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September 2015

The enclosure of wild time

May Day in Chagford

May Day in ChagfordPictures above & below from Chagford's Jack in the Green procession on May Day, 2015

Just as Commons land creates a physical border between private property and wilderness (discussed here yesterday), traditional carnivals, festivals, and folk pageants create a metaphorical border between the measured clock-time of ordinary life and the "wild time" of the mythic realm. But this cultural Commons has also been effected by Britain's history of Enclosures, as Jay Griffiths explains in the following passage from her book Pip, Pip, a cultural study of time:

"In Britain there were once hundreds of carnivals: blessing-of-the-mead days; hare-pie-scrambling days and cake-and-ale ceremonies; there were Hobby Horse Days and Horn Dance Days, with their pagan hunting associations and symbolic suggestions of fertility rites; there were Well-Dressing days, Cock-Squoiling days (or 'throwing-at-cocks'); there were Doling days and days for 'beating the bounds' of the parish; wassailing the apple trees and playing duck-apple at Halloween; burning the clavie (tar barrel) at new year or 'Hallooing Largesse' (where, in East Anglia, the Lord of the Harvest traditionally led a troup of people to serenade householders, seeking money), all colored the course of the year. Some of these are pre-Christian; some are medieval or later. Many of them have survived in some form -- often as 'just' a children's game.

May Day in Chagford

"At Somerset's Punkie Night, at the end of October, children made punkies (lanterns) out of mangel-wurzels (a large kind of beet) and went knocking on people's doors for money or candles. This was one of the many ancient mischief nights of the year, when children played up gleefully, changing shop signs or taking gates May Day in Chagfordoff hinges:

Give us a light, give us a light.
If you don't you'll get a fright
...

is the children's refrain; an ancient threat this, playing a trick if you're not treated. Guisers (children disguising themselves at Halloween) in Scotland sang:

If ye dinnae let us in,
We will bash yer windies in.

"Whuppity Scooorie in Lanark is a festival, believed to have survived from pagan times, during which as much noise as possible was made to scare off evil spirits and protect crops; latterly it is acted out by children who, started by a peal of bells, swing paper balls at each other and scramble for pennies. Up-Helly-Aa is a Shetland Isles festival, dating back to Viking times, when a thirty-foot model Viking ship, complete with banners, shields and a bow of a dragon's head, is taken down to the sea by torchlight, then the torches are flung in and it blazes across the water, representing the dead heroes sent to Valhalla in a burning ship. Garland Day at Abbotsbury in Dorset is a ceremony to bless the fishing boats at the opening of the mackerel fishing season which had strong hints of pagan sacrifice in its thousand-year history, though now it is, like so many other festivals, just a children's game."

May Day in Chagford

Processing past the church yard copy

May Day in Chagford

"Many festivals chime with the seasons of the agricultural year and of the natural world," notes Griffiths, "the life and death cycle of vegetation as, for example, the Obby Oss on May Day at Padstow in Cornwall, where the Oss dances, dies, resurrects, and dances again. There are festivals marking the death of winter, or bringing in the summer, there are cyclic (and sacrificial) nature-festivals for the corn spirit wherever corn is grown."

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"Festival time, traditionally, binds communities together, knitting them to their land, each area tootling its own festive tune, accented with dialect voices specific to certain places and describing a 'vernacular time.' Thus one area's festival calendar could have been different from the calendar of a neighboring locale. Festival-time could further delineate not only the physical geography but also the economic geography of an area, protecting rights of access or land-use, particularly -- in the past -- in such customs as the 'beating of the bounds' of a parish or village."

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"The beating of the bounds, or processioning, as Bob Bushaway says in By Rite: Custom, Ceremony and Community in England 1700-1880, 'provided the community with a mental map of the parish...which was the collective memory of the community.' These festivals tied a society to its past, its land and its rights to that land. But, as Bushaway shows, these customs disappeared, up and down the country, as a result of one thing: enclosures."

May Day in Chagford

"Pre-enclosure," Griffiths continues, "other customs concerned with common land, with the rights of gleaning, wood-gathering or access, were vigorously upheld. Cheese-rolling ceremonies, for instance, used festival-time to mark such rights; when the access was denied, so was the festival At Shapwick Marsh at Sturminster Marshall, a 'feast of Sillabub' was held. It was joint-stock merry-making,' so one person might bring the milk of one cow, another the milk of three, while yet another might bring the wine. With the 1845 enclosure, this custom disappeared and many other festivals of commons were outlawed.

May Day in Chagfod

May Day i Chagford"Before enclosures, festivals were vigorously convivial, as numerous chronicles show; they were off-license times, drunken, licentious and rude, ranging from mid-summer ales to apple-tree wassailing, from autumn mead-mowing to May Day liaisons. And the Victorian middle-classes hated it. Just as land was literally fenced off and enclosed, so the spirit of carnival-time was metaphorically enclosed, repressed and fenced in by Victorian morality: no drinking, no bawdiness, no sex. The common -- very vulgar -- character of festival was increasingly outlawed and fenced off from the commoners and turned over to the land-owning middle classes in the form of the queasy, fluttery remains of Victorian festival...The lewd and the loud were disallowed. The acts and the spirit of enclosure tried to suppress the broad, unenclosed, unfettered, unbounded exuberance of the vulgar at large."

The Jack, the Piper, and the Obby Oss

The photograph in the first half of this post come from last spring's May Day procession here in Chagford -- where a group of us, led by folk musician & scholar Andy Letcher, are working to revive this old folkloric tradition. That's Andy on the bagpipes, Jason of England as the Jack-in-the-Green, Suzi Crockford as the Queen of May, and my husband Howard as the Obby Oss. The photographs are by Ashley Wengraf, Ian Atherton, Ruth Olley, and Simon Blackbourn. (Run your cursor over the images for picture descriptions and credits.)

May Day in Chagford

"Few festivals are more flamboyantly vulgar than May Day or Beltane," says Griffiths. "One pagan festival which the disapproving church did not -- could not -- colonize, it kept its raw smell of sexual license and its populist grass roots appeal....Beltane was celebrated with huge bonfires, the Lord and the Queen of May (who, in the Middle Ages, was often a man dressed as a woman) and Spring was personified by the Green Man -- the May Day in ChagfordWild Man or Jack-in- the-Green. Dressed in leaves, he carried a huge horn. (Enough said.) The Maypole, the phallic pole planted in mother earth, was the key symbol of the day.

"Then came the Puritans, sniffing the rank sexuality, decrying the Maypole as 'this stinking idol'; and in 1644 the Long Parliament banned all Maypoles. They also objected to the social reversal of carnival [men dressed as women, fools as kings, etc.]; to the Puritans, an attack on the status quo was almost as disgusting as sex. After the Restoration, England's most famous Maypole was erected in London's Strand in 1661; a stonking hundred and thirty feet high, all streamers and garlands, making people wild with delight, it stood for over fifty merry years. But Isaac Newton put a stop to it. In 1717, he bought the Maypole to use as a post for a telescope to penetrate the darkness of the night. In the 19th century, the Victorians infantalized May Day, making it a children's festival to emphasize innocence, of all things.

"But the festival of Beltane and the whole spirit of carnival is robust. Coming from the earth itself, it erupts, whether puritans and politicians like it or not. In rural areas, you can still find Beltane celebrated, complete with Green Men, Maypoles, and Fools."

More information on the history of May Day can be found in this previous post.

May Day in Chagford

May Day in Chagford

May Day in Chagford

May Day in Chagford

Our village is a place where festivals tend to erupt at the drop of a hat, and everyone seems to have well-stocked box of dress-up clothes in their closet. Despite a tiny population (roughly 2500 people, and a whole lot of sheep), Chagford hosts an annual film festival, a music festival, a bi-annual literary festival, a summer carnival, and plenty of other events besides, and kids grow up here thinking it's perfectly ordinary to dance in the streets on a regular basis. Perhaps it's no coincidence that we've also held on to our village Commons, and many here still gather to "beat the bounds," affirming the boundaries of the parish and the timeless ties of community life.

The photographs below are by Simon Blackbourn, taken just last weekend on the final night of the Chagford Film Festival, celebrating Indian film and dance this year. Please visit Simon's website to see more of his beautiful work.

Chagford Film Festival

Chagford Film Festival

Chagford Film Festival

Chagford Film Festival

Chagford Film Festival

Chagford Film Festival

12032634_10153726394365774_396044174349548810_oPictures: Many thanks to the photographers who allowed their work to appear here. The black-and-white photos and the Film Festival photos are all by Simon Blackbourn; the May Day photos were taken by various folks. You'll find credits in the picture captions (run your cursor over the images to see them). The photos without credits were snapped on the fly by me, on Suzi Crockford's camera. Words: The passage by Jay Griffiths comes from Pip, Pip: A Sideways Look at Time (Flamingo, 1999), highly recommended. All rights to the text & imagery above are reserved by their respective creators.


Enclosure of the Commons: the borders that keep us out

Commons 1

Historically, the Commons straddles the border between private space and unmanaged wilderness. Last week, we looked at the history of  the English Commons via a passage from Lewis Hyde's fine book Common as Air. (If you missed it, go here. The text is quoted in the picture captions; run your cursor over the images to read it.) Today, I'd like to dig a little deeper into the subject with the help of Gary Snyder, Jay Griffiths, and George Monbiot.

"There is a well-documented history of the commons in relation to the village economies of Europe and England," writers Synder in his influential book The Practice of the Wild. "In England from the time of the Norman Conquest the enfeoffed knights and overlords began to gain control over many local commons. Legislations (the Statute of Merton, 1235) came to their support. From the 15th century on the landlord class, working with urban mercantile guilds and government offices, increasingly fenced off village-held land and turned it over to private interests. The enclosure movement was backed by big wool corporations, who found profit from sheep to be much greater than that of farming. The wool business, with its exports to the Continent, was an early agribusiness that had a destructive effect on the soils and dislodged peasants. The arguments for enclosure in England -- efficiency, higher production -- ignored social and ecological effects and served to cripple the sustainable agriculture of some districts.

Commons 2

Commons 3

" The enclosure movement was stepped up again in the 18th century," Snyder continues; "between 1709 and 1869 almost five million acres were transferred to private ownership, one acre in every seven. After 1869 there was a sudden reversal of sentiment called the 'open space movement' which ultimately halted enclosures and managed to preserve, via a spectacular lawsuit against the lords of fourteen manors, the Epping Forest.

"Karl Polyani says that the enclosures of the 18th century created a population of rural homeless who were forced in their desperation to become the world's first industrial working class. The enclosures were tragic both for the human community and for natural ecosystems. The fact that England now has the least forest and wildlife of all the nations of Europe has much to do with the enclosures. The takeover of common lands on the European plain also began about 500 years ago, but one-third of Europe is still not privatized. A survival of commons practices in Swedish law allows anyone to enter private farmland to pick berries or mushrooms, to cross on foot, and to camp out of sight of the house....The environmental history of Europe and Asia seems to indicate that the best management of commons land was that which was locally based. The ancient severe and often irreversible deforestation of the Mediterranean Basin was an extreme case of the misuse of the commons by forces that had taken its management away from regional villages."

Commons 4

The Practice of the Wild by Gary Snyder

In Kith, her fine book on the cultural history of childhood, Jay Griffiths gives us a more personal view of the Enclosure of the Commons through the eyes of the great 18th century nature poet John Clare, whose heart (and mental health) were broken by the loss of lands he'd roamed as a child in Helpston, Northamptonshire:

"Born in 1793 to a sense of freedom as unenclosed as 'nature's wide and common sky,' John Clare knew that the open air was his to breathe, the open water his to drink and the open land, as far as his knowledge of it extended, his to wander, and he began to write poetry of such lucid openness that it can best be described as light: his poems are translucent to nature, which shines through his work like May sunlight through beech leaves. Clare writes of the land as if he were a belonging of the land, as if it owned him, which is an idea one hears often in indigenous communities. His childhood belonged to that land and to its creatures; he knew them all and felt known in turn. One day, Clare writes, he wandered and rambled 'til I got out of my knowledge when the very wildflowers and birds seemed to forget me.'

"And then, to his utter anguish, came the Enclosures, the acts of cruelty by which the common land was fenced off by the wealthy and privatized for the profit of the few. The Enclosures threw the peasantry into that acute poverty which would scar Clare's own life and mind so deeply."

Commons 5

Commons 6

Kith by Jay Griffiths

"Between 1809 and 1820," George Monbiot explains (in an essay on Clare published in 2012), "acts of enclosure granted the local landowners permission to fence the fields, the heaths and woods, excluding the people who had worked and played in them. Almost everything Clare loved was torn away. The ancient trees were felled, the scrub and furze were cleared, the rivers were canalized, the marshes drained, the natural curves of the land straightened and squared. Farming became more profitable, but many of the people of Helpston -- especially those who depended on the commons for their survival -- were deprived of their living. The places in which the people held their ceremonies and celebrated the passing of the seasons were fenced off. The community, like the land, was parcelled up, rationalized, atomized. I have watched the same process breaking up the Maasai of east Africa.

"Clare documents both the destruction of place and people and the gradual collapse of his own state of mind.

Inclosure came and trampled on the grave
Of labour's rights and left the poor a slave …
And birds and trees and flowers without a name
I sighed when lawless law's enclosure came.

Commons 7

"As Jonathan Bate records in his magnificent biography, there were several possible causes of the 'madness' that had Clare removed to an asylum in 1837: bipolar disorder, a blow to the head, malaria (then a common complaint on the edge of the fens). But it seems to me that a contributing factor must have been the loss of almost all he knew and loved. His work is a remarkable document of life before and after social and environmental collapse, and the anomie that resulted.

"What Clare suffered was the fate of indigenous peoples torn from their land and belonging everywhere. His identity crisis, descent into mental agony and alcohol abuse, are familiar blights in reservations and outback shanties the world over.

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Commons 9

"His loss was surely enough to drive almost anyone mad; our loss surely enough to drive us all a little mad. For while economic rationalization and growth have helped to deliver us from a remarkable range of ills, they have also torn us from our moorings, atomized and alienated us, sent us out, each in his different way, to seek our own identities. We have gained unimagined freedoms, we have lost unimagined freedoms -- a paradox Clare explores in his wonderful poem The Fallen Elm."

Commons 10

Commons 11

Commons 12

"The Acts of Enclosure," Griffiths concurs, "signified the enclosure and destructive of [Clare's] spirit as well as the land. Winged for the simplest of raptures, he now limped at the fences erected by the 'little minds' of the wealthy.

Commons 13

"His own psyche had been as open as the footpaths of his childhood, paths which wend their way 'As sweet as morning leading night astray' but with sudden brutality. 'These paths are now stopt -- ' and

Each little tyrant with his little sign
Shows, where man claims, earth glows no more divine.' "

Commons 14

Kith by Jay Griffiths

Commons 15

Artist unknown, circa 1840Words: The text today comes from Gary Snyder's seminal essay "The Place, the Region, and the Commons," published in his essay collection The Practice of the Wild (North Point Press, 1990); from "The Patron Saint of Childhood" in Jay Griffith's book Kith: The Riddle of the Childscape (Hamilton Hamish, 2013); and from George Monbiot's essay "John Clare, the poet of the environmental crisis -- 200 years ago," published in The Guardian (July 9, 2012). All rights reserved by the authors. Pictures: The photographs are of Tilly roaming Padley and Nattadon Commons in the edge-lands of our village. The painting is a possible portrait of John Clare, artist unknown, circa 1840.


Tunes for a Monday Morning

In keeping to the theme of "borders," I've been thinking about musical traditions that crossed from one land to another along with immigrants, slaves, and refugees: the folk music of the British Isles, for example, which transformed into bluegrass in the eastern mountains of America, and the African rhythms that turned into American blues and gospel, and then rock-and-roll.

Cajun music is a another good example. The Cajuns of Louisiana are descended from the French (and French Métis) Acadians who settled the Canadian Maritimes, and were then forcible deported by the British in Acadian accordionthe Great Expulsion of 1755–1764. Although they were deported to a wide variety of places (some families split up and sent to different destinations), many of them eventually made their way down to Louisiana, a colony then under French control, where they settled among the French Creoles already living in the area. Cajun music evolved from the French ballads and dance tunes carried south by the Acadians -- as opposed to the multi-ethnic Creole music known as Zydeco, which evolved from a blend of French, African American, Native American, Spanish, and other influences.

Above: Michael Doucet, from the great Cajun band BeauSoleil, performs "Eunice Two-step," a Cajun classic, for the BBC's TransAtlantic Sessions program in 2012, accompanied by Aly Bain, Jerry Douglas, Sharon Shannon, Russ Barenberg, and others. Doucet comes from Lafayette, Louisiana, and has been performing with BeauSoleil since 1977.

Below: "Let's Talk About Drinking, Not About Getting Married" by the Pine Leaf Boys, from southern Lousiana. They've released seven albums to date, the most recent being Danser (2013).

Above: "Les Oiseaux Vont Chante" by The Red Stick Ramblers, from Baton Rouge. The band formed in 1999, released eight wonderful albums of Cajun and Western Swing, and disbanded in 2006. Several members then went on to create The Revelers, along with members of The Pine Leaf Boys.

Below: "Blue Moon Special" performed by The Lost Bayou Ramblers, from Broussard, Arnaudville, and New Orleans, who play an energetic mix of Cajun, Zydeco, Western Swing and Rock-&-Roll -- primarily in French, though this particular song is sung in both French and English. They've released eight albums and EPs, the most recent being Gasa Gasa Live (2014).

I'm afraid my choice of music today (limited to songs for which good videos exist) might give the impression that Cajun musicians are exclusively white and male -- which is not at all the case, although you'll certainly Washboardfind a much stronger black presence on the Zydeco end of Lousiana's music scene. Notable women playing Cajun music include Ann Savoy, Lisa Haley, Cheryl Cormier, The Magnolia Sisters, and Rosie Ledet...plus, of course, the great Queen Ida over on the Zydeco side.

Let's end today with Cedric Watson and his band, Bijou Creole, who play a mix of Cajun and Zydeco. The video below was filmed at the Festival de Pontchartrain earlier this year, where they were joined by Désirée Champagne, on vocals and washboard. (The title of the song is unlisted.) Although Watson hails from San Felipe, Texas, he's been immersed in Creole music since he was 19, and is now based in Lafayette, Louisiana. His aim is to "resurrect the ancient sounds of the French and Spanish contra dance and bourré alongside the spiritual rhythms of the Congo tribes of West Africa, who were sold as slaves in the Carribean and Louisiana by the French and Spanish," playing everything from forgotten Creole melodies to modern Cajun and Zydeco songs.

Whenever non-Americans casually dismiss American culture based on media-promulgated stereotypes, I always want to ask: "But which America?" Hollywood and Fox News are no more representative of our enormous and diverse country than any of its thousands of other parts. Cajun and Creole culture are America too, and one reason (among many) why I still love it so much.

Alligator (artist unknown)


Crossing borders

Detail from The Writer's State

We human beings are clannish and tribal by nature (as are many other animal species, of course), and in our creation of families and communities that can be a beautiful thing, but our compulsion for drawing boundaries and rigorously patrolling them too often goes a step too far. We see this everywhere, played out on large stages and small, from the geo-political borders of the current refugee crisis, causing anguish for so many, to the painful social borders of our teenage years, separating the cool kids from the losers, the jocks from the nerds, the rich from the poor, the tribe from the Other in a thousand different ways.

In Wednesday's post, Scott Russell Sanders reminded us that fighting for diversity in our social endeavors is not unrelated to conserving the exuberant diversity of the natural world; while on Tuesday, Rob Cowen spoke out for the beauty and vitality of edge-lands and borderlands, where two worlds come together, where the lines between us and the Other blur -- whatever that Other may be.

In the publishing industry, we have a small-stage example of borderlines and border controls, for not only are books categorized and segregated into genres, but those genres are then formed into a class system, with certain works of "serious" literature penned by canonical authors at the very top and other forms of fiction -- "chick lit" or romance, for example -- ranked near the bottom. And woe betide the author who steps outside of his or her class...er, I mean genre.

A literary map of the United States, 1940

A literary map of the United States, 1957

A literary map of canada, 1936

This is not to say there is no value in categorization, as linguist Eve Sweetser pointed out in an essay* for the Interstitial Arts Foundation:

"Scholars across various schools...agree that the human neural system is a categorization system," writes Sweetser. "It’s evolved to take in stimuli and group them according to similarities and differences that have proven useful to human animals and their ancestors. If we didn’t constantly categorize new stimuli relative to our extant category system, we’d be back to the condition of a newborn -- most things would be A pictorial map of English literaturebrand-new every, time and we’d have to start over with identifying every new entity we encounter. It’s categorization -- and I mean routinized, established, unconscious categorization -- which lets us know that a chair is a chair, a floor is a floor, a book is a book, so that we can get on with life instead of needing to grab (and probably lick) every new object to see what it’s like.

"The same is true of art and literature. If I didn’t have genre expectations -- and general expectations based on previously encountered texts -- I would not be a sophisticated reader, able to notice intertextuality, enjoy creativity, differentiate expected from unexpected elements, and helpfully fill in background from traditional expectations about a genre. Caroline Stevermer once told me that male readers of her novel Sorcery and Cecelia [an epistolary novel that borrows from fantasy literature and Regency romance] (co-written with Patricia Wrede), expressed enjoyment of the book’s wit and humor -- but puzzlement over the fact that the authors made it so obvious, so soon, who was going to marry whom. To female readers, more familiar with the romance genre, the obviousness of Wrede and Stevermer’s heroes as matches for the heroines was part of the spoof on that genre. When you see the tall, dark, fascinating but arrogant guy, and sparks flying between him and the heroine, the ending should be predictable. If we didn’t have entrenched categories, we’d have nothing to play with, nothing to play off. It would all be starting over again, every time."

The London Book Map

A detail from the Book Map of London, Dorothy Studio

The problem, of course, is not the genre boundary per se, but when those boundary walls are so rigidly enforced that crossing over them is difficult or impossible: when, for example, writers working in children's or genre fiction are routinely passed over for literary prizes, grants, and fellowships, no matter how good or ground-breaking their books may be; or when a mainstream writer attempts to work in a genre of lower status and is viewed as slumming.

This is changing, thank heavens. I no longer dread being asked what I write at literary events; the word "fantasy" no longer provokes an awkward silence and immediate dismissal as an artist of any worth. (To be perfectly honest, this does still happen, but not each and every time, and I count that progress.) Millions of readers have embraced books by Ursula Le Guin and Phillip Pullman (among others) without becoming social pariahs, or somehow incapable of reading A.S. Byatt as well. And, best of all, a new generation of writers has grown perfectly comfortable with slipping back and forth among genres, or dwelling in the wild borderlands between them, creating works that gleefully defy expectations and easy categorization.**

Detail from The Map of Literature by Martin Vargic

Writer and academic Theodora Goss wrote the following piece on literary borders for the Interstitial Arts Foundation, and has kindly given me permission to reprint it here:

Crossing Borders, by Night
by Theodora Goss

A literary map of Great Britain by Geoff Sawyers & Bridget HanniganWhen I was a child growing up in America, I liked to read books with maps: The Wind in the Willows, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit. These books were contiguous countries. By putting down one and picking up another, I could cross from the River Bank to Middle Earth. I did not know there were borders. No weasel asked for my travel papers, no orc searched my luggage. In literature, at least, you could travel freely.

Later, as a student studying literature, I was told there were borders indeed: national (English, American, colonial), temporal (Romantic, Victorian, Modern), generic (fantastic, realistic). Some countries (the novel) you could travel to readily. The drinking water was safe, no immunizations were required. For some countries (the gothic), there was a travel advisory. The hotels were not up to standard; the trains would not run on time. Some countries (the romance) one did not visit except as an anthropologist, to observe the strange behavior of its inhabitants.

A map of children's literature in Britain by Geoff Sawyer & Bridgett HanniganAnd there were border guards (although they were called professors), to examine your travel papers as carefully as a man in an olive uniform with a red star on his cap. They could not stop you from crossing the border, but they would tell you what had been left out of your luggage, what was superfluous. Why the journey was a terrible idea in the first place.

My problem is not with borders, although they are often badly drawn, so that villages within sight of each other, whose inhabitants have intermarried for generations, are assigned to different countries, or Jane Austen, who acknowledged the influence of Ann Radcliffe, is placed in a different tradition.

My problem is with the guards who say, "You cannot cross the border." Because when borders are closed, those on either side experience immobility and claustrophobia, and those who cross them (illegally, by night) suffer incalculable loss.

My aunt has a diplomatic passport. When she crosses the border, she need not wait in line. Her luggage is never searched.

May we all, in life as in literature, be accorded a similar status.

A literary map of the United States

A literary map of Australia

I'd like to conclude today with a passage from an essay* by Jeff VanderMeer pointing out how life itself can be interstitial, "filled with juxtaposed moments that remind us of just how strange and wonderful and full of contradiction the world can be," when we value the borderlands themselves and not just the places that our boundaries divide.

"We talk of borders and interstices, corridors and edges," he writes. "It seems to me that the very act of creating, whether it’s music or fiction or painting, sculptures or performances, is by definition to stand upon the edge, offering the world something that we’ve seen or heard on the other side. Presenting it, we become the bridge, mirror, threshold, messenger: We elect to become the in-between. "

A detail from The Writer's State map, Australia

The London Tube map as Storylines

* Alas, these essays, originally published online by the Interstital Arts Foundation, are no longer available to read in full.

** Examples of these genre-busting writers: Kelly Link, Carmen Maria Machado, Nnedi Okorafor, Ken Liu, Amal El-Mohtar, Christopher Barzak, and Helen Oyeyemi, to name just a few.

The titles of the maps pictured here can be found in the picture captions, along with artist credits. If you're a fan of maps, I recommend the Bodleian Map Room blog, and the Literary Maps exhibition on the University of Michigan Library site. Next week on Myth & Moor: more on borders, edge-lands, and the folklore of the in-between.


Where dreams are born

Ellen Kushner and Tilly

For today's post on the subject of edge-lands and borders, I'd like to send you to another web page to listen to a podcast of Ellen Kushner exploring "Borders: The Debatable Lands"  in an episode of her award-winning radio program, Sound & Spirit. Here's the episode description:

"Sound & Spirit invites you to walk the Borderlands: a shared space between two worlds, a place where they meet and combine to make something new and vital. Explore the lively music and blend of traditions of the Tex/Mex border [and the English/Scottish border], the misty border between myth and reality where dreams are born, and the borders in our lives when we pass from one stage of life to the next."

Ellen's brilliant series has ended, but past episodes are available online. Go here to have a listen. I also recommend two related episodes of Sound & Spirit, Exile and Homesickness, about those who have crossed over the border and cannot go home again.

Ellen KushnerPhotographs above: Ellen and Tilly in my studio, on one of her many visits to Chagford.