Thursday, May 31, 2007

Not just a dream of clouds

Hope you're having a Doris Day!

From 'Love Letter (Clouds)' by Sarah Manguso
For B. H.

I didn’t fall in love. I fell through it:

Came out the other side moments later, hands full of matter, waking up from the dream of a bullet tearing through the middle of my body.

I no longer understand anything for longer than a long moment, or the time it takes to receive the shot.

This kind of gravity is like falling through a cloud, forgetting it all, and then being told about it later. On the day you fell through a cloud . . .

It must be true. If it were not, then when did these strands of silver netting attach to my hair?

The problem was finding that you were real and not just a dream of clouds.

Thanks to Kerrie for the invitation to the South East feminist group, I'm definitely planning to join and I'll be in touch. I also had a lovely email from Stephen of the Salford Star this week checking that I'd received some back issues he kindly sent me last month, which I've been gradually winging my way through with a view to writing an article all about the Star and my own ambitions to start something similar in Portsmouth.

In fact, my main problem at the moment is that I have a thousand ideas for things to do, but I'm not so hot at organizing my time well enough to do many of them. My short story is still in the making, my novel for young people the same, and I have so many 'backburner' projects on the go, my metaphorical literary oventop is positively overflowing. Still, it must be better to have too many ideas than too few, but I have decided on a tactic to improve my concentration and focus.

So, it's back to meditation I go, followed by several sessions with my diary and timeplanner.

It's been a beautiful sunny day and despite an early stage lurgy (I've been around too many people with colds this week not to catch the bloody thing) threatening to descend, I've managed to enjoy every minute (once I managed to rouse myself from my coma like state this morning) of it. I met my neighbour, Alan, for coffee this afternoon, to bring him up to speed with a residents meeting that was held in my flat on Sunday.

The meeting was surprisingly well attended by almost everyone from the Heights (and the small number that couldn't were working). I know most of my Heights-mates anyway, but it was a great afternoon, and at the end of it we all decided to meet up again, but next time with wine rather than tea. I've set up a provisional date for a social gathering next Saturday night and I'm hoping everyone can make it.

As ever, it's been important ot me to remember that there is a silver lining to the recent news that the building is to be taken over by someone else and the chance to socialize with all of the Heights community at once (we are all accustommed to meeting up with each other in smaller groups and cliques) has definitely been one of them. Another one has been the chance to get to know each of the residents here better, and it's interesting to discover that so many of us have used our time here at the Heights to pursue our creative endeavours.

Alan (my next door neighbour - we've just discovered that our connecting fire door allows for notes to be passed between us) invited me into his flat when I popped round later to drop off his invitation. His flat is identical in shape and size to mine, but his flat reflects the individual facets of his personality just as mine does. However, my flat is a warning to visitors that you are entering the territory of someone with a chaotic mind, whereas Alan's flat feels like walking into the most delicious, light-filled houseboat. Alan is a former sailing man, and still sails boats around the dockyard in summer. He's also an artist and a sculptor, whose flat is lined with pieces of his own work, which are stunning. In fact, I may ask him if I can photograph some of them and post them here for you. They're all for sale, too, so if you're looking for a piece of nautical sculpture, Alan's your man.

Most impressive to me, however, was a model that Alan showed me of a huge public art sculpture that he liased with the Portsmouth City Council on many years ago. It would have been made using an old submarine from the scrapyard at Tipner and utilised the shell of the submarine and some amazing water-based pieces, to create what Alan described as a 'nautical cathedral.' The original idea was that people would be able to move through the structure in the same way they would a building. Unfortunately the project with PCC fell through, and the sculpture remains only a model. But you never know....

What continues to be impressed on my mind at the moment is the power of embracing events to spark unforeseen changes in my life. At the moment, meeting new people seems to be the order of the day, and encountering new experiences, opportunities and challenges never seems far behind. For the moment though, I need to harness my newfound enthusiasm into a better balanced Council work/my work equation so that I can better manage the changes ahead, particularly financially.

The wonderful Clarky though, sent me a wonderful exercise this week that I'm hoping will help. It's too long to post here, but post me a comment if you're interested and I'll forward it to you stat.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

A Noiseless Patient Spider, Walt Whitman

Spider web in rain courtesy of Interesting Finding Over the Net

Bit of Walt Whitman for you. The thing about saying yes more is that I have much less time to do other things, like blog, as much! This is ok, because Miss Sally says that living is better than writing about living.

Of course, as a writer, I'm compelled to disagree in one sense, but I catch her drift.

So, in lieu of actually telling something of my life, here's a poem. Walt Whitman reminds me of Gerard Manley Hopkins, but I'm not sure, after the couple of glasses of wine I've had, that I could tell you why. Maybe it's the spirit.

A Noiseless Patient Spider
A noiseless, patient spider,

I mark'd, where, on a little promontory, it stood, isolated;

Mark'd how, to explore the vacant, vast surrounding,

It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself;

Ever unreeling them--ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you, O my Soul, where you stand,

Surrounded, surrounded, in measureless oceans of space,

Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing,--seeking the spheres, to
connect them;
Till the bridge you will need, be form'd--till the ductile anchor
Till the gossamer thread you fling, catch somewhere, O my Soul.

Walt Whitman

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper. Eden Phillpotts

Norma Bessouet - Infinite Dandelions
You must go and have a look at Norma Bessouet's work over at the Arden Gallery site

Amongst the detritus of my ongoing search for happiness, enlightenment and fulfillment (with its side order of cheap thrills as and where I find them), I've found a mysterious parallel path. I keep stumbling into a theme of magic. Not wizard's wands (easy, now) and witch's bristles sort of magic, or the elvish (uh-huh-huh, thank you very much) and pixie dust kind, but the 'Look into my eyes,' kind of magic: of assistants in fishnet tights, puffs of smoke, trapdoors and 'Shazam!' infamy.

First of all, it was The Illusionist, with the ever-charming Edward Norton, who I swooned over more than once in his desperate bid to keep his girl. Then in Mull, I read a book about Helen Duncan, called Hellish Nell, who was the last woman in England to be tried and charged as a witch - actually, she wasn't a witch as I would understand it, she was a medium fakir, with a devilish talent for secreting long strands of linen about her intimate person (one of the nicer places was in her throat, I'm going to leave the rest to you - it's not that sort of blog), which she would then remove, magician-stylee and declare was spirit 'ectoplasm.' Reading Hellish Nell, I discovered a Victorian world fascinated with spirits and magic, at odds with its repressive reputation.

After Hellish Nell, I read a brilliant biography of Houdini - real name Erich Weiss - that revealed the years of sacrifice and hard work that preceded Houdini's fame. He spent years penniless, travelling the world from theatre to theatre. I also learned that mind-reading was a huge part of his early act. I may also have mentioned here that I'm currently reading Derren Brown's Tricks of the Mind - available from your friendly library service - which reveals many of the famous illusionist and trickster's methods and includes tips on memory, slight of hand and the art of reading body language. It was from him that I learnt that the word mentalist actually means something other than a derogatory term for a crazy person, it actually means: "apparently psychic entertainers whose illusions feature the ability to read minds, project the mind to alter the state of matter, foretell the future, and see distant and hidden objects." (Thanks to wikipedia for that).

But the best journey down my mentalist side road so far (there's a sentence that doesn't happen often), has to be a film I watched yesterday at my family home on Hayling, The Prestige (that's the name of the film, btw, not my family home). This is about a struggle for one-upmanship and revenge between two magicians, played by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale. I'm not a fan of Christian Bale, but he had the same effect on me in this film as Nicholas Cage (who I'm also not a fan of) had on me in the film Next (another one about the power of the mind): make a male character even slightly magical in a film and I'll be spellbound by them quicker than you can say Presto Chango.

Better even than the plot of the film is its many references to the Victorian era of magic, and interestingly, how a fascination among the public with magic at that time took place alongside and interweaved with the growth of modern science. In the Prestige, I was introduced to Nikola Tesla, 'The Man who Invented the Twentieth Century' and I intend to search for more on him at my friendly local library. Most of all, though the film is beautifully filmed, and is, in itself an illusion, providing clues throughout to the over-arching theme, and revealing the ending to you many, many times over, without allowing you to actually see it. Recommended.

So, I've decided to update my money-making ambitions. If the writing for a living thing doesn't work out, I'm going to become a mentalist (resist the temptation, please).

Look into my eyes........