Into the Sunset

Into the Sunset

So, the writing is back. I have reformatted The Nature of Art and the Art of Nature and am now checking it through one last time before I send it to the publishers. This feels good. I haven’t stopped painting though. Luckily the original, hanging on the wall, looks better than the photo. My angles are all wrong and the colours are definitely not as sharp as in the original. As I always said, when introducing Spanish Art via slides and photos: “Do not trust the imitations. Go back to the original.” Easier said than done, especially when the original may be tucked away in a foreign museum hidden in a small town. As Dylan Thomas once said of Swansea Museum: “it’s the sort of museum that ought to be in a museum.”

As for the Introduction of Art, and please note I do not write ‘the teaching of art’, here’s my article on my career as an art facilitator! ‘In the beginning was the picture and the picture was in the book.’ I guess my art career ran parallel to my career as a facilitator of Spanish literature, prose, theatre, and poetry. Some things you can present and introduce. But no, you cannot teach them, not unless you are completely without humility and understanding.

Now that’s what it is meant to look like!

Insights

Insights
Thursday Thoughts
07 October 2021

This is a painting inspired by one of Messiaen’s works: Visions from Beyond. His music inspired me to write the Meditations on Messiaen, and I have posted several of those poems on this page. For me, creativity is continuous: verbal and visual. The visual includes painting and photography, the verbal, short stories, poems, and short philosophical pieces on life and art. This is the link to the first poem from the sequence entitled Visions from Beyond. I should add that the audio reading is part of what I call creativity too: audio, visual, verbal. The complete package.

My Thursday thought: I feel that I have been blessed. To be able to see, speak, write, hear, and express some of the beauty of this world around me. I know there is ugliness out there, sickness, ill health, poverty and despair. So far, I have been spared. “Why me?” I think to myself, “Why me?” Then I cease to question and I just say “Thank you” to the Spiritus Mundi and to the Muse when she descends.

Every morning, when I wake, my mind runs through some of the hymns I used to sing as a child. “Songs of praises, I will ever give to Thee.” “Laud, bless, and praise Him all thy days, for it is seemly so to do.” “Good Shepherd may I sing Thy praise, within Thy house forever.” Meanwhile, until that time comes, I will do my best to celebrate and sing the beauties of this world in the oh-so-limited ways I know best, poetry and paint!

Stay on the Green Side

Stay on the Green Side

One of my good friends always greets me with the following phrase: “Still on the green side of the grass, then”. So, here’s my painting: Stay on the Green Side. Much better than the other side, from all that I am told by my more down-to-earth companions. I will not intrude upon the thoughts of some of my other friends, nor expose their beliefs. I’ll paint for them another day.

So, while you can, and while you may, Stay on the Green Side, my friends. Wake up each morning, smell the coffee, and gather ye rosebuds while ye may!

Dizzy Dawn

Dizzy Dawn

There is so much happening. It’s hard to keep track of it all. Reading and annotating the material I am working on for my online writing seminar. Painting: a delightful relief and relaxation. Who cares if I can’t paint? I can make meaning out of shape and color, like my friend Matisse. Writing: the poetry is back and I will start revising those short stories again soon. I may also go back to my first novel. I have abandoned it for too long.

Meanwhile, each dawn is a busy dizzy time. This morning I decided to lie in bed until 24 birds had flown past my new bedroom window, one for each new pane of glass. It took about fifteen minutes. I watched the mist rise and then the sun start to break through and when the sun came, so did the birds. Dizzy Dawn is now hanging on the wall, along with another set of paintings I have finished recently.

Life is good. I hope it stays that way for as long as possible.

Octo-+Plus

Octo+Plus

The Octo-Plus has eaten up all my words and the stream has run dry. When the words don’t flow, I let the paint flow instead. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. That might actually be a self-portrait, lurking in the bottom left corner of the painting’s glass. Ah, the ghost, not in the machine, but in the painting. It’s a hard life, being a writer when the words dry up.

I remember the old school’s terms of abuse “Oh, dry up!” Well, 70 years later, I have done just that. Mind you, it’s only for a day or two, and look, miracle of miracles, I am writing again. Leave the keyboard, take up your pen. The words are flowing and you’re writing again.

Twist & Bust

Lady Cherry Stones with balloon!

Meditations on Messiaen
Why do the people?

6

Twist and Bust

 Vingt-et-un, twist and bust, always hoping,
seldom winning, holding out one’s hand
for hand-outs, for special treatment, for some
thing that raises us above the everyday nothingness.

Twist, yes. Let’s twist again, like we did back when.
But this isn’t Oliver Twist: “Please sir, may I
have some more?” though everyone is heading
for the poor house and the beadles are gathering
by Bedlam’s door with their handcarts and dogs
and the full enforcement of a blue-serge law
made to twist and torment, though I have never
understood the law, especially when it is left
in the hands of lawyers, for “the law, dear sir, is an ass”,
a striped ass at that, black and white like a zebra,
though grey and costly in the areas that matter most.

And what is there to do but rant away
about the injustice of it all, the size of the pay-checks
and now you must check-out the food banks,
 the soup kitchens, the meals on wheels, the charitable
eating and boarding houses, because there’s no more roof
over the head and the house is sold and the incomes
are split and the children are more-or-less cared for,
though rather less than more, and the dog is turfed from
his dog house and the pussy cat booted from her feathered bed.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Twist & Bust

Mystery and Magic

Mystery and Magic Rule

            “Sólo el misterio nos hace vivir, sólo el misterio / Only the mystery keeps us alive, only the mystery.”(Federico García Lorca, 1898-1936). The poet and the artist both create metaphors, mysteries, magic. The search for meaning, the attempt to unravel the Gordian knot that surrounds the inner core of mystery is what keeps us, as viewers, viewing, and us, as readers, reading. Sometimes, as in a mystery novel, the ending is closed. The mystery that has spurred us on is revealed and the novel ends. Sometimes, as in many of the poems and stories in my books, the ending is open. The mystery continues and we never leave the land of wonderment that we first entered when we opened the book. There is no closure. Words and memories, metaphors and images, lines and rhythms, remain trapped in our mind with the brightness of butterflies that flutter before our eyes and flitter away before they can be caught. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And in poetry, each beholder becomes a new creator, a new artist creating a private, imagined world.

A private, imagined world: reading The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings is one thing. The characters came alive and I recreated them in my own mind. I remember the first cartoon rendition of The Lord of the Rings. The characters were no longer mine. I did not respond to them. I left the film early and went off to the closest bar. To drown my sorrows and forget. Same thing with Harry Potter. My own inner visions were not the external visions created for me by Hollywood or whoever. In fact, after seeing one film, I gave up on the whole series. Not my inner creations, not my heroes, not my people.

This might be a generational problem. I grew up in the age of radio, no TV, not until I was 9 years old. I remember listening to the Wind in the Willows on BBC Radio. Voice echoed in my head and each character, each episode was recreated in my own mind. I read my first copy, carefully preserved since childhood, the other night, and Ratty, Moley, and Badger were just as I first remembered and recreated them. The same with The Chronicles of Narnia, read, before they were seen.

Perhaps someone else’s visuals destroy the magic and the mystery we have created. Perhaps there is a huge difference between reading first and seeing first, or seeing first and then reading the novel. I once used A Room with a View as a textbook in a reading and writing class. Many participants had enormous problems with the written version. In fact, they did not understand the written version until after they had seen the Merchant Ivory film. “Oh woe is me: shame and scandal in the family”. But whose shame? Whose scandal? The world is changing ever more rapidly. There seem to be few absolute rights and wrongs. So many things seem to be relative. Mystery and Magic: are these the things that keep us alive?

Poetry or Prose?

Poetry or Prose?
Wednesday Workshop
22 September 2021
Patos de setiembre.

When I write, I do not distinguish between poetry or prose. More often than not I think in terms of the rhythm and musicality of the words I am using, if the words sound right, when read out loud, they probably are. Here is a prose poem, Cage of Flame. It is written in prose, but it’s meaning is dependent on imagery, metaphors, associative fields, and musicality. Read it as you would any piece of prose, in sentences, following the guidance of the grammar. Read it two or three times quietly to yourself then, when you have grasped the poem’s rhythms, try reading it out loud. If you want to know how I would read this poem, check my recorded readings on my blog, Spotify or SoundCloud.

Cage of Flame

Now you are a river flowing silver beneath the moon. High tide in the salt marsh: your body fills with shadow and light. I dip my hands in dappled water. Twin gulls, they float down stream, then perch on an ice-floe of half-remembered dreams. Eagle with a broken wing, why am I trapped in this cage of flame? When I turn my feathers to the sun, my back is striped with the black and white of a convict’s bars. Awake, I lie anchored by what pale visions fluttering on the horizon? White moths wing their snow storm through the night. A feathered shadow ghosts fingers towards my face. Butterflies stutter against a shuttered window. A candle flickers in the darkness and maps in runes the ruins of my heart. Eye of the peacock, can you touch what I see when my eyelids close for the night? Last night, the black rock of the midnight sun rolled up the sky. The planet quivered beneath my body as I felt each footfall of a transient god.

Clearly the above is prose because it has no line breaks. But what happens when we break that prose into shorter lines and turn it into a poem?

Cage of Flame

Now you are a river flowing
silver beneath the moon.
High tide in the salt marsh:
your body fills with shadow and light.
I dip my hands in dappled water.

Eagle with a broken wing,
why am I trapped in this cage of flame?
When I turn my feathers to the sun,
my back is striped with the black
and white of a convict’s bars.

Awake,
I lie anchored by what pale visions
fluttering on the horizon?
White moths wing their snow
storm through the night.
A feathered shadow ghosts
fingers towards my face.
Butterflies stutter against
a shuttered window.
A candle flickers in the darkness
and maps in runes the ruins of my heart.

Eye of the peacock,
can you touch what I see
when my eyelids close for the night?
The black rock of the midnight sun
rolled up the sky.

Last night, the planet quivered
beneath my body and I felt
each footfall of a transient god.

            It seems to be the same text, but is it? And what happens if we change those line breaks? It will change the external structure of prose > to poem > to new poem, but it will not alter the internal structures that survive all format changes. Does the rhythm stay the same in both cases? It certainly does when I read it, but how about you? Poetry or prose? And what’s the difference anyway if the words roll off your tongue and metaphors, mystery, and magic rule?

Comment:
Clearly poetry and prose are not interchangeable, for they both fulfill different functions. The classical difference is often said to lie between history, what actually happened, and poetry, the formal arrangements of words in song. This seemingly simple definition becomes blurred, of course, when history, written in prose, is confused with epic, the retelling of history in poetic form. Prose fiction is a much later development and it is Miguel de Cervantes who gives us, in Don Quixote, his own Renaissance solution: “La épica también puede escribire en prosa” / the epic can also be written in prose. The mingling of poetry and prose underlines the use of rhetorical tropes in writing. Later, Baudelaire will offer us us his Petits poèmes en prose thus gifting the world with prose poems. Much of what I write is prose poetry or poetry in prose. Rhythm, metaphor, allusions, alliteration, similes, intertextuality all combine to decorate my writing. And yes, I am very clear about what I am trying to do.

Change

Meditations on Messiaen
Revelations

6

Change

The wind of change will blow and change will come,
heralded not by brazen trumpets and a roll of drums,
but overnight in stealth and silence. The valleys will lose
their coal. The seams will shrink, smaller and smaller,
until even the tiniest child will not find room the kneel
at the coal-face and sweat in adoration, shovel and pick
in hand, prying and praying in praise of the black god.

Change will come. The mines will be closed.
The miners will go on unemployment. They will move
to other areas, where mines still flourish, for a life time
spent underground is not that easy to forget and change
is never easy. Who ever said it would be easy?

The men in grey suits bring change. They walk and talk
and plan the changes they will bring about. The pit-head
baths will turn into super stores, a new trading estate will offer
work to the workless who will be changed into worthy workers
once again with course after course of education and retraining.

Yes, change will come. Some will pack up and leave,
only to return as they cannot face the face of change
as once they faced the coal-face, on their knees all day,
praying. Some will go overseas, by boat or plane.
They need never fear for Australia is near. America is a siren
singing bedrock songs of welcome and freedom. Canada calls
and many arrive there to face the white face of winter
rather than that merry, coke-black face of Old King Coal.

Yes, change will come. You will change. Your children
will be born into change and only your memories will recall
life before change, that life everlasting that came
before the fall of coal and your immortality is now
a Post-lapsarian call to constant change, secuale seculorum,
for ever and ever, until that final change. Amen.

Click on the link below for Roger’s reading.

Change