Monthly Archives: January 2014

“Body experience… is the centre of creation” — Barbara Hepworth

Hepworth_1211_bBarbara Hepworth lived and worked at Trewyn Studio in St Ives, Cornwall, now the Barbara Hepworth Museum and Sculpture Garden, from 1949 until her death in 1975. The photograph above was taken in the Sculpture Garden in September 2012. Here are some of the things she said about her work:

All my early memories are of forms and shapes and textures. Moving through and over the West Riding landscape with my father in his car, the hills were sculptures; the roads defined the forms. Above all, there was the sensation of moving physically over the contours of foulnesses and concavities, through hollows and over peaks — feeling, touching, seeing, through mind and hand and eye. This sensation has never left me. I, the sculptor, am the landscape. I am the form and I am the hollow, the thrust and the contour.

My works are an imitation of my own past and present.

You can’t make a sculpture, in my opinion, without involving your body. You move and you feel and you breathe and you touch. The spectator is the same. His body is involved too. If it’s a sculpture he has to first of all sense gravity. He’s got two feet. Then he must walk and move and use his eyes and this is a great involvement. Then if a form goes in like that – what are those holes for? One is physically involved and this is sculpture. It’s not architecture. It’s rhythm and dance and everything. It’s do with swimming and movement and air and sea and all our well-being… Sculpture is involved in the body living in the spirit or the spirit living in the body, whichever way you like to put it.

I rarely draw what I see. I draw what I feel in my body.

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January 29, 2014 · 7:16 pm

Finding Places

“A tough life needs a tough language — and that is what poetry is. That is what literature offers — a language powerful enough to say how it is. It isn’t a hiding place. It is a finding place.”

— Jeanette Winterson, from Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?

“I am interested in language because it wounds or seduces me.”

— Roland Barthes.

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January 27, 2014 · 1:25 am

Thresholds

Threshold

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.” — Mary Oliver

“Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.”

— T. S. Eliot, from ‘East Coker’ in The Four Quartets.

“The unknown is an abstraction; the known, a desert; but what is half-known, half-seen, is the perfect breeding ground for desire and hallucination.” — Juan José Saer

“Tie your heart at night to mine, my love,
and both will defeat the darkness
like twin drums beating in the forest
against the heavy wall of wet leaves.

— Pablo Neruda from Sonnet LXXIX (tr. rjh), Cien Sonetos de Amor.

“If it’s darkness we’re having, let it be extravagant.” — Jane Kenyon, from ‘Taking Down the Tree’.

“What
dark part of my soul
shivers. You don’t want to know more
about this.”

—  Mary Oliver, from ‘Every Morning’.

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More Rhymes for Kids

My memory’s never been great
(Is three plus four six, or perhaps eight?)
Yesterday I forgot I was me
And ate next door’s breakfast for tea.

I’d write everything down, but then
I can find neither paper nor pen.
Again.

* * *

If you’re going to buy shoes
Always travel in twos
To avoid a fashion disaster.
And if you’re never sure quite
Which is left and which right,
Wear a boot and a lightly oiled caster.

* * *

An unearthly glow
Suffused his toe
And travelled quite soon to his knee.
Joyfully he rose,
“If it reaches my nose
I can use it for warming my tea.”

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Flowery Language

Flowers, Chatsworth 2012.
What is it in the blossom’s heart
that tears it open every day?
And how has it come to be in me?

— Kiyowara Fukuyaba (Japan 900 – 930).

Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

— from James Wright, ‘A Blessing’ in Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose.

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

— from e.e. cummings ‘somewhere i have never travelled, gladly beyond’.

Lodged
The rain to the wind said,
‘You push and I’ll pelt’.
They so smote the garden bed
That the flowers actually knelt,
And lay lodged—though not dead.
I know how the flowers felt.

— Robert Frost.

And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud became more painful than the risk it took to blossom…

— Anaïs Nin.

[Flower image taken in Chatsworth Gardens, Derbyshire, September 2012.]

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Charles Bukowski: The Pleasures of the Damned

Bukowski_The Pleasures of the DamnedQuotations from Charles Bukowski, “born to hustle roses down the avenue of the dead”:

unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don’t do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don’t do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

On pain:

Pain is strange. A cat killing a bird, a car accident, a fire…. Pain arrives, BANG, and there it is, it sits on you. It’s real. And to anybody watching, you look foolish. Like you’ve suddenly become an idiot. There’s no cure for it unless you know somebody who understands how you feel, and knows how to help.

On life and light:

The Laughing Heart

your life is your life
don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
be on the watch.
there are ways out.
there is a light somewhere.
it may not be much light but
it beats the darkness.
be on the watch.
the gods will offer you chances.
know them.
take them.
you can’t beat death but
you can beat death in life, sometimes.
and the more often you learn to do it,
the more light there will be.
your life is your life.
know it while you have it.
you are marvelous
the gods wait to delight
in you.

— From Betting on the Muse: Poems and Stories

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The Dress She Gathers

Russell J. Hall_The Dress She Gathers_s

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Ornithology in a World of Flux

It was only a bird call at evening, unidentified,
As I came from the spring with water, across the rocky back-pasture;
But so still I stood sky above was not stiller than sky in pail-water.

Years pass, all places and faces fade, some people have died,
And I stand in a far land, the evening still, and am at last sure
That I miss more that stillness at bird-call than some things
that were to fail later.

— Robert Penn Warren, section I. ‘Ornithology in a World of Flux’ of ‘Some Quiet, Plain Poems’, from You, Emperors, and Others: Poems 1957-1960 (Random House, 1960).

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January 11, 2014 · 1:54 pm

This Is My Beloved

Benton This Is My Beloved

I came across This Is My Beloved, Walter Benton’s verse diary of a love affair, only a couple of years ago. It is a powerful description of love discovered and lost, full of joy, passion, melancholy memories, and regret. It is intense, stark, and full of beautiful, touching images.

I managed to get hold of a copy of the 1967 edition, cover scan above. This is the entry for 3 June:

            Your eyes never opened after the last kiss.
We had loved hard —
it’s all over your throat and hair, it lies on your mouth as a wild
red flower: it’s on your cheeks and forehead in waning radiance.

The wonderful strength of your thighs is back to normal beauty.
Your nipples contract… gather in like blossoms for the night.
Your hand half-sleeping finds me… your touch is very dear.

Now you are all sleep, alone with yourself — and a tall blue fence
around you: not a tendon taut, not a secret secret,
you are all sleep and alone in a warm and velvet world —

many an idle dream is looking for a home of sleep like yours to happen in.

I also came across a CD of Arthur Prysock readings excerpts from Benton’s poems to jazz. It is not entirely successful, I feel; Prysock reads well but sometimes the music is a little intrusive. But it is certainly worth listening to.

There’s also a version with Lawrence Harvey reading to music by Herbie Mann:

Walter Benton was born in Austria in 1907. His parents emigrated to the USA in 1913. He died, alone, in 1976.

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CUTS

CUTS_CoverThis is the cover of CUTS, a series of short texts I wrote in 1967 which were interpreted as linocuts by the ceramic artist Gerald Buchanan and handprinted by him in a limited edition of 50. This was published in 1967 or ’68 at 8s/40p ($1.25), to quote from 1968 issue of Exit News.

I thought they’d all been sold, but found recently that I had kept a copy for myself. The containing folder is somewhat tatty, but the sheets themselves are OK.

Before I found this I’d done a little research online to see if there were any digital scans available. Via WorldCat I discovered that copies were held by University Libraries in London, Cambridge and Buffalo, and by the National Library of Australia.

Interesting to note the errors in the entries: the publication date is given variously as 1967, 1968 and 1986; and none have my date of birth correct. The University of Cambridge Newton Library Catalogue gives my name as J. C. Hall and my dates as 1920-2011!

I’ve written to them with corrected details and hope to continue in accurate obscurity.

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