From the gutter to the stars...

Deer

For April Fools Day, Howard answers the question: Why do we need fools?

FoolHis year-long Journey Into the Heart of the Fool continues, despite Coronavirus. His circle of Fools is now working online (since the Fools themselves are locked-down across Europe), finding new ways to continue their training until they can meet up again.

Our "Funding for Foolery" campaign continues as well. We're still hoping to meet our goal and to keep all this stuff-and-nonsense going. If you can throw a bob or two in the hat at these uncertain times, here's the link to his  GoFundMe page.

Fool Report #3: You'll find Howard's latest video update on the GoFundeMe page too -- and I warn you, it's very Foolish indeed. Complete with tiger hat and Coronavirus beard, heaven have mercy.

Happy April Fools Day from Howard, Tilly, and me.

Foolish Tilly

Deer 2


The Fool Report #2

The fool cards from the Dodal Tarot, Karyn Easton Tarot, and Rider-Waite Tarot.

Helsinki

As my Fool of a husband begins his second week working with Jonathan Kay and his merry band of Fools in Finland, here are some pictures snapped on Howard's bicyle commute through the streets of Helsinki each morning and evening.

He reports that the work has been fascinating, challenging, and full of both high points and lows. Last night, Howard's group of Fools-in-training went to see Jonathan's show at the FIC Festival...watching the master Fool perform...and today they were back in the studio, seeking entrance into the archetypal realm for themselves.

Our heartfelt thanks go out to everyone who has helped make Howard's exploration of Foolery possible. The journey is just beginning....

Helsinki

Helsinki

Helsinki

If you'd like to know more about Jonathan Kay's practice and philosophy of Foolery, listen to his discussion of "The Fool, Archetypal Play, and Self-Realisation" with Amisha Ghadiali (July 2019).

Meanwhile, the Funding for Foolery campaign continues. Please help us to keep our own dear Fool on the road:  https://gofundme.com/f/q5cuph.

Fool With a Flower by Cecil Collins

Art above: The fool cards from the Dodal Tarot, Karyn Easton Tarot, and Rider-Waite Tarot. "Fool With a Flower" by the English surrealist painter and printmaker Cecil Collins (1908-1989).


The Fool Report #1

Fools from the Dodal Tarot, Karyn Easton Tarot, and Rider-Waite Tarot

Howard Gayton

As Howard travels to Finland today at the start of his year-long Fool's Journey, we send love and gratitude to all of you who have helped make this possible.

Meanwhile, the "Funding for Foolery" campaign continues until the end of the month, and all contribtions (no matter how small) will allow us to keep this dear Fool on the road: https://www.gofundme.com/f/q5cuph.

Tilly, I'm afraid, has mixed feelings about this. She's proud of helping with the fund-raiser, but didn't realize that the end result would be Howard going off without her. He'll be traveling to four other countries as the year progresses (France, Spain, Germany, and Ireland) -- but don't worry, Tilly, he'll be home in-between.

And no doubt just as Foolish as ever.

Howard Gayton en route to Foolery

Art above: The fool cards from the Dodal Tarot, Karyn Easton Tarot, and Rider-Waite Tarot.


Nonsense and Foolery

Fool and flower

Fool and bear

My husband, Howard, a theatre director and performer, is about to embark on a year-long Journey into the Heart of the Fool -- via the Nomadic Academy of Fooling (NOA), led by the extraordinary Jonathan Kay. In order to achieve this, we've set up a fund-raising page to help cover the NOA tuition cost, and I hope, dear readers, that some of you might consider contributing. Even the smallest donation will help to get this creative, kind, and lovely man on the road to making magic.

The GoFundMe page is here.

In the video below, filmed in my studio, Howard and I discuss fooling, clowning, Commedia, and a particularly fateful trip to Arizona. A certain hound makes a cameo appearance at the end...and also contributes enthusiastic water-slurping noises in the middle, bless her.

Foolery

In the spirit of nonsense and foolery, here is some further reading on the subject of tricksters, transgressors, and clowns:

A Chorus of Clowns in Masked Comic Theater by the always-brilliant Midori Snyder

Shaking Up the World: Trickster Tales by me (with a recommended reading list)

Merry Robin: The Native British Trickster by mythic scholar John Matthews

Transgression: a conversation on the subject of tricksters & transgressors

Dare to be Foolish: because all artists need to be fools sometimes

Also, if you're feeling very brave, here's a video clip of the Grey Gnomes, some deucedly odd little characters found infesting Howard's studio a few years ago. Don't worry, we've had the fumigators in since then and they haven't dared to come back....

Ophaboom

Me and the Fool I married

And of course, any help you can give us in passing on news of the fundraiser would be very, very appreciated by our whole foolish family.

Fool in training

The colour photographs above (except for the last one) are from Howard's work with the Daughters of Elvin medieval music & dance troupe, directed by Katy Marchant. performing in Devon and Northern Ireland. The black and white pictures are of Howard and his Commedia company, Ophaboom Theatre, performing on the streets of Denmark.


On daring to be foolish, once again

The Sleeping Fool by Cecil Collins 1943

Here's a passage I love: it's Allen Ginsberg talking about the writing of poetry (although it applies to any creative endeavor), expressing some of the same things that I was trying to get at in my earlier post, Dare to be Foolish:

The Fool by Cecil CollinsThe parts of your work that embarrass you the most, says Ginberg, "are usually the most interesting poetically, are usually the most naked of all, the rawest, the goofiest, the strangest and most eccentric and, at the same time, most representative, most universal....That was something I learned from Kerouac, which was that spontaneous writing can be embarrassing....The cure for that is to write things down which you will not publish and you won't show people. To write secretly...so you can actually be free to say anything you want.

"It means abandoning being a poet, abandoning your careerism, abandoning even the idea of writing any poetry, really abandoning, giving up as hopeless -- abandoning the possibility of really expressing yourself to the nations of the world. Abandoning the idea of being a prophet with honor and dignity, and abandoning the glory of poetry and just settling down in the much of your own mind....You really have to make a resolution just to write for yourself...in the sense of not writing to impress yourself, but just writing what your self is saying."

Now this is, in a sense, the opposite advice from the Henry James quote I posted earlier this week, which seems to suggest that artists consider whether the work they're doing is worth doing before they embark upon it. Ginsberg, by contrast, advises working from the gut, the core, the raw and messy interior, without worrying too much about whether the world will value (or even needs to see) what it is we create. I tend to think that both pieces of advice are valid, and necessary to the creative process. The key, I suppose, is knowing which one to apply at what time, and for which project, and for which stage of a particular project.

When I'm writing, for example, I find that first drafts are my time for Ginsbergian flow, letting things emerge from the depth without censor (a freedom I achieve only by adhering to a strict rule of keeping my early drafts private). It's only in later drafts -- when I'm approaching my work more as an editor than an author -- that I can evaluate the text in the Jamesian way. And I've learned, over the years, not to let the Jamesian editor/critic into process too early, for then I am liable to be so self-conscious that I end up writing painfully s-l-o-w-ly...or writing nothing at all. I long ago discovered that I need to allow that first draft to be just as red, wrinkled, and bawling as a new born babe--a creature of beauty only to me, its mother--for that seems to be how my stories are born. The first draft is always and only for myself. It's the last draft that's for the readers.

The Secret by Cecil Collins

The art above is The Sleeping Fool, The Fool, and The Secret by the English surrealist painter and printmaker Cecil Collins (1908-1989).


Dare to be Foolish

Howard with DoE

I've been thinking about another aspect of "finding ones voice" as a creative artist: developing the courage to let that voice be heard -- despite the personal nature of art, and the things that our art reveals about us.

For women in particular, schooled for centuries to be the "invisible helpmeet" (what Virginia Woolf called "the angel in the house"), daring to speak and be heard can be a fearful prospect even while we professionally seek it out; but some men, too, suffer silently from the writer's/painter's version of stage-fright: the fear of putting our work, our soul, out there, having it judged, and appearing foolish. So we then hold back, or tone the work down . . . or worse, we don't create at all.

The simple truth is that being a creative artist takes courage; it's not a job for the faint of heart. It takes courage each and every time you put a book or poem or painting before the public, because it is, in fact, enormously revealing. (Delia Sherman once likened the publishing of a novel to walking down the street buck naked.)  Worse yet, what our work often reveals is not the beautifully-lit, carefully-presented surface of our creativity, but the darker shadow-play at its interior. That can't be helped. But the good news is: that's precisely where the best art comes from.

Fool and cavelier

While our intellect chases its bright and lofty visions, our  most original, powerful ideas tend to rise from muddy, murky depths below: from the clouded waters of the subconscious; from the baffling landscape of nightmare and dream; from the odd obssessions, weird fixations, and uncanny flashes of intuition that rise up from those strange parts of ourselves that we know and approve of least; from those places most likely to make us feel ridiculous, and exposed.

The muse, if we follow her far enough, and honestly enough, demands that we bare it all: our angel wings and our asses' ears. It doesn't matter if we're writing genre fiction and not memoir; it doesn't matter if we're painting fairy tales and not self-portraits.

"All art is autobiographical," said Federico Fellini; "the pearl is the oyster's autobiography."

Fool 2When Ellen Kushner and I were young writers together in New York City in the 1980s (that distant, different pre-Internet age), Cynthia Heimel published an essay called "How to be Creative" that we adopted as a kind of Call to Arms, passing a dog-earred copy around to all our friends for many years thereafter. First published in The Village Voice, the essay contained the exact advice that earnest, anxious, ambitious young writers and artists like us most needed to hear.  I haven't been able to find a copy for you to read online, but here's another quote from the author of our Sacred Text (as Ellen and I referred to it) that pretty much sums up the article in question:

"When in doubt, make a fool of yourself," says Heimel. "There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap."

Three decades later, this is still the best piece of art-making advice I know.

Howard Gayton & Geoff Beale performing with Daughters of Elvin, Northern Ireland

I hereby pass the [paraphrased] words of the Sacred Text on to the next generation of writers- and artists-in-training:

Don't be afraid to be weird, don't be afraid to be different, don't worry too much about what other people think. Whatever it is that's original in you and your work might sometimes make you feel uncomfortable. That probably means you're on the right track, so just keep going.

Dare to be foolish.

Fool and flower

Pictured above: Howard (Fool), William Todd-Jones (Bear), and Geoff Beale (Cavalier) performing with Daughters of Elvin in Devon and Northern Ireland.

A related post: On fear of judgement (and pernicious perfectionism).