Myth & Moor update

Illustration by Anne Anderson

Illustration by Anne AndersonDear friends, after so many weeks of dealing with flu (and related health complications), I'm behind on everything -- so I'm taking time off-line in order to catch up on work and correspondence in quiet and gentle fashion.

Thank you so much for following Myth & Moor, and being part of the Mythic Arts community here. I'll be back on Wednesday, March 14th to share music, art, books, myth and more. I wish you good health, good dreams, good stories, quiets days (or noisy ones, if you prefer), with plenty of time for work, and play, and wild creativity. And creativity in the wild. And wildness, full stop.

New note: I'm afraid it's going to take a little longer to get back, as I'm dealing with some medical issues at the moment. My apologies.

Wild words

Illustration by Anne Anderson (1874-1952)

To sleep, perchance to dream

Extreme Poetry at Dartington, 2018

To friends & poetry lovers in the West Country:

You are invited to join two of Britain's finest poets, Alice Oswald and Peter Oswald, along with my dramatist husband, Howard Gayton, for an unusual and extraordinary night of Extreme Poetry.

When: Wednesday, 7 March, at 8 pm
Where: Dartington Hall, Space Studio 3, Totnes, Devon, TQ9 6EN
Tickets: Here, or phone the number above.

(Tickets will also be available on the night; you don't have to pre-book.)

I'm not sure how widely Dartington has publicized the event, so I'm doing my bit to spread the word. Please pass it on to all who might like to come. It will be deeply mythic and rather special.

To learn more about Alice's work: "Is Alice Oswald our greatest living poet?" (by Charlotte Runcie). Her most recent book, Falling Awake, won the Costa Award for Poetry and the Griffin Prize.

To learn more about Peter's work: "Rhyme and Punishment" (by Lyn Gardner). His play "Mary Stuart" runs until April 14th at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater.

The Sleep-Cycle at Dartington

This is the first event of series, with the next coming up on April 4th. More info soon.

Extreme Poetry at Dartington, 2018Howard in rehearsal for the first evening of the Sleep-Cycle Series at Dartington, 2018. Full masking & body-painting on the night will be by Angharad Barlow.

Bumblehill in snow

with art by Jeanie Tomanek

Moon of Long Nights by Jeanie Tomanek

All week we'd been hearing about the "Beast from the East," pushing frigid Arctic weather across Europe and covering the British Isles with snow. Storms rolled across Ireland, Scotland, the rest of England...snow fell on Cornwall and the south Devon coast...while here in Chagford, the sun kept shining and the village felt more like Brigadoon than ever, inhabiting a different world with different weather than everyone else.

The hound and I were longing for snow. We hadn't seen snow, not proper snow, for several winters on the trot...just frost, or hail, or flurries that lightly glazed the hills then disappeared...not real snow like the storms of 2013, 2012, 2010, and many years before.

The snowless hound

On Wednesday night, the temperature dropped. On Thursday morning, we woke to snow.

It was just a powdery dusting to begin with, but I dressed in a hurry and grabbed my coat. Tilly burst out the kitchen door, ecstatic; she bound up the hill behind our house, rounded past the studio, leapt over the iced-up stream behind it and pelted into the woods. She loves the snow. And so do I, taking pleasure in Tilly's keen delight, and the eternal, ephemeral magic of weather: the way that between one hour and next the land becomes a winter's fairy tale, a far outpost of the Snow Queen's realm.

Gate in snow

Oak tree in snow

Hound in snow

By afternoon, it was snowing hard. By nightfall, the lanes had drifted over; the village was entirely snowed in. The storm raged as we went to sleep, and I wondered whether it would truly last...or if we'd wake to dreary rain again, the snow melted and gone.

Old Dog's Dream by Jeanie Tomanek

The next morning, Tilly stared out the bedroom window. Snow! Snow! Proper snow!

Snow window

Too excited to wait for me to eat my breakfast, she bounced out the back door to the courtyard, where potted plants were buried in white and our "Lady of Bumblehill" statue (by Wendy Froud) had skirts of ice. The hound ran in circles while I finished my coffee, laced on sturdy winter boots, dug out my warmest mittens, and then followed my dog outside.

Courtyard in snow

The Lady of Bumblehill in Snow

This time, we headed down the hill, slipping and sliding down a steep and icy road until we reach the path to Meldon Commons, blanketed by snow and silence.

Snow path

The snow fell thick and steadily. No cars moved through the village today, and the loudest sound was the laughter of children sledging on a hill nearby.

Path III by Jeanie Tomanek

Snow path

Tilly led the way, breaking through the snow's thin crust, forging the path I followed. We were not the first to use this trail; there were other foot prints, paw prints, pony prints...

Snow path

...but we met no one along the way and when we reached the Commons, it was empty too. Just a vast white field, a vast white sky. A snow-speckled dog. And me.

The commons in the snow

"I am a book of snow," wrote Pablo Neruda, "a spacious hand, an open meadow, a circle that waits, I belong to the earth and its winter."

Snow path

The hound and I, we belong to earth and the winter too, I thought as we crossed through bramble thorns and gorse, ice crackling with our steps.

Hound in snow

But my toes were cold, Tilly's nose crusted with ice. Back home, a fire in the Rayburn stove poured heat, like love, from the kitchen hearth. (In the long winter months it feels like warmth and love are the same thing.) I belonged to earth, but I was made of blood and bones, and I was shivering....

Snow path

So I turned around, and whistled once. The hound came running at my call.

Stray by Jeanie Tomanek

Our homeward path lay entirely uphill: steep, icy, and treacherous. I was tired now, still fragile after weeks of flu, a little unsteady on my feet. I tightened my scarf, brushed ice from Tilly's fur, and told her: Yes, you can lead the way. 

She walked ahead, pacing her steps, stopping every so often to check on me.

We'll be home soon. I can feel the warmth of the stove already....

Lead on. Lead on.

Hound in snow

Caretaker by Jeanie Tomanek

The art today, of course, is by the extraordinary Jeanie Tomanek. Go here to see more.

Sentences & Mermaids

Sea Nymph by Edward Burne-Jones

It's my personal belief that it's not possible to be a truly good writer without a love of words and sentences. Plotting and storytelling skills will only you take you so far, for writing is the art of language: how it rests on the page, how it sounds in the mind's ear, how it sinks down deep like a stone thrown into the unconscious, leaving ripples of metaphor and meaning behind. Today's quotes come from a variety of writers, reflecting on sentences and the writer's craft.

The mermaid art is a response to the beautiful poems by Jane Yolen and Wendy Howe in the comments under yesterday's post.

Sea Maidens by Evelyn de Morgan

Stanley Fish:

"In her book The Writing Life, Annie Dillard tells the story of a fellow writer who was asked by a student, 'Do you think I could be a writer?' 'Well,' the writer said, 'do you like sentences?' The student is surprised by the question, but Dillard knows exactly what was meant. He was being told, she explains, that 'if he likes sentences he could begin,' and she remembers a similar conversation with a painter friend. 'I asked him how he came to be a painter. He said, "I like the smell of paint." The point, made implicitly (Dillard does not belabour it), is that you don't begin with a grand conception, either of the great American novel or masterpiece that will hang in the Louvre. You begin with a feel for the nitty-gritty material of the medium, paint in one case, sentences in the other."

A Mermaid by John William Waterhouse

Annie Proulx:

"A lot of the work I do is taking the bare sentence that says what you sort of want to say -- which is where a lot of writers stop -- and making it into an arching kind of thing that has both strength and beauty. And that is where the sweat comes in. That can take a long time and many revisions. A single sentence, particularly a long, involved one, can carry a story forward. I put a lot of time into them. Carefully constructed sentences cast a tint of indefinable substance over a story….

"There is difficulty involved in going from the basic sentence that’s headed in the right direction to making a fine sentence. But it’s a joyous task. It’s hard, but it’s joyous. Being raised rural, I think work is its own satisfaction. It’s not seen as onerous, or a dreadful fate. It’s like building a mill or a bridge or sewing a fine garment or chopping wood—there’s a pleasure in constructing something that really works."

The Land Baby by John Collier

Barbara Kingsolver:

"My morning begins with trying not to get up before the sun rises. But when I do, it's because my head is too full of words, and I just need to get to my desk and start dumping them into a file. I always wake with sentences pouring into my head."

Little Mermaid by Helen Stratton

Ernest Hemingway:

"I wake up in the morning and my mind starts making sentences and I have to get rid of them fast -- talk them or write them down."

Mermaid by Howard Pyle

Colm Tóibín:

"The sentences I write have their roots in song and poetry, and take their bearings from music and painting, as much as from the need to impart mere information, or mirror anything. I am not a realist writer, even if I seem like one."

Murmur of Pearls by Gina Litherland

Alice McDermott:

"I've got to hear the rhythm of the sentences; I want the music of the prose. I want to see ordinary things transformed not by the circumstances in which I see them but by the language with which they're described."

The Little Mermaid by Edmund Dulac

John Burnside:

"I love long sentences. My big heroes of fiction writing are Henry James and Proust -- people who recognize that life doesn't consist of declarative statements, but rather modifications, qualifications and feelings."

The Little Mermaid by Helen Stratton

Gwendolyn Brooks:

"My sentences tend to be short and rather spare. I'm more your paragraph kind of gal."

Merfolk by Virginia Lee

John Banville:

"When you're writing there's a deep, deep level of concentration way beyond your normal self. This strange voice, these strange sentences come out of you."

Undine by Arthur Rackham

Wendell Berry:

"A sentence is both the opportunity and limit of thought-- what we have to think with, and what we have to think in."

The Little Mermaid by Sulamith Wulfing

Jhumpa Lahiri:

"Even printed, on pages that are bound, sentences remain unsettled organisms. Years later, I can always reach out to smooth a stray hair. And yet, at a certain point, I must walk away, trusting them to do their work. I am left looking over my shoulder, wondering if I might have structured one more effectively."

Mermaid in Flight by Fay Ku

Zadie Smith:

"Don't romanticize your 'vocation.' You can either write good sentences or you can't. There is no 'writer's lifestyle.' All that matters is what you leave on the page."

Looking for mermaids

The Little Mermaid by Helen Stratton

 The pictures are identified in the picture captions. (Run your cursor over the images to see them.)