how iron rust
how iron rust
walking on ice …
my full attention
to the moment
A Hundred Gourds 4:2 March 2015, p. 15
the oud workshop closed
during the war
you and I this winter ellipsis
Modern Haiku vol. 46.1 winter-Spring 2015
The Haiku Foundation has updated the Haiku App–one of its most important offerings to the haiku community worldwide. In 2015 the App includes well over 1500 haiku from poets around the globe
“showing the range of topics and form characteristic of today’s — not your grandfather’s — haiku! Shake your iPhone or other Apple mobile device and a new poem appears. Share your favorites with friends with a click.”
The THF Haiku App is available to download from iTunes for free! More information and a link to iTunes from here
What is more, the Foundation runs a mini-review contest for bloggers. You only have to post a review on your blog (up to 100 words) and let the Foundation know, giving the blog’s url by using the contact form on the website. There’s still time to do this! The winner will receive Montage: The Book, an award-winning haiku collection, and will be featured on Troutswirl, the Haiku Foundation blog. Give it a try, and have fun!
I pack a haiku
in the Cretan mountains
the sum total
I took this photo a few months ago, in 2014, during a visit to the Duveen Galleries, Tate Britain. The photo is of a small part of Phyllida Barlow’s installation, ‘dock’. You can read an account of my reaction to her work here.
a gull breaks
This is a photo I took of Konstanz harbour, on Lake Constance, or Bodensee, as it is also known in Germany.
wikipedia entry for Lake Constance:
pinpricks of icy rain…
how damp wood spits
In Blithe Spirit, 25:1, p. 4.
Blithe Spirit is the Journal of the British Haiku Society
the infinite sweetness
of cup-shaped blooms
What do Pattern, Poetry, and Polemics have in common? The Arts and Crafts Movement’s poet, novelist, publisher, translator, architect, designer, craftsman, retailer, environmentalist, and social activist William Morris! I was delighted to be able to visit the William Morris Gallery, in Walthamstow, which tells the story of William Morris and his multiple achievements: the elaborate, detailed, inspirational designs and their manufacture/production/application; the poetry and prose; the perfectly hand-crafted books; the politics, speeches and support for the Victorian poor… Morris applied himself with awe-inspiring energy and dedication to an astonishing array of disciplines.
There’s an organic unity in his work, each piece containing seeds from whatever he’d been working on, in whatever field. Despite this connectivity and continuation in his work, Morris has often been strongly and unfortunately linked with mere wallpaper design. I found this contradiction interesting in itself, as if the critics and the viewers, the consumers of his work, could not cope with someone different to themselves, someone excelling in many fields, rather than just one, if at that. It is not the only contradiction. The critical assessment of his work rests on this ground of contradictory perception, for example, when it is pointed out that Morris decorated the houses of the rich while campaigning for the rights of the poor.
Yet, Morris himself was aware of the connections between disciplines and the depth achieved when we become conscious of them. Lecturing on design, in 1881, he claimed,
‘any decoration is futile … when it does not remind you of something beyond itself’.
Beyond Morris’ decorations, patterns, and wallpapers lie references to the medieval world, history and myth, nature and society, beauty, and above all the assertion that we are all made of the same stuff. Although referring back to a pre-industrial age, his is a utopian vision of humans fulfilling their creativity, and themselves, in self-determined, non-alienated work, within an egalitarian society that supports them in this endeavour. In those terms, in addition to his role in the Arts and Crafts movement, he comes across as a social thinker and moral visionary working towards a better world.
the heart of a soft
Between 1958 and 1973 Kettle’s Yard was the place Jim and Helen Ede called home. In 1966, while still living there, they gave it to Cambridge University. It is now a living museum and gallery, showing the Edes’ collection as arranged by them. Artworks alongside furniture, glass, ceramics and natural objects such as pebbles and wood, with the aim of creating a harmonious whole. Jim Ede’s vision was of a space that should not be
an art gallery or museum, nor … simply a collection of works of art reflecting my taste or the taste of a given period. It is, rather, a continuing way of life from these last fifty years, in which stray objects, stones, glass, pictures, sculpture, in light and in space, have been used to make manifest the underlying stability.
Today each afternoon (apart from Mondays) visitors can ring the bell and ask to look around (there is no entry fee). The house is said to be a work of art in itself. Warm, generous, and well-informed guides are available to help visitors ’see’ and understand the spirit and history of the house.
Christopher Wood, Flowers, 1930
A wonderful slideshow with Wood’s paintings can be found here
More paintings: Kettle’s Yard
across the years
the quiet breathing
(And yes, in case you are wondering, I did visit again)!
I’ve been reading Daniel Klein’s ‘Travels with Epicurus‘, and reflecting on the concept of play in relation to the life stages we all go through.
Epicurus was an ancient Greek philosopher and the founder of the school of philosophy called Epicureanism. Born on Samos, he lived in Athens and Asia-Minor. Epicurus is known for teaching that the purpose of philosophy is to attain a happy, tranquil life.
Answering the question “How does one make the most of one’s life?” Epicurus’s answer, according to Klein, was that
the best possible life one could live is a happy one, a life filled with pleasure. At first look, this conclusion seems like a no-brainer, the sort of wisdom found in a horoscope. But Epicurus knew this was only a starting point because it raised the more troublesome and perplexing questions of what constitutes a happy life, which pleasures are truly gratifying and enduring, and which are fleeting and lead to pain, plus the monumental questions of why and how we often thwart ourselves from attaining happiness.
I have to admit that I experienced a pang of disillusionment when I first realized that Epicurus was not an epicurean… i.e. a sensualist with gourmet appetites. Let me put it this way: Epicurus preferred a bowl of plain boiled lentils to a plate of roasted pheasant infused with mastiha (a reduction painstakingly made from the sap of a nut tree), a delicacy slaves prepared for noblemen in ancient Greece. This was … Epicurus’s hankering for personal comfort, which clearly included comfort foods. The pheasant dish titillated the taste buds, but Epicurus was not a sensualist in that sense: he was not looking for dazzling sensory excitement. No, bring on those boiled lentils! For one thing, he took great pleasure in food he had grown himself—that was part of the gratification of eating the lentils. For another, he had a Zen-like attitude about his senses: if he fully engaged in tasting the lentils, he would experience all the subtle delights of their flavor, delights that rival those of more extravagantly spiced fare. And another of this dish’s virtues was that it was a snap to prepare.
(From Waterstones, Non-Fiction Book of the Month)
The defining concepts of such a happy life, according to Epicurus, are ataraxia — i.e. peace and freedom from the disturbances of anxiety and greed — and aponia — the absence of pain — achieved through living a non-demanding, humble life surrounded by friends.
Klein’s book, taking its cue from this philosophy, is asking how best to think about growing into old age, and how best to live through this stage of life. The tendency nowadays, Klein points out, is to escape ageing, by spending our lives trying to remain forever young: sport, transplants and implants, botox, diets, all means to prolong and promote youthful looks. But are we missing out on an important stage of our lives, Klein asks.
To look into this question, the author packed a number of books, and staying on Hydra, Greece — where travel is restricted to going on foot, cycling, or riding a donkey — meditated on the issue. The answer he came up with in this book is playful, but I have no intention of reproducing it here. Suffice to say that with all the turmoil of this week’s Greek elections and heated debates, a calm book on growing older, set on a Greek island, juxtaposing the old with the new, matching island life with world-renowned philosophers, provides a much needed good, as well as romantic, counter-balance.
In his unhurried pace, watching a group of friends playing a game of cards, walking the hilly paths of the island, discussing beauty and youth, Klein takes us on his Epicurean journey, savouring the moments of insight, the juxtapositions of beautiful descriptions of nature and human nature with philosophical descriptions of ‘lived time’.
I enjoyed this quirky book, slowed down, looked up references to this and that… thought of acquaintances in Greece who, troubled by their country’s misfortunes, contrary to the Hydriotes observed by Klein, have all but forgotten their ‘ataraxia’; have meditated on the notions of austerity vs growth, and their effects on the mind, long enough.
A timely reminder of Epicurean notions then, a needed breath of fresh air? A New Year’s resolution? Even for those who may not be lacking in material resources, but may be short of (perceived) time?
The language in the book is simple, the images memorable, the light clear… So, keep calm, keep thinking, experiencing… it’s not that difficult to be authentically old… one day… eventually! Alternatively, one can always become a Stoic!
full snow moon
the tightrope bathed
You can read the first chapter of this book here
The pre-Socratic Greek philosopher Thales of Miletus (624 – 546 BC), is credited with the saying,
A sound mind in a sound body,’
pointing to the close relationship between physical exercise, mental equilibrium and the ability to enjoy life. It seems a good incentive to incorporate in the New Year’s resolution to improve our health, whatever the state we are in.
So, partly in the spirit of this, on the 15th of January each year, a global event takes place: Greek Dinner Around the World. The main goal is to celebrate Greek culinary culture, Greek cuisine as it is known in every part of the globe, and promote the people, authors, chefs, businesses who are connected to Greece. Everyone is invited for a Greek dinner with friends and family. Partners to this initiative host a dinner using Greek products and Greek dishes. Afterwards, they share a photo of their endeavors and experiences, and tweet using the hashtags #GreekDinner and #EatGreek.
This year, for the second time, I took part in the global celebration of Greek culinary culture, by sharing a delicious Greek meal with friends and family. And books, of course. We met at Lemonia, the old favourite in Primrose Hill. The food was good – especially the fish, which was a ‘miracle,’ to use a Greek expression – the company excellent, and well, the evening a treat. Only problem: we all ate a little too much. We discovered the limits to Thales’ saying. After a point, the amount of food, and drink, interfere with both mind and body! Which led us to resolve next year to follow another Greek saying: the Aristotelian
Παν μέτρον άριστον, i.e., Everything in moderation
Many thanks to Keri Douglas for her tireless efforts in promoting this event.
και του χρονου
the plug-in maker’s
I’ve loved Alfred Wallis’s paintings for a long time, having encountered them only in books and postcards. Now, on Sunday January 11, 2015, I had the good fortune to see a number of them in real life, as part of Jim and Helen Ede’s collection, at Kettle’s Yard House, Cambridge. The compelling immediacy, directness and force of the paintings astonished me, and started me musing about the reasons for this appeal.
Alfred Wallis (1855-1942) was a fisherman from the age of nine, turned painter at nearly seventy. Born in Devonport, Wallis later moved to Penzance and St Ives. He only started painting after his wife died, at the suggestion of his neighbour, a grocer who gave him cardboard from his shop to paint on. Painting was his company, he said.
He was ‘discovered’ by Ben Nicholson and Christopher Wood who arranged for his work to be included in London exhibitions and to become known in the art world. Wallis’s career took off, with some critics considering him to be the most original and inspiring British naive painter of the twentieth century. Wallis himself remained the person he’d always been, and kept living the simple life he had always lived by the sea. His work speaks of the sea and the boats, the lighthouses, the marine life he knew and remembered.
Jim Ede, quoted in ‘Kettle’s Yard and Its Artists’ (Kettle’s Yard Publications), noted that about Wallis:
“Though he is always drawing the same ships, the same houses, the same water, each of his paintings is a new experience… He does not set about to enclose his vision, his thought, into some preconceived scheme of colour or design… with Wallis design comes, with its subtly variant lines and spaces, not with experience of drawing or painting, but from closeness, almost identification with the thing he is drawing.”
Similarly, Ben Nicholson wrote that, to Wallis,
“paintings were never paintings, but actual events” —
and this it seems is what Wallis himself was attempting to do. He had a directness of approach; he eschewed perspective, and an object’s scale was often based on its relative importance to him in the painting – some of his fish, for instance, are larger than the fishing boats; some birds bigger than the tree branches on which they perch. Houses slide perilously down slopes, ready to fall into each other, and the waves appear the way he might have seen them as a teenager when on board ship to Newfoundland. Wallis’s perspective is emotional, is experiential, certainly not a draughtsman’s perspective.
A viewer’s dip into the moment as experienced by the painter… a resonance with the thing depicted—which is ‘other’ because we are different, and, at the same time, ‘familiar’ because we are human, sharing the same world, the same reality—a willingness to share the painter’s focus of attention, through which selected objects (fish, birds, houses) are foregrounded and magnified… Are we not getting closer to the experience of haiku? Isn’t this a link to the interplay between Wallis’s style of painting and haiku? Instead of paint as the medium, in haiku, language expresses the experience. Without embellishment, linguistic trickery, and without, or only minimal punctuation, haiku in its brevity sets the stage for an experience by the reader resonating with the moment the writer captures.
Kettle’s Yard in Cambridge has the largest collection of Wallis’s paintings, thanks to Jim and Helen Ede, who over a period of ten years bought Wallis’s work. They donated their collection, together with their wonderful house, to Cambridge University.
You best explore all the works by Alfred Wallis at Kettle’s Yard, in the context of the collections in the house the Ede’s put lovingly together. Alternatively, if you are not able to visit, you can take a look at his work online
Well worth a real or virtual visit. Or both, as I am now doing.
of sunrise or sunset
Prompt: seize the poem: day moon
a butterfly flapping
Image and science news from the BBC website
my tongue savours
the appeal of parallel
the Douglas fir’s
Prompt: bare branch/log… beam… keel