The Otter Woman

Suspension by Kate O'Hara

Today, I'd like to spotlight a thoroughly magical piece by the Irish poet Mary O'Malley, which draws on old Celtic legends of the otter woman (or otter wife). This is a classic "animal bride" figure, similar to seal maidens, swan maidens, crane wives and other half-animal/half-human creatures, trapped into marriage by mortal men who steal their animal skin sor cloak of feathers. Such stories usually end when the skin is found again, releasing her back into wild....

Otter Sculpture by Ian EdwardsThe Otter Woman
by Mary O'Malley

He never asked why she always walked
By the shore, what she craved
Why she never cried when every wave
Crescendoed like an orchestra of bones.
She stood again on the low bridge
The night of the full moon.

One sweet, deep breath and she slipped in
Where the river fills the sea.
She saw him clearly in the street light -- his puzzlement.
Rid of him she let out one low, strange cry. . .

Otter photograph by Mark Hamblin

The lovely painting above is by Kate O'Hara, an illustrator based in Reno, Nevada. The otter sculpture is by Ian Edwards, based here in the West Country. (He's best known for his figurative work, but you can see more of his animal sculptures here.) The otter photograph above is by Mark Hamblin, a fine nature photographer based in Scotland. The photograph below comes from a news article on otters, and was, alas, uncredited.

If you'd like to know more about "animal bride" legends go here. For more about shape-shifting otters go here. And for more about Mary O'Malley's beautiful work, you can listen to a good interview with the poet on American public radio here.

Newborn otter pup"The Otter Woman" by Mary O'Malley first appeared in The Southern Review (Autumn 1995). O'Malley's poetry collections include A Consideration of Silk, Where the Rocks Float, The Knife in the Wave, Asylum Road, The Boning Hall, A Perfect V, and Valparaiso; highly recommended. All rights to the text & imagery above reserved by the author and artists.


The magic within

Transience by Chie Yoshii

Ben Okri has this to say about poetry; and I think it applies to those of us working in Mythic Arts too, in various mediums and forms -- particularly now, during troubled times, when the world seems so fractured, the future uncertain, and art seems so small a voice raised against the chorus of anger that is everywhere:

"The world in which the poet lives," Okri writes, "does not necessarily yield up the poetic. In the hands of the poet, the world is resistant. It is only with the searching and the moulding that the unyielding world becomes transformed in a new medium of song and metaphor.

"It is not surprising therefore that poets seem to be set against the world. The poet needs to be up at night when the world sleeps; needs to be up at dawn, before the world wakes; needs to dwell in odd corners, where Tao is said to reside; needs to exist in dark places, where spiders forge their webs in silence; near the gutters, where the undersides of our dreams fester. Poets need to live where others don't care to look, and they need to do this because if they don't they can't sing to us of all the secret and public domains of our lives."

Dragon by Chie Yoshii

Whisper by Chie Yoshii

"The acknowledged legislators of the world take the world as given. They dislike mysteries, because mysteries cannot be coded, or legislated, and wonder cannot be made into law. And so these legislators police the accepted frontiers of things. Politicians, heads of state, kings, religious leaders, the rich and powerful -- they all fancy themselves the masters of this earthly kingdom. They speak to us of facts, policies, statistics, programs, abstract and severe moralities. But the dreams of the people are beyond them, and would trouble them. The harder realities of the people would alarm them. It is they who have curbed the poets' vision of reality. It is they who invoke the infamous 'poetic license' whenever they do not want to face the inescapable tragedy contained in, for example, Okibo's words, ' I have lived the oracle dry on the cradle of a new generation.' It is they who demand that poetry be partisan, that it take sides, usually their side; that it rises on the backs of causes and issues, their causes, their issues, whoever they may be.

Saṃsāra by Chie Yoshii

Sleep by Chi Yoshii

"Our lives have become narrow enough. Our dreams strain to widen them, to bring our waking consciousness the awareness of greater discoveries that lie just beyond the limits of our sight. We must not force our poets to limit the world any further. That is a crime against life itself. If a poet begins to speak only of narrow things, of things we can effortlessly digest and recognize, of things that do not disturb, frighten, stir, or annoy us, or make us restless for more, make us cry for greater justice, make us want to set sail and explore inklings murdered in our youths, if the poet sings only of our restricted angels and in restricted terms and in restricted language, then what hope is there for any of us in this world?"

Emancipation by Chie Yoshii

Okri also offers this note of hope:

"The antagonists of poetry cannot win," he insists. "The world seems resistant but carries within it for ever the desire to be transformed into something higher. The world may seem unyielding but, like invisible forces in the air, it merely waits imagination and will to unloosen the magic within itself."

Liberation by Chie Yoshii

Dionysis by Chie Yoshii

The magical art today, which plays with allusions to Renaissance painting and classical myth, is by Chie Yoshii, who was born and raised in Kochi, Japan. She moved to the US in 2000 to earn a BFA at Massachusetts College of Art, then studied with portraitist Adrian Gottlieb for six years. Now she lives and works in Los Angeles, and her paintings are exhibited worldwide.

Her work, Yoshii says, "is inspired by the relationship between human psychology and mythical archetypes. The enduring themes are woven into surrealities filled with symbols and visual narratives. The enigmatic images embody contradicting elements such as novelty and nostalgia, innocence and sensuality, and strength and fragility, mirroring the complexity of our psyche."

The Guardian by Chie YoshiiThe passages above by Ben Okri are from his essay collection A Way of Being Free (Phoenix, 1998). All rights to the text and imagery above reserved by the author and artist.


Blessings for the works we lose

Woodland reverie 1

Woodland reverie 2

Miss Birch (cropped) by Virginia LeeLines Lost Among the Trees
by Billy Collins

These are not the lines that came to me
while walking in the woods
with no pen
and nothing to write on anyway.

They are gone forever,
a handful of coins
dropped through the grate of memory,
along with the ingenious mnemonic

I devised to hold them in place -
all gone and forgotten
before I had returned to the clearing of lawn
in back of our quiet house

with its jars jammed with pens,
its notebooks and reams of blank paper,
its desk and soft lamp,
its table and the light from its windows.

So this is my elegy for them,
those six or eight exhalations,
the braided rope of syntax,
Tree Nymph by Virginia Leethe jazz of the timing,

and the little insight at the end
wagging like the short tail
of a perfectly obedient spaniel
sitting by the door.

This is my envoy to nothing
where I say Go, little poem-
not out into the world of strangers' eyes,
but off to some airy limbo,

home to lost epics,
unremembered names,
and fugitive dreams
such as the one I had last night,

which, like a fantastic city in pencil,
erased itself
in the bright morning air
just as I was waking up.

Woodland reverie 3

All artists have books, or poems, or paintings, or projects that are never made manifest, ideas burning brightly in imagination that never transition into the physical world for all kinds of reasons: the timing isn't right; the pen isn't at hand; we are too busy, or ill, or fearful, or lazy; we don't have the space, the tools, the confidence needed to craft inspiration into tangible form. For whatever reason, we lose them. A story outline grows stale on us, the spark of a painting idea dims and goes out. So often there's a sense of shame attached to these never-mades and incompletes: the manuscripts stalled at Chapter Two, the illustrations planned but never finished, the projects discussed but never organized, the poems, like Billy's, lost among the trees....

But  I prefer to think of these unformed artworks with gratitude, not shame. I imagine them all dwelling deep inside me. Yes, in one sense they have been lost: they will not be rendered in physical form. They will never engage in the conversation between writer/artist and reader/viewer that completes a work of art, existing only as scribbles in notebooks and sketch pads, slowly disappearing from memory. In the timeless realm of the soul, however, nothing is ever lost completely. I believe that each creative impulse nestles down in the dark loam of the psyche at levels much deeper than conscious thought. They are the compost that nurtures the roots of every story and painting we create today. And I bless them all.

Woodland reverie 4

Terri Windling, Devon, May 2016

Woodland Reverie 5Billy Collin's poem is from Picnic, Lightning (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1998). The poem in the picture caption is mine; I've posted it here before, but it seemed to lend itself to re-use in today's context. The lovely drawings are "Miss Birch" and "Tree Nymph" by Virginia Lee. All rights reserved by the authors and artist.


Jumping in....

Terri Windling's desk

Norman Rockwell, Patricia O'Brien, Vanessa Bell, and Harold Knight
To be of use

by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes
   almost out of sight.

They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox
   to a heavy cart,

who pull like water buffalo,
   with massive patience,

who strain in the mud and the muck
   to move things forward,

who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire
   be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.


Self-portrait by Anna Bilińska

Art desk

Sketches and such

"I want so to live that I work with my hands and my feeling and my brain. I want a garden, a small house, grass, animals, books, pictures, music. And out of this, the expression of this, I want to be writing. (Though I may write about cabmen. That’s no matter.) But warm, eager, living life -- to be rooted in life -- to learn, to desire, to feel, to think, to act. This is what I want. And nothing less. That is what I must try for."  - Katherine Mansfield

The writing and editing side of the studio

Studio muse, with rawhide chewPictures: Above right, ''Jo writing in the Attic'' (from Little Women) by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), ''The Letter'' by Patricia O'Brien, ''Leonard Woolf at work at Hogarth Press'' by Vanessa Bell (1979-1961), and ''Dame Laura Knight Sketching'' by Harold Knight (1874-1961). Above left, "Self-portrait with Apron and Brushes" by Polish painter Anna Bilińska (1857-1893). Words: Marge Piercy's poem comes from her collection Circles on the Water (Knopf, 1982). All rights reserved by the writer and artists or their estates.


Giving voice to the voiceless

Stone wall, bluebells, & hound

Bluebells

For those of us who care about what's going on in the world politically and environmentally, it can be a struggle to understand how this relates to making art, particularly if we work in mythic, nonrealist forms far removed from the increasingly worrisome headlines of the day.

In her lovely little book Writing the Sacred Into the Real, American poet and essayist Alison Hawthorne Deming discusses the tension between art and activism in her work; and although she's speaking in terms of poetry here, her insights can be applied to the writing of fantasy as well...at least to the kind of poetic, deeply mythic fantasy that rarely appears on the bestsellers list, by writers like Alan Garner, Robert Holdstock, Patricia McKillip, Elizabeth Knox, and so many others (including some of you reading this now).

Writing poetry, says Deming, "is an act of dissent in at least three ways: economically, because the poet labors to make a thing that will never be worth money; temporally, because the poem is an argument with the erosive passage of time; and politically, because in an age that values aggregate data, poetry -- all true art -- insists on the passionate importance of the individual.

"The turning inwards to explore the world through the lens of subject does not necessarily mean a turning away from the world. Denise Levertov turned Wordsworth's lament inside out by writing 'the world is / not with us enough.' Her poetics insisted upon both the lyric impulse -- the song of the soul singing in the present moment -- and the political impulse -- the cry for social justice and peace."

Stone wall 2

Though Levertov's poetic spirit infuses Deming's, trying to honor these two opposing impulses, she says, "can cause a chronic psychic whiplash. Just when attention is focused on the inner excitement of consciousness, the world calls you a solipsist and demands your attention. Try to tell the world what you think of it, and consciousness will insist that it -- consciousness itself -- is the only thing you can know in its passing, so you had better take heed, right now. But Levertov found balance in the meditative mode, which asks for both introspection and realism -- or as Muriel Rukeyser suggested, the meeting of consciousness and the world -- and she wove a tenuous unity out of condradictions. I take that lesson to heart.

Stone wall 3

Stone wall 4

"For me," she explains, "the natural world in all its evolutionary splendor is a revelation of the divine -- the inviolable matrix of cause and effect that reveals itself to us in what we cannot control or manipulate no matter how pervasive our meddling. This is the reason that our technological mastery of nature will always remain flawed. The matrix is more complex than our intelligence. We may control a part, but the whole body of nature must incorporate the change, and we are not capable of anticipating how it will do so. We will always be humble before nature, even as we destroy it. And to diminish nature beyond its capacity to restore itself, as our culture seems perversely bent to do, is to desecrate the sacred force of Earth to which we owe a gentler hand. That the  diminishment has been caused by abuses of human power makes this issue political. Why should one species have the right to deprive so many others of their biological heritage and future? To write about nature, to record the magnificence, cruelty, and mysteriousness of it, is then an act both spiritual and political.

Stone wall 5

Bluebells and stitchwort

"Italo Calvino describes how literature's interior explorations can be put to political use:  'Literature is necessary to politics above all when it gives voice to whatever is without a voice, when it gives a name to what as yet has no name, especially to what the politics of language excludes or attempts to exclude. I mean aspects, situations, and languages both of the outer and of the inner world, the tendencies repressed both in individuals and in society. Literature is like an ear that can hear things beyond the understanding of the language of politics; it is like an eye that can see beyond the color spectrum perceived by politics. Simply because of the solitary individualism of his work, the writer may happen to explore areas that no one has explored before, within himself or outside, and to make discoveries that sooner or later turn out to be vital areas of collective awareness.'

Stone wall 6

Pink cranesbill

Deming continues: "My early interests as a poet were to understand the modernist and postmodernist traditions, and to locate myself within their trajectory. And these conditions set aesthetic concerns in opposition to social ones -- the artist as rebel, dissident, and iconoclast. But the wellspring for that inconoclastic energy was for me the belief that art can be a voice of moral and spiritual empathy, an antidote to the cold-hearted self-interest that drives so much of American culture. I have a hunger / for harmony that I feel with dissent.

Chagford signpost

"Realizing the importance of nature as a subject was a slow process of conversion for me. Way stations along the route: hearing Richard Nelson speak about writing his beautiful meditative book The Island Within after decades of working as a cultural anthropologist and his explaining that he had decided to write about what he loved; hearing Stanley Kunitz say to Fellows at the Work Center that originality in art could come only from what was unique in one's character and experience, not from manipulating the surface of one's technique; remembering that all my life I have hungered for wild places and all of my life wild places have fed me and that this is central to who I am and would have to inform my aesthetic decisions; sitting up in bed as a child, darkness surrounding me, and staring at the mystery of how I came to exist in the world in this body, and how it is an impossible fact that I will one day stop being here; assessing what I most love about being here and what I would like to understand and contribute before leaving..."

Signpost and stile

Tilly at the gate

"I write to make peace with the things I cannot control, " says fellow writer and activist Terry Tempest Williams. "I write to create red in a world that often appears black and white. I write to discover. I write to uncover. I write to meet my ghosts. I write to begin a dialogue. I write to imagine things differently and in imagining things differently perhaps the world will change. I write to honor beauty. I write to correspond with my friends. I write as a daily act of improvisation. I write because it creates my composure. I write against power and for democracy. I write myself out of my nightmares and into my dreams. I write in a solitude born out of community. I write to the questions that shatter my sleep. I write to the answers that keep me complacent. I write to remember. I write to forget.... I write as ritual. I write because I am not employable. I write out of my inconsistencies. I write because then I do not have to speak. I write with the colors of memory. I write as a witness to what I have seen. I write as a witness to what I imagine.... I write because it is dangerous, a bloody risk, like love, to form the words, to say the words, to touch the source, to be touched, to reveal how vulnerable we are, how transient we are. I write as though I am whispering in the ear of the one I love."

Illustration by Honore Appleton

Can we write fantasy and mythic fiction in this manner as well? Fantasy as ritual, fantasy as witness, fantasy that gives "voice to the voiceless" -- including the whispering more-than-human voices of the land we live on? I believe we can. Or at least I intend to try, and to see where it might take me....

Terry Tempest Williams & Alison Hawthorne Deming

Tilly on the rocksThe passage by Alison Hawthorne Deming above is from Writing the Sacred Into the Real (The Credo Series, Milkweed Editions, 2010). The passage by Terry Tempest Williams is from Red: Passion and Patience in the Desert (Pantheon, 2001). The poem by Denise Levetov in the picture captions is from O Taste and See (New Directions, 1964).  All rights reserved by the authors. The illustration is by Honore Appleton (1879-1951).


Painting with language

Conversations with Barry Lopez

Pink cranesbill

From Conversations with Barry Lopez by William E. Tydeman:

"Artists and writers are constantly changing the sense of orthodoxy in perceived relations," says Lopez, "visual, accoustical, spacial, emotional relationships. All this work stimulates thinking. So, we know we are horizontally oriented, it just makes me more curious about the vertical dimension. As a writer, I always want to stimulate a sense of awareness. I want to create and intensify patterns. When I listen to music, I always hear patterns. When I'm walking in the woods, I sense patterns. Walking in the woods with somebody, I might identify a plant, but the naming of the plant comes out of a pattern of movement, the conjunction of the time of year with that particular space. For example, knowing that I'm coming off a ridge and down onto a south-facing slope in May, I'm going to be looking for certain plants that I'm not going to find on the north side.

"So I'm always looking for these patterns when I'm writing, though I'm not necessarily thinking about a pattern -- it's like I've caught it in a sidelong glance and, like a painter, I'm trying to render it. I'm making a pattern in language that stands in the place of a pattern I've seen or felt.

P1300610

Woodland border

Tilly at the woodland's edge

"But this kind of intelligence can also get in the way of a story," he adds. "I have to remind myself sometimes when I'm writing fiction that it's a good thing not to be thinking, because then I might be trying to make a point. Writing a short story to make a point seems vaguely contradictory to me. In fiction I don't want to make a point, I want to report a pattern I'm aware of, make it work in a dramatic narrative, and leave it at that, and trust that the reader encountering this pattern will be compelled to think about life differently."

Tilly at the woodland's edge

Words: The passage quoted above is from Conversations with Barry Lopez: Walking the Path of Imagination by William E. Tydeman (University of Oklahoma Press, 2013). Please note that Lopez is talking about writing fiction here, as opposed to the different mindset one needs when writing nonfiction. The poem in the picture captions is from Heaven: Collected Poems 1956-1990 by Al Young (Creative Arts, 1992). All rights reserved.

Pictures: These photographs were taken earlier this week. Tilly had a small medical procedure yesterday and is now home and resting quietly. She'll be up and back into her beloved woods soon.


The law of the living Earth

Kissed by a Fox by Priscilla Stuckey

Lasts week's posts on the "nature mysticism" to be found in the works of Elizabeth Goudge reminded me of the following passage from Priscilla Stuckey's fine book, Kissed by a Fox -- for although Goudge wrote from a distinctly Anglican perspective, while Stuckey draws on a very wide range of world religions and philosophies, both share a love of the earth, a delight in the numinous, and an unsentimental belief in the good in human nature.

The passage begins with a quote from the 13th century Persian poet Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi:

Fox drawing by Inga Moore   The speech of water, the speech of earth, and the speech of mud
   Are heard by those who listen with the heart.*

"Rumi," notes Stuckey, " is often taken to mean that only mystics can hear the earth speak -- and that mystics are a strange kind of bird. But to read him that way goes against what Rumi yearned for above all -- for every heart to be struck open by divine longing, for love to pierce every breast.

   What is needed, Rumi said, is to polish the heart like a mirror.
   Do you know why the mirror does not reflect?

   Because the rust is not removed from its surface.*

Ramble 1

"Sufis often call this surface tarnish the 'rust of otherness.' Clean your mirror of all that is not love, Rumi was saying. Remember the radiance that suffuses each heart, and polish your own mirror until you can reflect it clearly. Hearing the speech of Earth may be easy when one is overcome with awe in [pristine wilderness], but it is much harder in the hubbub of the mundane.

Ramble 2

"My friend Annette recently heard the poet Gary Snyder speak. At the end of his reading, she says, a member of the audience asked Snyder how people can be inspired to save the planet. Snyder thought for a moment and said, 'The planet doesn't need us to save it. The planet needs us to save ourselves. If we learned how to be better people, we would be doing good work.' The room full of activist sat in stunned silence, trying to absorb his words. Snyder went on to say, 'The planet, if we notice, takes care of itself. Watch a place for a while. Look at the seasons, the weather, the animals, our own inner rhythms. Walk trails and notice things. We don't have to do a thing.'

Ramble 3

"Becoming better people. It will involve remembering how to listen -- to the land as well as to one another. Relearning the rhythms of give-and-take, in our own bodies as well as our relationships with others. Remembering the radically communitarian nature of life on Earth, which means remembering how to share. 

Ramble 4

"For however great is the divide between the very rich and the rest of this country, the gap between the industrialized nations and the rest of the world is far, far greater. The statistic is well known: less than 20% of the world's people are now consuming more than 80% of the world's resources. Anishinaabe leader Winona LaDuke says we cannot continue to use more than our share and expect to be sustainable. 'You can't do that and live in accordance with natural law. That is simple logic. Most of our teachings say that.'

"We don't need to save the planet, but we are in desperate need of saving ourselves.

Ramble 5

"Will we learn to build an Earth-friendly culture before it is too late? Plenty of other people have done so, and their varied experiences offer some guidelines to what works. They value reciprocity and fairness, and they build interdependence into their systems of exchange. They teach their children to respect others, both human and other than human. They minimize inequality among themselves, for the alternative is costly in terms of damaged health and human relationships. They observe nature closely, seeking to pattern their relationships on those of the more-than-human world. They listen to the voices of the animals and plants, clouds, fish, soil, and wind, for these are relatives whose choices, along with those of humans, are in every moment creating the world.

Ramble 7

"They remind themselves continually that the only way to survive and live well is to fit into the processes of the place called home -- to dwell in symbiotic relationship with the land, using the gifts of Earth sparingly and taking only what is needed to live. They honor individuality among humans as part of the ongoing creative work of nature. They treasure the individuality of their place and work to preserve its unique personality, eating native foods and building homes with nearby materials. They use local resources, yes, but first of all they love those resources as relatives.

Ramble 6

"They consider themselves guests on the planet rather than owners, and so they value a mind-set of gratitude and wonder. They accept death as well as life. They shower children with love and support. They practice caring for one another and the wider land-community because love is the surest route to flourishing -- and the more enjoyable way to live. They reward giving as well as taking.

"For what is gathered in must be given out. What is at one time collected, another time must be dispersed. Breathed in, breathed out. This is the law of the ground, the law of the living Earth. "

Ramble 8

Ramble

* The first Rumi couplet was translated by Richard Holtz & Frederick Denny (quoted in Kissed by a Fox); the second Rumi translation is from Mohammed Ruston's "The Metaphysics of the Heart in the Sufi Doctrine of Rumi" (Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses, no. 3, 2008: 4). The  passage by Priscilla Stuckey above is from Kissed by a Fox & Other Stories of Friendship in Nature (Counterpoint, 2012). The poem in the picture captions is from No Nature: New & Collected Poems by Gary Snyder (Pantheon, 1992). The little fox drawing is by Inga Moore. All rights reserved by the authors & artist.

 Pictures: The first photo is mine: "Coffeebreak by a stream, with wild daffodils."  The rest of the photographs were taken by husband Howard on one of his long "medicine walks" through the hills with Tilly.


From the archives: Mud and the Muse

6a00e54fcf738588340176155c3993970c

When you follow your dog...

Mud 2

...into a wildflower bog...

Mud 3

...there's no help for it, you're going to get wet, muddy, and stinky.

Mud 4

But you learn to be agile in the mud and muck...

Mud 5

...and to find new ways to get where you want to go...

Mud 6

...and you discover things that you would have otherwise missed...

Mud 7

...like this lovely water garden at the end of the leat.

Mud 8

Following the Muse is like that too. Sometimes, in the middle of a story or a painting, you find yourself wallowing through the sticky, boggy bits...

Mud 9

...and you just have to keep on going, no matter where it leads.

But I'm ready for the journey. I'm wearing sturdy boots, and I'm prepared to get muddy. So let's go.

Mud 10

Mud 11Words: The poem in the picture captions is from Territories: Writing from Innu Assi, Québec and Scotland (Edinburgh International Book Festival/Scottish Poetry Library); all rights reserved by the author. Pictures: A leat, a bog, and a wet, stinky dog.


In a Devon Wood

In a Devon Wood

Faeries of the Wood by Alan Lee

Woodland Sentinel

Stitchwort on the Woodland Floor

Faery Queen by Alan Lee
  The Elves

    by Denise Levertov

    Elves are no smaller
    than men, and walk
    as men do, in this world,
    but with more grace than most,
    and are not immortal.

    Their beauty sets them aside
    from other men and from women
    unless a woman has that cold fire in her
    called poet: with that

    she may see them and by its light
    they know her and are not afraid
    and silver tongues of love
    flicker between them.

Faery Knight by Alan Lee

Woodland Dreaming

The First Blueblls

Faerie Court by Alan Lee

Woodland Writer & Hound

Roverandom by Alan LeeThe poem above is from Poems of Denise Levertov: 1960-1967 (New Directions, 1983); the poem in the picture captions is from The Journal of Mythic Arts (2006); the exquisite pencil drawings are by my friend & neighbor Alan Lee, who first introduced me to the Devon woods. All rights reserved by the authors & artist.


Back in the woods again, at last

Woods 1

Woods 2

"I feel safe in the woods, safer when I’m alone. Some people find that solace in church, others by listening to music, or reading quietly by a fireplace. For me it’s always been nature. Yesterday I took a long walk in the woods behind my house. I’ve been there dozens of times, but each time I see something new. Nature is brutal and relentless, but it is also gorgeous and balanced. I came home dirty, wet and happy. I’ve learned more from being alone in the woods than anything else."

Chris Offutt  (author of Out of the Wood, The Good Brother, No Heroes, etc.)

I couldn't agree more.

Woods 3

Woods 4

Woods 5

"The World is not something to look at, it is something to be in."  - poet Mark Rudman

And I'm so very glad to be back in the World.

Woods 6

Woods 7The quote by Chris Offutt is from an interview in Salon (March, 2016). I recommend his books, for he's among the still-too-few American authors skillfully depicting rural and working class lives. His latest, My Father the Pornographer, is a memoir about his father, fantasy (and porn) writer Andrew Offutt -- who, oddly enough, I worked with years ago, having been given the assignment of editing his "Conan" and "Red Sonja" novels when I was a very young editor at Ace Books in New York. It was a strange experience, to say the least.

The poem in the picture captions is from Poems: 1960 - 1967 by Denise Levertov (New Directions, 1983), and was inspired by the Mark Rudman quote. All rights reserved by the authors or their estates.