Monday, 30 December 2013

40 the collier & the foss

december 2013
152mm x 190mm
sewn booklet with painted wrappers
8 pages

This tale has been concocted out of His Grandfather's Bible; A Tale of Furness Fells, a novel written by C. Wareing Bardsley, M.A., Vicar of Ulverston and excerpted in the 1885 edition of Home Words for Heart and Hearth (see also Colva Books 30: Henry Jekyll's Partial Statement of the Case, below), the version on which this current treatment is based. The words are exactly the same as those used in the original; all that has been changed is their order, so what was a pious story of redemption for a prodigal son is now something in the line of a tale of pagan sacrifice and the enduring natural force of life. The vicar would surely not have wanted it so, but his main character, the charcoal burner 'Old Antony', was so vigorously drawn - he was, we are told 'a man who never grows old' and whose face 'had dyes such as were worn by Druid priests in the days of the consecrated mistletoe and the hallowed oak' - that the theme of sacrifice and continuation was to be found not too far beneath the surface. The care that Bardsley took to preserve his characters' robust Lancashire dialect is also apparent; his words have been preserved exactly as originally penned, likewise his idiosyncratic punctuation.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

writers on cylinders: Robert Walser

The third in the phonograph series pays homage to the Swiss writer Robert Walser, whose exquisitely tortuous playfulness in prose is unmatched. For all of the loneliness and doubt behind his words, their presiding characteristic is good humour and one rarely leaves it not feeling at least a little uplifted. Rambling is a consistent theme in Walser's writing (I've given him a song title of 'How splendid to wander in the bright summer air!' - 'vocal; unaccompanied' of course). His sentences also resemble the act: characteristically they find him striding out, stumbling a little perhaps but then finding something fascinating by the wayside to take his attention; mixing extraordinary expostulation with simple-hearted delight and tremulous uncertainty, he doubles back, heads forward again, turns round and admires the view, exclaims 'how delightful all this is!' - and then ends with a question mark that puts the whole into doubt. There is no-one quite like him. There's a quote of his on the bottom of the phonograph: 'We don't need to see anything out of the ordinary. We already see so much.'

Thursday, 5 September 2013

fireweed silks drift...

I have a number of books on display at The Foundry Studio and Gallery in Bewdley, as part of their book week, from 14th-22nd September, 11am-4pm. I also done some readings which will be available at a listening post (ie: a pair of headphones and maybe even a seat) there. One of the poems is fireweed silks drift... I would have loved to post a reading of it here but unfortunately blogger requires a tortuous workaround to host it. Anyway, pop in to Bewdley if you are in the vicinity, it's there along with some close companions. In the meantime, here's a photograph of some fireweed in the garden, taken yesterday. I used to expend a lot of energy cutting fireweed (or rosebay willow-herb if you prefer) down. Now (and this is not entirely unconnected with the fact that its a good pollen plant for my bees, blue pollen too - take a look), I leave it and love to watch its silks rising and drifting through the air...

fables : 8

'The tea was dishonest, tasting vaguely of shrimp…' And here is another from the series, Fables 8 : Modern Times. Where is this one set? A down-at-heel encampment for low-key dissidents perhaps, engaged upon their work of tidying up anomalies in official pronouncements, where jocular camarderie is not quite enough to still the slivers of threat that poke through the cracks: 'bring me the silver of your stream, says the knife grinder, bring me its golden light.' It ends - as a number of my stories seem to these days - with thistledown upon the air. The rather lovely pea green wrappers are made from Ruscombe Mill's Forest Green Wove 180gsm paper.

fables : 6

I have printed up a number of stories, written between 2006 and the present day and linked through their singular method of composition, as a series of 'fables'. Here is number 6 - The Walk. My usual ambivalence to titles is plain as the words don't actually appear on the cover, which instead spreads the load between the series, an image - taken, as all the rest in the run, from Wills's 1923 set of Gardening Hints - and the first line of the tale. As for the story, it's a walk of sorts, engaged upon by a man of less than moderate means and fewer prospects, that commences with the promise of springtime hemlines and ends in the middle of his outing, between his destination and his desk. And I rather like the 'Gardening Hints' card I used for the cover, on two ways of staking runner beans. Thus far, I have always gone for the more traditional method of 'A', but can see the benefits of 'B' - a sort of hop twine arrangement to which I shall give serious consideration next year.

writers on cylinders: Algernon Blackwood

The first in a series of homages to various writers, as encapsulated by altered phonograph cylinder packaging. Algernon Blackwood is a rather overlooked writer these days, whose real subject - despite numerous lurid book jackets trying to persuade us otherwise - is wonder; dreadful wonder at times maybe, but wonder nevertheless, most often of that magical childlike quality that makes the unlikeliest of connections between things which adults seek to reason away. But the children know best. The Blackwood cylinder uses elements of his books The Education of Uncle Paul (1909), The Human Chord (1910) and The Promise of Air (1918). The song title - 'Between Yesterday and To-morrow' - is credited to 'Nixie's Woodwinds' (Nixie's vision in The Education of Uncle Paul of the dawning and unfurling of the winds is still extraordinary), and the cylinder is filled with feather down. The top cylinder label actually had the word 'Camplife' written on it by someone in the past; reading about Blackwood's experiences in the Canadian wilderness among other places, it seemed an eminently fitting word to leave in place.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Volume 14: Libido to Mary, Duchess of Burgundy

After all attempts by their original owner to find them a new home failed, the Sidney Nolan Trust was given a set of 1950s Encyclopædia Britannica so that they could turn them into new artworks, all of which can currently be seen (until 6 May 2013) in The Old Foundry Studio & Gallery at Bewdley Museum. I found my way to Volume 14 of the set: Libido to Mary, Duchess of Burgundy. Reading through it I felt smothered by the accumulated dust of knowledge and did a few approximate word counts. They were surprising. Topping the list in the volume were 43,000 words on Logic and Logical Positivism and 38,000 words on Libraries. The entry on Man only merited 16,000 words, while Life Insurance had 8,000 and Lycanthropy over 2,000. Even Lumbago had 175 words. And Love? Not a single word. Not even an entry. I eviscerated the volume and put a few mementos and part of a letter written by a person who can continue what they are doing through the love of another. I found the following definition of ‘Encyclopædia’, from The Encyclopædia Da Costa, helpful: ‘Encyclopædias trouble themselves a great deal about words fallen into disuse, never about words still unknown, burning to be uttered.’