Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tuesday Poem - Précis


                       It must have been a week for citrus
                       zest and candles yellow and green;
                       I see a courtyard there and a lemon
                       tree whose unbound feet turn stones
                       to moss; a random toss of earth
                       incubating delphiniums for summer.  


This week's Tuesday Poems (there are two) are by US poet, Lorine NeideckerSusan Landry is the hub's editor. Please click on the quill for 'a random toss' of poems. . . 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

GromiaDNA - Silent Environment Awaiting Rupert's Shakuhachi

A 9 minute silent film requires patience at the best of times - I understand this, and yet (I'm trying these days to think in terms of 'and yet' rather than 'but'). . . I invite you to enter these waters; drift a while with questions, not answers; cup a small boat; fence with ice shards, capture a bubble; dance with a sea star or pull up your skirts and hitch a ride on one of Christina Bryer's exquisite waterborne porcelain forms - an unexpected, slow-motion 'flying carpet'. 

I'd intended doing my usual, 'double-whammy-film-&-record-Rupert-in-performance' thing in Canberra. . . of course, now that I'm here, not there, we have to hope some kind person will take this on.  It would be wonderful to be able to make a second iteration of this, the next one with the breathy thread of shakuhachi (traditional Japanese wind instrument). . . 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Ping Pong Pang

How I miss this boy, this man, my son, companion, teacher. . .  I miss his ebullience, his appetite, his wisdom and intellectual daring. I miss his dimples, his clear eyes and clarity of thought. I miss the 'bigness' of him, his patience and integrity, the sight and sound of his bare feet on beach sand, boardwalk and forest floor. . . I miss our conversations, his wry humour and thoughtful insights. I miss the way he opens doors, skims stones and butters toast. I miss seeing his car keys on my kitchen bench and his size fifteen shoes at my back door. 

Over the years - for better or worse - I've become well-versed at the art of living with 'presence-in-absence', but. . . well, you know, sometimes being on the opposite side of the world from loved ones really sucks. Today it does. And - bloody hell - I'm missing him Big Time.

Yes, we're all connected and there's no such thing as separation, really, and yes, I absolutely celebrate his autonomy and independence and vision. But today, the UK (where, T assures me, he is thriving) might as well be a galaxy away. 

Life. 'Tis one blessed paradox after another.  

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tuesday Poem - GromiaDNA - Silent Creature, Silent Space

Hei hei. It feels like eons since the last time I was here. Thank you for continuing to visit. . .  

Today's (late, late, lateTuesday Poem is a little out-of-the-ordinary. My previous entry carried mention of various online projects I've been immersed in lately; one of these is a collaborative (ad)venture titled A VAST SCALE - Evocations of Antarctica*.  AVS is a Ning community site created and managed by my Aussie-based friend and fellow Antarctican, Rupert Summerson and moi. If any of you are interested in participating or having a look-see, please let me know (either leave a comment here or email me at clarab@earthlight.co.nz) and I will send you the password to the site? 

I'll say just a wee bit about A Vast Scale given that it relates to today's Tuesday Poem. Between us, Rupert and I created a series of short ice-related videos for the Ning site with the purpose of engendering discussion re; the Antarctic environment, sound/music and aesthetics; this is an informal research project whose focus is more on creative process, networking and subjective opinion than it is on hard-nosed statistics and conclusive findings. We'll be presenting a paper at the Antarctica Sound conference in Canberra next w-eek. I say w-eek because I was supposed to be boarding a plane to Australia first thing this morning (the red-eye flight from Christchurch) but - for various reasons - I canceled my flight and am staying home. Rupert and I have been hard at work on this project for several months. . . Our presentation will still go ahead, only now - instead of us sharing the podium - Rupert will be speaking in two part-harmony (one voice in a frock and the other in jacket & tie?). Thankfully, the internet has meant we've been able to construct, compose and co-ordinate this collaboration effectively over distance. 

During my years of ArtScience collaboration with polar biologist, Sam Bowser, I developed an abiding fascination for the DNA and RNA sequences of the protists we were studying and found myself looking for ways to incorporate them in various art forms, and in various ways. . . As odd as this may sound, DNA and RNA sequences look to me like poetry; when I read them, I hear music. . . It seemed a good idea, then, to transcribe their sequences into quasi-musical notation - why not 'play' the protist's DNA?  

So. . . Meet Gromia cf. oviformis, a microscopic hot-water-bottle-shaped single-celled critter abundant in Antarctic waters and the first of the protists we've paid 'musical attention' to. . . 

Watercolour painting by Sam Bowser

Gromia for whom home = the ocean floor closest to McMurdo Station, are lean and hungry-looking, while - for some yet-to-be-discovered reason - their relatives in Explorers Cove are spherical and fat. Same creatures, same species, same DNA sequence - and yet. . . (an interesting metaphor for our very own species?)

Below is an image of the RNA sequence for Gromia cf. oviformis. Rupert cleverly came up with a way to translate its various 4-letter configurations into musical notation, the result of which is an unusual, primitive and, I think, quite haunting piece of music. He will perform GromiaDNA on his Japanese shakuhachi in Canberra on Saturday, using the medium of sound to make a creature ordinarily invisible to the naked eye, visible. . . He'll play the sequence 'into' an atmospheric backdrop/stage set I've put together for the occasion - a 9min silent film of the eerie, icy waters inhabited by Gromia. I intend to post the film here later today. While some of the footage will be familiar to you from previous vids. (one of my wee boats makes an appearance - 'right-way-up' this time), there's plenty in it that's new. . .   

Anyway. . . when this sequence arrived in my e- InBox five years ago, it was accompanied by a challenge, 'I don't suppose you can make a poem out of this?' Well, yes! One can make a poem out of anything, right? And here it is - Gromia as (a sequence of) concrete* Tuesday Poems.  

In these next few images, Gromia gametes encounter the poetry of their own make-up, survey their DNA. . .

the encounter becomes a dance 

And - in keeping with the unpredictable nature of life - every so often a DNA sequence makes an impression on an unsuspecting pair of small white chairs. . .

For more Tuesday Poems, please click on the quill. This week's editor is Helen Rickerby with Margot or Margaux, a viscerally lush poem by Anna Jackson.

* concrete poetry: poetry in which the meaning or effect is conveyed partly or wholly by visual means, using patterns of words or letters and other typographical devices. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Water, Upon Which All Depends

Whilst researching material for two different-but-connected online projects I'm currently immersed in, I visited - not for the first time - the site of a remarkable online manuscript titled The Ascent of Humanity by Charles Eisenstein.  
Here are a few excerpts from Chapter VII: The Age of Reunion: The Age of Water 
"The unsustainability of our present system derives at bottom from its linearity, its assumption of an infinite reservoir of inputs and limitless capacity for waste. A fitting metaphor for such a system is fire, which involves a one-way conversion of matter from one form to another, liberating energy—heat and light—in the process. Just as our economy is burning through all forms of stored cultural and natural wealth to liberate energy in the form of money, so also does our industry burn up stored fossil fuels to liberate the energy that powers our technology. Both generate heat for a while, but also increasing amounts of cold, dead, toxic ash, gunk, and pollution, whether the ash-heap of wasted human lives or the strip-mine pits and toxic waste dumps of industry."

". . . Underlying the future technological economy will be principles of interdependence, cyclicity, abundance, and the gift mentality. Can you think of a better simile for all four of these principles, than that they are like water? Water, upon which all depends. Water, which moves in cycles. Water, abundant to ubiquity. Water, bringing the gift of life.
Our dependence on water—the fact that we are made mostly of water—denies the primary conceit of civilization, that we are separate from nature or even nature's master. No more nature's master are we, than we are the master of water!
Yet for centuries we have tried to persuade ourselves otherwise. In science our pretense of mastery manifests most fundamentally in the supposition that water is a structureless jumble of identical molecules, a generic medium, any two drops the same. To a standard substance we can apply universal equations. That each part of the universe is unique is profoundly troubling to any science based on the general application of standard techniques. The same is true of technology. Only a universe constructed of generic building blocks is amenable to control. Just as the architectural engineer assumes that two steel beams of identical composition will have identical properties, so does the chemist believe the same of two samples of pure H2O.
That any two samples of H2O, or graphite, or ethanol, or any other pure chemical are identical is a dogma with enormous ramifications. It implies that the complexity and uniqueness of objects of our senses is an illusion, that they are mere permutations of the same standard building blocks. Such a view naturally corresponds to the objectification of the world, which makes of it a collection of things, masses.
The opposite view sees every piece of the universe as unique. No two drops of water, no two rocks, no two electrons are identical, but each has a unique individuality. This is essentially the view of animism, which assigned to each animate and inanimate object a spirit. To a Stone Age person, the idea that water from any source had a unique character or spirit would have seemed obvious. Modern chemistry denies it and says any apparent differences are merely due to impurities—the underlying water is the same. Animism says no—to have a spirit is to be unique, irreducibly and intrinsically unique. To have a spirit is to be special. . . "
Eisenstein continues. . . 
". . . A primitive hunter-gatherer would not find it difficult to believe that all water had a unique personality, that river water, lake water, rain water, spring water, and water taken from the ground would have differing effects on the body and emotions, and perhaps distinct ceremonial uses as well. I imagine some languages don't even use the same word for these different types of water. Similarly, a hunter-gatherer would find it easy to believe that beloved water would have different properties from despised water. That we believe all water to be a uniform, lifeless "substance" that can be made identical by removing its impurities is a reflection of our ideology of objectivity and mechanism. We once knew better, before we made of the world a thing, before we reduced the infinity of reality to a finitude of generic labels (like "water"). A future technology of water will recover this knowledge, and we will no longer treat water as anything less than sacred. . ."

Continue reading from - and about - this book here

In his introduction, Charles Eisenstein writes"I have put the entire text on line because I believe it is important for these ideas to circulate as widely as possible in the present time of crisis. In the book, I write of a coming shift from a profit-taking economy to a gift economy, from an economy of "how can I take the most?" to "how can I best give of my gifts?" This future, in which the anxiety of "making a living" no longer drives us, will arise out of the transformation in the human sense of self that is gathering today. But it is NOT ONLY A FUTURE. We can live it now too. It is in this spirit that I offer you The Ascent of Humanity on line. (You can also purchase the book from Amazon.)

Replenished - pastel on paper - CB

May we each day wake undaunted by the endless possibilities of colour. . . 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Tuesday Poem - for our friends in Christchurch

Christchurch was struck by another series of powerful aftershocks yesterday, two of these registering 5.5 and 6.0 on the Richter scale. The city has once again incurred extensive damage. Our hearts go out the community there. Please hold them in your prayers. 

For today's Tuesday Poem, please click on the quill. . . 

Saradha Koirala is this week's editor on the TP hub. She has chosen the poem Zot and the Axolotls by New Zealand poet Janis Freegard. 

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Melissa's Marsh

This time last month, I was in the US. The conference in Arizona had 'happened'; I'd boarded a plane in Phoenix, flown across the continent and landed in Winthrop, Massachusetts - a small seaside town on the outskirts of Boston. Winthrop is home to our dear friend, Melissa Green. Yes, Melissa and I met -  really, truly. In the flesh. She opened her cosy, book-lined apartment to me for the time I was there; four graced days sped past  - it was like being in a waking dream. . .  We talked (heavens, did we talk?!), linked arms and walked along suburban streets, past forsythia, lilac and maple trees, down to her marsh where we sat awhile on her 'silvered pillar', wordless for a time in drizzle-mist; we bussed to the bakery in the rain, drank cappuccino and ate outrageously decadent pastries, and - on Tuesday 10 May, spent a delicious, head-spinning evening in the company of Susan L and Melissa S (see pics below). . . I met Bogey and Turnip (I beg your pardon, Tulip) and went stone-collecting with them and Melissa S on one of Boston's beaches. . . four stretchy days, fully inhabited. 

Melissa G, Susan L & Melissa S - Winthrop, 10 May 2011

Walking on Boston Beach with Melissa S, Bogey & Tulip - 12 May 2011

I took uncharacteristically few photographs during the time I was away; most of the pics I have are from the time in Winthrop. I'll post a handful more here to accompany excerpts from Melissa's finely-wrought meditations on her marsh - evocative word paintings indeed...  

from The Marsh had become my muse  ". . . Lilac are out in great profusion now, and today, as it is not raining, I find I can take my time. I’ve discovered lately on my walks that whereas I used to pass beside the marsh on my way home, inhaling the smells of the sea, hoping to catch sight of a swan or heron in the fragmites bedded on the salt hay, the marsh now has become my destination.

As cold and miserable as the early spring was, even to the middle of May, I would sit on a water-soaked piling at the edge of the tideline, scanning the water for birds, I found I would suddenly hear Mad Maud’s voice scratching quite close to my ear. I would have to leap up, repeating the several lines over and over as I limped home so I would still have them when I got to my desk. It only happened twice that way. I did learn to stuff my coat pockets with a pen and a tiny notebook because it seemed then and seems to me now that being at the marsh on that fallen, silvered piling almost instantaneously frees my mind from its chatter, and the clean language of one of my projects almost dictates itself to me there. . .

". . . Great white meadows are scudding across the sky with speed over the marsh, and the tide as it is coming in is running with whitecaps. The silvered pillar I’m accustomed to sitting on I’ve just discovered is a railroad tie with large rusted iron spikes bent down into the grass. This comfortable, companionable log I’ve been using as my desk is a tie from the Narrow Gauge railway that circumscribed this little seaside town from before the turn of the nineteenth century. . ." (cont.)

"I wanted to see what the light was like and hear the evening birdsong. Low tide is the color of mercury and barely moves. As far as I can see the hummocks of grass are still bright in the softening air, the shade I think of as the pure sargassos of June. The sun which was a disk as flat as any dinner plate has been overrun by a large plume, wing feathers of dark gray clouds. The heron that was bobbing off to the east when I sat down has flown. . .

. . . I wanted to see what the light was like and hear the evening birdsong. It is the quiet that seems so vast, the rills of water between the hummocks of grass are motionless. There are no birds feeding in the marsh and not one breath of wind. I came to---what? Just to be here. Just to look and record the ordinariness and the rarities. I like to scry out changes if I can. It makes me feel part of this tiny portion of the natural world. I have liked the tides. They comfort me with their inevitable, unchanging trustworthiness. . ."

". . . I rejoice at the ever-renewing life of this place, never knowing what I will find. Today it’s abundant with the singing of robins, sparrows, finches, red-winged black birds and mockingbirds, and the gurgling love noises of mating buffleheads. But now I know enough to come here with my notebook, and let my self lean back into the salt air as though it were dense enough to hold me--and perhaps it is--and I begin to write." (Read the full piece here)

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Peculiar Pair

Not exactly The owl and the pussy cat went to sea in a beautiful sea-green boat, but. . . in this pic., Marzipan (the cat) and Moth (his mouse gal) set off on a private adventure to a far-distant archipelago. . .  

M & M are the unlikely prompts for a wee narrative I put together yesterday for Rosa Mira Books. Fellow blogger and e-publisher extraordinaire Penelope Todd is currently featuring tantalizing teasers from the raft of writers whose short stories make up RMB's next - and soon-to-be-released - collection, Slightly Peculiar Love Stories. To find out more about the stories, and to catch another glimpse of Marzepan and Moth, hop over here

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Tuesday Poem - from THE STARS, an artist's book by Vija Celmins & Eliot Weinberger

Today, a small excerpt from a rare book gifted to me some months ago by a dear friend. A letter accompanied the book; in it, the words 'Since artists take sustenance from other artists, feast here. . ." Feast I did. And feast I do. This book - The Stars - makes my fingers itch for graphite, spaciousness and simplicity at a time when such things seem like curiosities from another life; mystifyingly elusive.  

                ". . . they are, they simply are;
                                    the stars are an enormous garden, and if we do not live
                                    long enough to witness their germination, blooming,
                                    foliage, fecundity, fading, withering, and corruption, 
                                    there are so many specimens that every stage is 
                                    before our view;
       we and all the stars we see are just one atom in an infinite ensemble:
          a cosmic archipelago; 
                     the sky is like a millstone turning, with the stars like ants
                        walking on it in the opposite direction;
                                            the sky is like the canopy of a carriage, with the
                                               stars strung like beads across it;
                 the sky is a solid orb and stars the perpetual illumination
                     of the volcanoes upon it;
                                                 the sky is solid lapis lazuli, flecked with pyrite, 
                                                     which are the stars;
             each star has a name and a secret name;
                               the only word we hear from them is their light;
     men will never compass in their conceptions the whole of the stars; 
                                       under a starry sky on a clear night, the hidden power
                                         of knowing speaks a language with no name;
           goodness and love flow down from them.
              if we were not located in a galaxy we would see no stars at all; 
               . . . " 

       from The Stars by Vija Celmins & Eliot Weinberger. 

from the book's flyleaf

"The New York artist Vija Celmins has made many images of the night sky - paintings, drawings, and prints of gorgeous richness. In The Stars she and the essayist and translator Eliot Weinberger devote an artist's book to the theme. Celmins has created three prints for the project, which she has also designed. One print, inspired by the worn binding of an early-twentieth-century Japanese book, becomes the volume's mottled deep-blue cover. The second is a negative image of the night sky - dark stars on a pale ground. The third etching suggests an open screen composed of sky and stars. For the text, Weinberger has assembled a catalogue of descriptions of the stars drawn from around the world, and from an array of historical, literary, and anthropological sources, This mythopoetic charting of the night sky evokes the vastness of the human imagination's response to a space itself  vast and unknowable. Appearing in English and also in Arabic, Chinese, Hindi, Japanese, and Maori, the text supplements Celmin's images visually as well as verbally.

. . . The translators of the text are the Iraqi novelist Sinan Antoon (Arabic), the poet Bei Dao (Chinese), the translator and author Siddharth Chowdury (Hindi), the translator, author, and editor Hiroako Sato (Japanese), and the translator and Maori-language advocate Piripi Walker (Maori)."

 Vija Celmins on YouTube - Desert, Sea and Stars
C2108 - Life on Mars

- and for Simon Grant's Tate Online interview with Vija Clemins, click here

For more Tuesday Poems, please click on the quill. 

This week's TP editor is Harvey Molloy with The Book of Equanimity Verses by Richard von Sturmer.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Penelope tells it as it is. . .

Match these slippers

with these pink-stockinged feet

and for Pen's blog per se (where delightful artworks await), click here