Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Some things that have given me pleasure...(because I've moaned enough lately!)

The consistent creative initiative and talent of some people around here never ceases to amaze, delight and sometimes, I'm afraid, discourage me rather, but I try not to give way to that!

Dave Bonta and Dana Guthrie-Martin have come up with a fantastic idea for a poetry site. (I mean, that Dave's going to have to pull his finger out, he's only running a blog I only don't go to more often because I know if I do I could be there all day reading and following up links, then a one-a-day Shutterchance photoblog, a Twittering microblog, one for his homeplace, Pummer's Hollow, then doing qarrtsiluni, overseeing Festival of the Trees, and who know what else... Lazy git.)

The new one's called Postal Poetry . The stipulation is that you write a poem on the front of a postcard-sized photograph, it doesn't have to be a real postcard but it must be the size of one, so the poem length is necessarily limited by that. According to a post at Dave's, people often used to write on the front of postcards, and someone speculated that the choice of image composition might be influenced by the available writing space afforded. Of course with Photoshop and such like, one can choose light text to go over dark areas, etc. some people over-write the images, others work around them. It really is a fascinating idea and a delightful site, and there's some cracking good people contributing to it.

Which is why I was more than pleased when they took my offering, which was 'written' on a facsimile old black and white photo from a museum we visited in Morbihan last year. It's here.

Because drawing and painting is still an infrequent enough part of my activities to be worthy of remark, here's the latest watercolour pencil offering. I am pleased with it, though it's even more slavishly tight than ever. An unlooked-for benefit of Flickr is that posting pictures other than photographs has led me to various art groups which poke me to do a bit more of this kind of thing.


Inspired in part by Annie, who is alarmingly young and alarmingly clever, and has recently reappeared in this corner of the blogging universe, and who draws compulsively and excellently, including from films and telly while she watches them, I've taken to keeping notebook and pen with me while watching, lest I feel moved to doodle or scribble. I feel it also makes it a less passive experience. I like the way one notebook does all, so mine contains prose, poems, journallings, doodles, shopping lists, lesson plans etc. It is quite hard to buy plain or simply lined notebooks here, the French favour squares, vertical as well as horizontal divisions, which I have often thought perhaps said something about their mentality, but now I've found I'm rather used to them, and even find myself slightly daunted by a blanker page...

I've been enjoying some of BBC4's strand on the history of arts programming on TV, including John Berger's 'Ways of Seeing', which I missed both first and second times around, though I've read bits of the book. Also the block of editions of 'Monitor' on Sunday night. I'm too young to remember 'Monitor'; the reviews have been a bit sniffy and amused about it, referring to its 'cobwebby charm', and saying you really have to be more interested in the subject matter than caring about the style of it, but to me it just feels like coming home. I gaze at the grainy black and white footage, listen to Huw Weldon's dry patrician tones, and slip comfortably into a premature (maybe...) state of fartish old reactionaryism and think 'Ah, now this is how arts documentaries should be!'

I enjoyed Henry Moore at home, so deceptively gentle and unassuming, saying how he had to stop reading Neumann's book about archetypes in his work, because, he said in effect, if he found out to much about why he did what he did he might have to stop doing it.

And I loved the Betjeman/Larkin film. (Sorry, I can't really find any links worth bothering with for this...). The first part, with Betjeman on the beach in Lincolnshire, 'Tennyson's county... three-quarters sky', looking across at Hull, I could have hung on my wall in all its monochrome gorgeousness. I'm not a Larkin expert at all; I know he was not a particularly nice person, and revelations since his death have revealed more of his sad- and seediness, but like many people, I have in my life often been stayed and cold-comforted by his clear-eyed stoicism, his putting-his-finger-on-it observations of life, his facing the emptiness, his occasional pessimistic compassion and still more occasional compassionate optimism ( 'What will survive of us...'). Oddly, for all his iconic Grumpy Old Man status, I think he is a young person's poet. He showed us that beyond all the largely put-on romantic agony, the supposedly passionate political posturing, the generally tiresome and tiring earnestness of youth, it was possible to face the underlying fear of pointlessness, the knowledge that it's hard now and it doesn't get any easier, but that there might be a tolerable way through.

And I liked the rather embarrassed and inarticulate way he talked about the beauty of the evening skies over the river in Hull, as though to confess being impressed with something as cornily, naturally beautiful was somewhat letting the side down.

So, a couple of haiku that came with the doodle. They rhyme, which is probably the equivalent of drinking sake with burger and chips or something equally crass, but the first one did it of its own accord, and then it was easy to get the other one to do it.

Henry Moore on 'Monitor'

Utterly humble

utterly sure, he'll mumble

but never stumble.

Larkin on 'Monitor'

Sunset on Hull, rose

and gold, y'know (sigh) there goes

another evening...

~and another, which has nothing to do with the above and doesn't rhyme, but because I like haiku in threes.

Autumn morning

Tom in red fleece, black

fleece leggings. Outside the jays

busy with acorns.

(Anyone any idea how to stop Blogger double spacing when you don't want it and doing it when you do?)


Julia said...

Larkin reminds me of a great-uncle I have, who, upon seeing a beautiful sunset, reminds me that it is the result of pollution, but beautiful anyway. I think your haiku sums L up on Hull nicely.

Try Shift+Alt for single spacing when Blogger gets recalcitrant. Enter should generally give you double spaces at times like that too. It is an html issue that seems to crop up in the WYSIWIG editor on occasion.

vicki johnson said...

Lucy, your "Postal Poetry"submission is wonderful...loved the image you chose and your poem. It's a very interesting concept, but i have to say that while reading your post, i visualized handwriting on the front of the postcards ...and when confronted with "typefaces" on the images, i was distracted and disappointed...missing the mark, the human sign of the poet.

i totally understand the dilemma...few people have handwriting fonts in their collections and it looks like no one wishes to take the time to print out the image, write the poem by hand then scan in, adjust, etc etc etc...slows down and complicates the process too much, i suppose.

i'm sorry...i don't mean to be a creepy critic...just offering up my first, honest reactions.
However...i did very much like the image you chose and was moved by your poem.

vicki johnson said...

i mean...half (at least) of the charm, mystery, and magnetism of old postcards...any postcards, kept...is the human touch, the handwriting...don't you think??

vicki johnson said...

OK...so i got curious about creating a font out of my own handwriting...and fond this


i have no idea how good it turns out...but for $9 (u.s.)...i think i'm gonna give it a try.

Lucy said...

Julia, you are a clever software person! I can't seem to ge the solution to work however, I'll fiddle about and try again. Larkin's 'there goes another evening' was not in fact in response to the sunset, though I thought it fitted with it, but to Betjeman's saying that a group of booklovers he's been speaking with in Hull didn't know but were delighted to learn that Larkin was living there (he kept himslef quite quiet), and wanted him to come and talk to them. Larkin rather implied he resented having his time thus taken up!

Zephyr - I'm not a bit offended, and glad that you gave the matter so much thought, which has caused me to do likewise. In his post about postcards I think Dave said something similar about being drawn to the handwritten texts on the old cards, and wanting to find fonts more like handwriting. I'm not sure why I didn't write on and scan the image; I think it crossed my mind, and rather semi-consciously I rejected it, but why?

I think perhaps I didn't have the confidence in my handwriting! That it would look childish or clumsy, or inconsistent with the image, and indeed the voice of the poem, as I write fairly modern sort-of semi-printed italic, and the image and its period would have required an old fashioned French cursive, or even copperplate. I did find a font something like that, but then it seemed slightly phoney... In the end I chose a font I thought looked vaguely consistent with the period of the postcard, something like that of an old typewriter.

It surprises me now that I only half-thought this through, and settled for what I did, when the whole point of the project is a visual as well as verbal impression. The result on the site looked a bit heavier than I anticipated.

Thanks a lot for such a considered response. I'm going to try scanning and printing the copy (I think perhpas I was a little unsure of the quality of the scan reproduction rescanned too), and handwriting the poem out to see what it looks like. I might post it here if I'm happy with it...

Good luck with the fontifier, it sounds interesting!

vicki johnson said...

i'm so glad the spirit of my comment came thru...one always hopes so.

i love browsing through different fonts and have, i'm afraid, spent (read: wasted) many hours looking for one to suit my creations. i hesitate sharing this next bit, for fear you will find yourself swimming for hours on end in the vast ocean of possibilities and later curse me for tempting you...but, here goes:

Have you shopped around in myfonts.com? Do a search on "handwriting" and a vast number of options is presented. i keep looking for one that i can use in Photoshop that looks like my own handwriting. Some are quite pricey.


i mustget back to work.

Roderick Robinson said...

And there we were, thinking that no one else we knew would bother watching extracts from black and white telly programs about "art" (portentous word for a frequently glum experience) recorded decades ago. The one difference is we saw them first time round. These days Huw Wheldon wouldn't get a look in. He had the audacity to assume that his audience (or do you prefer the polysyllabic téléspectateurs) knew something about Orson Welles and Henry Moore beforehand. These days that only crops up when radio is compared with TV.

I liked the way Larkin read his poems but Betjeman (reading Larkin) was even better. Allowing the poetry to show itself off rather than clothing it in unsuitable histrionic vestments.

julie said...

I love the drawing, Lucy. Lovely!

Anonymous said...

Once again, Lucy, you overwhelm and delight me with so many interesting little stories written so cleverly! Love most your postcard, your words on Moore and the haiku.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Lovely postcard and flower painting. Interesting post all round.

Bee said...

Your last comment made me laugh . . . because I am often mystified by the ways of Blogger formatting. I have JUST tried to format some pictures and text, and I've not been able to do it to my satisfaction. So! I have nothing to offer but commiseration.

I can't begin to think how you made that wonderful postcard poem!

And it is easier to talk about formatting than to point out all of the many beauties in this post -- and all of your interesting observations. I think you are spot-on about Larkin. I'm sorry that I've missed both of those programs.

Laura Frankstone said...

Why, you multitalented thing, you! Yes, we're really going to have fun next September, I can tell. Keep going, please, with your drawing!

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I was totally absorbed in this post! Thanks for all the thought provoking words. And your painting is just lovely.

Julia said...

Oh Lucy I'm an idiot! It is Shift+Enter that will give you a breaking single space. Sorry for the too fast typing before.

Lucy said...

Thanks again!

I'll try that Julia...

Anonymous said...


Thanks for popping by to tell me about Annie's "Static" picture. I would hate to have missed it, and I've been a laggard about blogging of late.

Liked that you-say-tight picture, and I especially liked the Larkin poem.

Ditto the fascinating (and slightly horrible snake pictures and snake saga!)