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April 2017

Tunes for a Monday Morning

Rune Guneriussen.jpg

Above: "Harder to Hear" from Romantica, a country, roots, and gospel band from Minneapolis, fronted by Irish singer-songwriter Ben Kyle.

Below: "Something to Believe In" by King Creosote (Kenny Anderson), a singer-songwriter from Fife, Scotland.

Above: "Seven Notes" by Nancy Kerr, a London-born singer-songwriter and fiddle player now based in Sheffield. 

Below: "Trespassers" by State Broadcasters, an alt folk band from Glasgow, Scotland.

Today's music is dedicated to the the struggling, the despairing, the frightened, the endangered, the different, the immigrants and refugees and Others everywhere. With love.

Rune Guneriussen

The imagery above is from Norwegian installation artist and photographer Rune Guneriussen.


The stories that take root

Hillside 1

Fridays are my day for re-visiting posts from the Myth & Moor archives. This one comes from a quiet morning at the cusp of spring two years ago.

Today, a misty moorland hillside and a passage taken from "Testimony Against Gertrude Stein" by Jeanette Winterson:

"We mostly understand ourselves through an endless series of stories told to ourselves by ourselves and others. The so-called facts of our individual words  are highly colored and arbitrary, facts that fit whatever fiction we have chosen to believe in. It is necessary to have a story, an alibi that gets us through the day, but what happens when the story becomes scripture? When we can no longer recognize anything outside our own reality?

Hillside 2

Hillside 2

"We have to be careful not to live in a state of constant self-censorship, where whatever conflicts with our world view is dismissed or diluted until it ceases to be a bother. Struggling against the limitations we place on our minds is our own imaginative capacity, a recognition of an inner life often at odds with the internal figurings we spend so much energy supporting.

Hillside 4

"When we let ourselves respond to poetry, to music, to pictures, we are clearing out a space where new stories can root, in effect we are clearing a space for new stories about ourselves."

Hillside 5

Hillside 6

The passage just quoted nails, for me, precisely why we need art in our lives and not just the familiar, repetitive stories of mass entertainment, enjoyable as they may be. Entertainment amuses, distracts, and consoles us, and that has its use and it has its value, but it's not the same use or value of art. Art enlarges us. Transforms us. Heals what is broken inside us. Deepens our understanding of ourselves, each other, and the world around us.

Hillisde 7

"Art is central to all our lives, not just the better-off and educated, " Winterson once said in an interview. "I know that from my own story, and from the evidence of every child ever born -- they all want to hear and to tell stories, to sing, to make music, to act out little dramas, to paint pictures, to make sculptures. This is born in and we breed it out. And then, when we have bred it out, we say that art is elitist, and at the same time we either fetishize art -- the high prices, the jargon, the inaccessibility -- or we ignore it. The truth is, artist or not, we are all born on the creative continuum, and that is a heritage and a birthright of all of our lives."

Hillside 8

Hillside 9

Art Objects by Jeanette Winterson


The things that unite us

Alexandra Dvornikova

It's Day 3 of my cold, and though it seems ridiculous that something as simple as a cold is keeping me out of the studio (especially since I regularly keep working despite more serious health issues), this one seems to have me in its tight grip for another day.

Alexandra Dvornikova

Here's a thought I'd like to leave you with today, from Kathryn Miles (author of a lovely book about dogs and nature, Adventures with Ari):

In an interview on Terrain.org, Miles is asked about her belief that environmental writers are charged with inspiring "an ethic of care" in their readers. What, the interviewer wonders, might an ethic of care look like?

"An ethic of care," Miles responds, "is based on ideas of interdependence, and the belief that the most vulnerable among us deserve the most consideration. Writers are uniquely suited to raise awareness about both: we can show what unites us, and we can remind people about narratives that have been forgotten or might otherwise become overlooked. There’s that poignant moment in Mary Oliver’s [poem] "Wild Geese," where she says, 'Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.' That’s what writing from an ethic of care looks like. And it broadens this behest even further: tell me about what you love and what you hate; tell me what frightens you and what you’re willing to fight for. Then, if you’re willing to listen, I’ll tell you about those things in my life. And maybe then we both will understand."

I'm thinking about what an ethic of care might look like in relation to fiction, fantasy, and Mythic Arts. And about how questions like this become more urgent during dark political times.

Your thoughts...?

Alexandra Dvornikova

Speaking of "urgent" art and literature, I stumbled across a lovely book blog the other day that I'd like to recommend to you, if you don't know it already: Books Can Save a Life by Valorie Grace Hallinan.

Alexandra Dvornikova

The magical art today is by Alexandra Dvornikova, a young Russian artist, designer, and printmaker. Dvornikova trained at the Saint Petersburg Stieglitz State Academy of Art and Design, and is now studying art-therapy, with a focus on autism. She lives with her husband, a red cat, and two jackdaws in St. Petersburg.

She says: "I think the most inspiring things for me are these: Forest, music, animals, wilderness, moss and lichens, mushrooms, Russian fairy tales that I’ve heard when i was a child, masks, rituals, night dreams, childhood experience, folklore, medieval art, archetypes, psychiatry, human’s brain, carnivorous plants, venomous or dangerous things, lonelyness, mori girls, vintage dresses. Also I inspired by Simona Kossak’s story, the woman who lived more than 30 years in a wooden hut in the Bialowieza Forest, without electricity or access to running water. A lynx slept in her bed, and a tamed boar lived under the same roof with her. She was able talk to wild animals."

Please go here to see more of her work, and here to read an interview with the artist.

Alexandra Dvornikova

Ritual


Welcoming the reader in

Quilt by Karen Meisner

It's Day 2 of my cold, and though it's only a cold (not the medical condition I often wrestle with, don't worry), it's got me too fuzzy-headed to read, or write, or do much of anything at all that requires linear thought. So since I can't manage much of a post today, I'd like to give you a reading recommendation instead: "What Writers Really Do When They Write," by George Saunders, whose generosity of spirit never fails to warm my heart.

"We often think," says Saunders, "that the empathetic function in fiction is accomplished via the writer’s relation to his characters, but it’s also accomplished via the writer’s relation to his reader. You make a rarefied place (rarefied in language, in form; perfected in many inarticulable beauties -- the way two scenes abut; a certain formal device that self-escalates; the perfect place at which a chapter cuts off); and then welcome the reader in. She can’t believe that you believe in her that much; that you are so confident that the subtle nuances of the place will speak to her; she is flattered. And they do speak to her. This mode of revision, then, is ultimately about imagining that your reader is as humane, bright, witty, experienced and well intentioned as you, and that, to communicate intimately with her, you have to maintain the state, through revision, of generously imagining her. You revise your reader up, in your imagination, with every pass. You keep saying to yourself: 'No, she’s smarter than that. Don’t dishonour her with that lazy prose or that easy notion.'

"And in revising your reader up, you revise yourself up too."

At the window

If you'd like a little further reading this morning, here's Maria Bustillos' take on what it's like to study literature and writing under Saunders: "The Chekhov-Saunders Humanity Kit."


Tea Time by Terri Windling

I woke up with a bad cold this morning, so I'm afraid there's no post today. I hope to be back in the studio tomorrow as I've Got a Lot to Do. Fingers and bunny paws crossed.

"As far as her mom was concerned, tea fixed everything. Have a cold? Have some tea. Broken bones? There's a tea for that too. Somewhere in her mother's pantry, Laurel suspected, was a box of tea that said, 'In case of Armageddon, steep three to five minutes.'"   - Aprilynne Pike (Illusions)


Tunes for a Monday Morning

Nattadon Hill

Two years ago, The Houses of Parliament's 2015 Anniversaries Programme commissioned the English Folk Dance & Song Society to come up with a project to celebrate 800 years of British democracy. That project was Sweet Liberties, an evening of folk music by Sam Carter, Martyn Joseph, Nancy Kerr, and Maz O’Connor. As an article The Guardian described it:

"In a year that marked the 800th anniversary of the sealing of Magna Carta and 750 years since the Simon de Montfort parliament, the four celebrated the pursuit of democracy and sung songs new and old, written about the rights and liberties that people have fought to achieve and protect over the centuries. 'The topics in our songs all deserve to be celebrated -- but we’d also like to highlight some uncomfortable truths which matter to vulnerable people today,' says Kerr. 'Folk music reflects the creativity of working people, who often used it as a political voice. This kind of project could link present concerns with previous radical struggles and help us find a new collective voice.' "

(The article is worth reading in full, which you can do here.)

Sweet Liberties was created before the EU Referendum (or the presidential election in America) -- but re-visiting the music now, it seems more relevant than ever. Here are four songs from the Sweet Liberties concerts, doing what folk music does best: carrying our stories and our history. And strengthening hearts for the fight to keep our "sweet liberties" today.

Above: "Sing John Ball," the Sydney Carter classic, performed at Cecil Sharp House in London (November, 2015). Carter, Joseph, Kerr, & O'Connor are joined in these concerts by Patsy Reid on viola & violin and Nick Cooke on melodeon.

Below: "12 Years Old," written and introduced by Joseph Martyn.

Above: "Broken Things," written and performed by Maz O'Connor.

Below: "Am I Not a Man and a Brother," written and performed by Sam Carter.

Above: "Fragile Waters," an updating of selchie ballads in an age of environmental concerns, written and performed by Nancy Kerr. (Please don't miss her new album, Instar, which explores many of the same topics we're concerned with on Myth & Moor, and is truly lovely.)

And to end with: "One More River to Cross," written and sung by Sam Carter.

Nattadon Hill


Once upon a time....

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For any who might be interested, my essay "Transformations: A Fairy Tale Memoir" is now online, in the essays section of this site.

First published in Mirror, Mirror on the Wall: Women Writers Explore Their Favorite Fairy Tales edited by Kate Bernheimer (Expanded Edition, 2002), this piece discusses my personal relationship with The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, illustrated by Adrienne Ségur...and how the right stories, read at the right time, can literally save your life.

It comes, however, with a trigger warning, for it is rather dark, and deals with child abuse.

Tilly dreams of fairy tales