoretical session by offering some meditation exercises, very peace-giving.  Then he moved into the nitty-gritty of automatic writing. He followed this with some examples of how, rather than copying the automatic writing, we could select prime elements from it. This selection process allows the writer to mine the subconscious while avoiding some of the repetitious nature of the automated pen on the suppliant page.

In all cases, all participants read from their work and the sharing of subconscious inanities was a great way to break any ice that came with the overnight change in the weather.

After lunch, we had a second writing exercise that stretched into two exercises. These were courtesy of a second lama and entailed describing unknown and known objects. One of the participants was very uncooperative and instead of writing words drew pictures in his notebook. This drew comments of ‘Naughty, naughty,” from the lama and that student was given a time out on the golf cart driven round the lawn by the KIRA equivalent of Mad Max.

In our final session, the art lama appeared. He had carefully plucked all the flowers in Kingsbrae and then eaten them. However, in an incredible act of bravery, the ladies present stole some from his hoard and placed them in water cups. The participants then scattered random dots of paint upon a canvas and agreed that, seen from a distance and in the dark, they looked like flowers on a tarmac road under storm clouds on a thundery night when nothing could be seen.

By now, the lama who had been tied to the fishing weir, oh, I forgot to tell you about that, sorry, had been rescued when the Old Sow let the water out of the Passamaquoddy bath tub (aka low tide). Luckily no harm was done and a delicious, fossilized piece of Turkish Delight was shared by the participants all of whom agreed that nothing like this had ever happened to them before, and I believe them.

Mad Max took everyone for a ride on the Golf Cart and we all chased deer round the Kingsbrae Gardens while singing “I’ve been working on the chain gang” and “For it’s a jolly good yellow.”

MT 2-3 Monkey Visits the Poisonous Snakes

MT 2-3
Monkey Visits the Poisonous Snakes

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Monkey Visits the Poisonous Snakes

A swift death
was never their style,
the cobras, the vipers,
the adders and subtractors,
the bean counters and snatchers,
the diminutive dudes.

They prefer death
by blow-gun
their poison dart
injected through
hollowed fangs

or Chinese Water Torture,
the slow drip after drip
of poison inserted into ears
and veins, a drop at a time,
and slowly gathering …

… until their victim slows down,
ceases to struggle,
stands there, eyes open,
unable to move,
poisoned and paralysed.

Comment: with all the exciting things that are happening concerning my new poetry writing, I forgot all about my monkeys. It seems they have been bouncing up and down, fretting in their cages, bounding all over the ruined, broken-down temple, poor little blighters. Apparently, on their last visit to the rest of Bristol Zoo, they left the big snakes and decided to visit the little, poisonous ones. I guess they didn’t like them at all. Does anyone? I hope there are no ‘snakes in the grass’ near you, and I don’t mean grass snakes. And watch out for snake charmers, some of those snakes believe more in harm than charms.

PS Let me know if you want a voice text. I haven’t recorded this one yet.

Procrastination

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Procrastination
for my friend, Mr. Cake

It’s old age, I think:
I can manage
one thing a day,
depends on the weather,
then I forget,
then I remember,
but the weather isn’t right,
so I put it off again,
start a story,
write a poem,
the phone rings,
someone texts me,
there’s a knock on the door,
the crows in the garden
make me procrastinate,
(crass  Latin joke*),
then I remember
and feel sad,
and hair leaks from my head
like straw from a scarecrow,
and my teddy bear brain
turns to sawdust
when I scratch,
and what was I saying?
I guess I’ve forgotten,
I’ll sleep on it tonight,
and write again
tomorrow.

Note:
Crass Latin joke*
Cras is the Latin for tomorrow. Cras is also the sound, in Latin, that the crows make. Hence Pro-cras-tinate: to leave things for tomorrow, or to abandon them for tomorrow’s crows. The joke probably doesn’t belong in the poem, but darn, it’s my poem and I’m leaving it in there.

Comment:
This collection of thoughts started in a casual online exchange with my good friend, Mr. Cake. Sometimes words flow and it’s impossible to stop them. Sometimes, they hover like crows or croak at us from the tree tops where they sit ungraspable. My spellcheck tells me that’s not a word, but if it isn’t, it ought to be. Whatever: the world and its words are sometimes surreal and if you are interested in the surreal, then Mr. Cake’s blog is the place to be. Here’s the link. The site comes highly recommended. Click on it now and don’t procrastinate. Mr. Cake’s Blog.

Butterflies

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Butterflies

“Poetry gives permanence to the temporal forms of the self.”
Miguel de Unamuno.

That is what my writing is all about,
those temporal forms, fluttering and changing.
Butterflies, they live for a day or two,
perch and flourish, spread their wings,
excel for a moment, catch my attention,
then blown by a sudden gust of wind,
they tear their wings on a thorn
and perish in the blink of an eye.

Reborn in ditches, they cluster and gather,
congregate, black and yellow, on bees’ balm,
smother Cape Daisies and Black-eyed Susans.

Like shadows they shimmer, butterflies by day,
fireflies by night, terrestrial stars, lost, wandering,
floating in their forest firmament, hackmatack,
black oak, bird’s eye maple, silver birch, fir …

Impermanence surrounds us, dances beneath stars,
sings with robins, echoes the owl’s cry through woodlands,
poetry, the elemental soul, our words capturing nothing,
turning it into eternity, holding it for the briefest moment,
then letting it go. Island View, New Brunswick, Canada,
my home in the woods, my dialog with my place and time.

Monkey Temple

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Monkey Temple

The monkeys appear, as if by magic.
They tumble out of windows and doorways.
They clamber through the holes in the temple’s ruined roof.
They are quiet at first.
They inspect their surroundings.
They ogle the crowd gathering for the afternoon show.
They watch the watchers watching them.
They pulsate, for no reason at all, they pulsate, then ululate.
They jump up and down and swing from the temple’s roof.
They pontificate, gesticulate, and regurgitate.
They sit and sift for fleas.
They defecate and urinate.
They masticate cautiously.
They castigate and fornicate.
They ruminate. They masturbate.
They rush to the top of the temple
and on the uplifted faces of the crowd they ejaculate.

Monkey Temple is the first poem of the book of the same name. It serves as a Prologue. Below is my oral presentation of this poem.

 

On Reading

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(Today’s photo: Cherry … she was a very obedient dog and always listened carefully. Sometimes she actually obeyed.)

On Reading

Yesterday, I posted an audio of me reading Monkey Presses Delete. I received some e-mails about this reading and realized that reading into the microphone, alone, without an audience, had crated a ‘new voice version’ of the poem. I thought about it overnight and came to the conclusion that my public readings are dictated by two things: (1) my own mood and (2) audience reception. Audience reception is, in itself, a double thing (a) how they perceive me before I even open my mouth (especially if I am an unknown quantity to them) and (b) how they perceive me as I use my performing and reading skills to manipulate them. And no, I am not a passive reader of my poetry, but a very aware and active one.

So, I rethought my relationship to Monkey Presses Delete, and re-recorded it this morning. The second reading is very different, as you will hear. Virtually the same poem, virtually the same poet, but a very, very different reading. I will be very interested to read and / or hear your comments on these two audio variations.

Monkey Presses Delete
(Take 2, Monday, 11 June 2018)