Friday, April 23, 2010

Poems, books and being a closet scribbler.

Terri Windling has been showcasing some beautiful works of poetry at her blog this week. Poetry is something I've loved, and written (slightly embarrassed whisper) ever since I was a child. Digging out the poem I posted yesterday (had a sudden rush of blood to the head and felt inexplicably brave) meant I had to rifle through a couple of notebooks of scribbles to find it, and of course, found lots of other scribbles while I was at it. And it occurred to me, is it odd that as an artist, I actually have more notebooks full of scribbles than I have of sketches? Poems, ideas for stories, plays, short-story drafts...even songs. Scraps and fragments that seem to drop from the sky, and thus are (mostly at least) never finished or resolved. Perhaps I just have a flighty muse who can't commit to a relationship, so I rarely ever get the end of the story. Or occasionally there's an end, but nothing to explain how it got there. Or maybe it's just that I can never decide whether they're finished or not, so carry on, year after year, tinkering and rearranging, and being too afraid to show anyone because, well, they're probably pretty ordinary at best, but also once they're 'out there' so to speak, they're not mine to fiddle around with anymore. But what's the point in having them sit gathering dust for years, eventually to become an inconvenience that my children and grandchildren will have to deal with once I've shuffled off this mortal coil? I even started a short story once along those very lines. So I thought I might try, every now and then, to be brave and post a poem, or a bit of scribble. Probably won't stop me tinkering with them, but I guess some feedback might result in more productive tinkering.

Regarding books, I just had to share this remarkable article about Velma Bolyard's handmade books, in the latest Hand/Eye magazine. This is the opening paragraph:
I often get asked about what my books represent to me personally. I see each book I complete as an event or a story. I use a poem, or a sentence, or an image, and from one of those elements, I spin a tale or a page and the book grows from that point. The blank pages in the books I create aren't just "nothing." They might contain your dreams, thoughts, fears, or your words, or whatever you wish to put down. The pages are sturdy and moveable; the haptic quality of reading pages bound in a book—blank or otherwise—informs the brain, and connects the senses to one's intelligence. These pages might even contain a miracle. A fire. A tempest. A teapot. A home.
A Tempest indeed. Books have always been magical to me, and years ago, almost 20 in fact, I saw Peter Greenaway's film "Prospero's Books" and was blown away by it. Greenaway's films tend to elicit either love or hate from their viewers, I am definitely in the 'love' category. I loved everything about the film, it inspired me in many ways (more about that in another post perhaps), but it was the books that enchanted me, these marvelous, magical, whimsical, fantastical books. I've had it in my head to try and make books like these ever since. But alas, I'm yet to get around to it. Part of what stops me is that I come up with ideas for books...but then get stuck on the content part. A vague idea and a nifty title aren't going to stretch to 20, or 30, or 100 pages of writing, art, fold outs, pop-ups and so on. So they remain vague ideas, floating tantalisingly just out of reach. But perhaps, after reading the article about Velma's books, I've let myself get bogged down over the nitty gritty details of what's actually IN the books unnecessarily. Perhaps I can make them, and let the 'reader' dictate what's in it, each person bringing their own personal experience to create a book that speaks only to them? Hmmmm...much to think on. In the meantime, I'm going to be a bit brave again.

If I could hold your soul up to the light
   what might I see?
I think sometimes you would bow your head and whisper
   "a ragged, shapeless thing."
Threadbare patches where the moral fibres wore thin.
The pocket with the hole you kept your memories in.
Matching buttons a distant dream of who you might have been
   replaced with ones that would do in a pinch
   but never kept the warmth in.


If I could hold your soul up to the light
   I know what I would see.
A coat of many colours, shining
   cobweb fine and thin.
The holes you cut in the unforgiving cloth 
   to let the starlight in.

And the middle page from the little book I DID make.


Ivy Black said...

What a beautiful blog. I'm so pleased I came by. I love the idea of handcrafted boooks.

Mo Crow said...

You write beautifully Christina, Your "The Girl in the Boat" series of paintings is a beautiful story that I would love to see as a book!

M.M.E. said...

I love making handmade books. There's just a visceral touch when you make it yourself. It's wonderful to meet another illustrator.

Half-heard in the Stillness said...

I loved your poem!! It really touched me. Sometimes I think we do feel as though our soul is 'a ragged,shapeless thing.' how wonderfully you write... we should see more of your brilliant scribblings as you call them!

A mermaid in the attic said...

Thanks for all the lovely comments ladies! I'm fairly happy with this one, so maybe I've finished 'tinkering' with it!

Windsongs and Wordhoards said...

Hi there,
I love this poem too! It's beautifully written and I love all the metaphor and the sensitivity...
The little book looks beautiful too!
I thought I'd try to be brave enough to post some of my old writing a couple of posts ago... It's funny, I was far more nervous posting my words than my sketches!
I hope you post more poems, I'd love to read more...
Best wishes
Carrie... (Windsongs & Wordhoards)

Jess said...

Hi Christina, gosh I've been missing so much since I've been away! You really are so talented in all kinds of ways. When I left for my trip you were making the most exquisite piece of needlework and now you're writing wonderful poetry! I think a crative life can be expressed in any way, all ways. I don't think you should worry too much about 'finishing' something, after all they do say "It's about the journey not the destination." Wonderful stuff!xx

jude said...

oh how perfect, and velma's words too. beautiful post. thank you.

Nancy said...

Remain brave...
I loved this poem of yours.

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