Work happily proceeds on my new Odditerrarium series. I’ve a work schedule and I’m sticking to it. As I worked on this pug painting titled “Troublesome Wit” I thought of John Lewis and his phrase ‘good trouble’. I thought of how humans work together in order to have the wit and fortitude to deal with life. I imagined a pug dog watching a human take measures and make efforts.
“Troublesome Wit” was created with ink and gouache on a 10 x 8 inch board. Here’s a closer look.
You can see more about my in progress Odditerrarium series and the upcoming exhibit via Caplan Art Designs in my last post.
One of the online groups I lurk on and sometimes participate in is on the topics of handmade books and artist books. The question “what got you started making books” was asked of the group. This is how I responded: I began at age 8 when I got hearing aids for the first time. I looked in the school library for a book about how books were made. Following pictures in that library book I folded paper in half and stapled it roughly in the middle. Then as the weeks progressed I drew my hearing aids and drew all the things I encountered that made noise. Two grownups in my life were always yelling “be quiet!” at me so I kept the book so I could figure out what made noise, how much noise it made and what was quiet. My pencil and crayon llustrations showed the “volume” of any noisemakers as well as what they were. I titled my book “The Be Quietness Book”. So I’ve been making books by hand or at least writing/drawing in blank books since age 8 until present time and I don’t imagine ever stopping! I’m still trying to figure things out with my books!
Here’s a corner of my studio as it is today that has many of my filled-to-overflowing books and some new blank books awaiting their turn. Some of the blank books I made from scratch, some I bought.
One of my poems was published this week for poetry month by Birdhouse Bookstore. My poem was put on bookmarks! As you know I enjoy non-traditional unorthodox publishing and publishing my poem on a bookmarker is perfect!! 😁
In the second photo you’re looking at the poetry books on the shelf in my breakfast nook. Several of these titles came from this localbookstore
I’ve still been practicing, whenever I have time, at doing Reels on Instagram. I did one in which I read aloud one of my poems in Patch La Belle. I’m having fun with this way of sharing my stuff.
Did I manage (finally) to embed a video in this blog post? Or do we need to see that Reel via this YouTube link here https://youtu.be/f0W-7642inU ?
Anyway, technology aside here’s a sketchbook page with toast and coffee.
I’ve been thinking this week of how it matters who keeps the stories, the poems and who tells them. I’ve been an armchair folklorist since my college days and I’ve maintained my interest in old stories throughout the years. Here’s my current evening reading stack.
I find it fascinating to see how stories and the cultural and personal attributes we bring to them can affect knowledge formation for good or ill, up to and including what gets designated as “important”. Then that knowledge, however imperfect, is what gets passed through to others who acquire and form their knowledge based on what we share. Whatever is new to us today will become “the way things are” for the next generation. All we can do is try to share generously whatever might help someone else build new constructive knowledge.
We learn from other people how to live. Sometimes in the effort of trying to share what we know we teach ourselves something new.
However there’s no shortage of people, in any era, who will hold up a thumb and forefinger an inch apart and try to convince you that the space indicated is literally the whole world, that their definitions of that world, their narrative, is the only “true” one, that only their description of what is important matters. They want you to believe only them and will likely somehow benefit if they do convince you accept their story framework and take it literally without questions.
Knowing a wide range of stories and metaphors can help us not fall prey to such literalism and narrowness of mind. Which is why multiple versions the same stories are essential. We need reminders that there are many points of view. We need a diversity of stories. A monoculture isn’t healthy for plants or any other living beings.
Anyway, my way of responding to censorship and the attempts to control the available information and to manipulate perceptions is to deliberately buy and read banned books, to read widely and talk about, learn and share history, culture, poems and stories. To carry knowledge forward, to wrestle and play with it within my own life and work. To do my thinking on paper in art and stories, to always be trying to learn more and to share generously.
Book formats are only one of the ways we as individuals and as cultures keep our stories – it is the act of collecting stories together, whatever the technology used – that helps us figure things out. To lose that collected, collective, personal or cultural memory can be both a current and ongoing tragedy because the loss of knowledge affects future knowledge formation.
Recently I read of a massive archival effort to keep and preserve archives of Ukrainian stories and poems which are in danger of getting lost forever due to the war. See the article here.
You’ll not be surprised to hear that now I want to find ways to support that project and buy at least one printed copy of a book of, or at least a book containing some, Ukrainian folk tales.
And speaking of important, relevant and keep-able stories here’s a link about the Wendigo monster . I’ve been thinking of this Algonquin tale a lot lately because I’m so tired of greedy extremist monsters. I see this story as a reminder to appreciate ordinary life and to play well with others. It seems so relevant to current times and possibly a guide for figuring out ways of going on and doing better.
As I type this it is snowing in my backyard! In April! Our Camilla bush has blooms!
I hope your week is full of wit, art, stories and poems that help you figure things out. And hot beverages if it’s snowing where you are too. See you next Monday.
16 thoughts on “Troublesome wit, books, poetry and essential ordinariness”
Like you, I really enjoy folk tales and traditional story telling. I grew up loving the stories and myths from my own culture so perhaps that is why. Characters and ideas from those stories sometimes find their way into my art. I can see how you weave traditional storytelling and the use of motifs into your art work.
I thought I had seen some folk tale characters and concepts in your work too!! Yet another thing we have in common!! And thank you for your kind words about what you see in my work! I’m glad it shows…😊
I love the mustachioed fellow’s dedication to the precise placing of the cherry on top! Mr. Pug looks a bit dubious. Bookmarks with poems on them is such a good idea, so people can get a reading two-fer! I love how you read the poem on your video. It might even convince the little ones not to jump on the furnture. I hadn’t thought of what the Russian attacks are doing to Ukraine’s libraries. Anything that is not digitized could go up in flames and be lost forever!
And the Ukrainian digital archives are being attacked too: via hacking and also by attack on the places holding the digital servers. I had not realized completely how fragile digital files can be… but fortunately if they are duplicated in other places they can survive. And the duplication of digital files is easier than duplication of actual books.
I’m glad, so glad, to hear you liked my video! And that you liked the mustachioed man’s efforts – and that you caught the dog’s opinions!! Lol!! Yes…I’m still loving the concept that people can get a two-fer a book and a bookmark with a poem!! Thank you for enjoying that fun with me! ❤🤗
I just looked at Internet Archive, and they have quite a lot of digitized Ukrainian literature. I don’t know where their servers are located, though.
Yes!!! I’m glad and grateful for that Internet Archive!! That’s what so many librarians have been adding to – so that when a museum, library etc in Ukraine is affected by the war the files aren’t completely lost. Too often, for example, a museum will have digital files located only within the museum itself – then if the physical museum isn’t accessible it helps to have digital files more widely accessible from multiple other places.
Thanks so much for looking and for your comment!!!
You’re welcome, Sue! There’s a data security word for having redundant information on servers that are geographically separate, but I can’t remember what it is.
I know what you mean and I can’t think of the word either. I’m realizing that this “having multiple digital versions of work” concept could apply to my own work… expand my definition of what my work is and where it goes etc….thinking in multiple…🤔
I’ve wondered about that for visual artists who create single, unique pieces.
Approaching as I do from the fine art territory of unique pieces the idea of multiples, whether digitally or in printed reproductions, feels a bit like new shoes that aren’t broken in yet. The idea of limited edition prints is very familiar… but that still has defined limits. Unlimited open-ended print editions or housing things digitally where they can replicate, adjust, be shared/collaboratively… well, that’s new. And it’s exciting!!! It feels more democratic, more equitable.
Thank you for providing the fine art perspective, Sue!
I just heard it might snow in the coming week – in May! I’ll be glad when there’s no more cause for chilly toes for a while. 🙂 I’m delighted to hear about your first book, and the theme and the way you collected and catalogued your point of view for a particular purpose. It considered yourself and others as well. Quite amazing for an 8-year-old, and I’m not surprised to see all the books you’ve filled with so many other incredible and useful things over the years. Your observations, and skills and choices in communicating them, are a gift to all of us. Thank you!!
I too collect folklore of many cultures, and myth, legend, fairytales, whatever people want to call stories from the past – especially those with rich imagery. The word ‘collect’ denotes that I also like to consider and keep various versions of the same stories.
I was told stories (and read stories) since I was a tiny child, and I’ve always been aware of (at times confused by) multiple versions. Which one is the actual truth? Why? My little mind ached. Now I understand they all carry truth of various kinds. Facts are much different than truth and can be twisted, and that too shows a truth about those storytellers and their world, just as telling as something that seems to line up with facts we believe we see.
Snow?! In May?! OMG!! Currently we have the house windows open and it’s in the 60’s – so nice to see things bloming…
Thank you so much for your kind words about my 8 year old self and what I share. Art and writing in my view are practical and valuable life-processing skills.
Ah!! Hello fellow folklore collector – you kindred spirit you!!! ❤❤❤
I too wanted the “one true” story version when I was younger until I learned that the moon is still the moon even though it seems different when seen in a photograph, in a painting, in person from within a city, from a dense forest or seen on a sandy beach by the ocean.
This is why knowing the story about “which wolf does it feed” is so essential!! Hmmm I think I’ll share that story again in a future post…
Thank you again for your friendship!! Stay warm!!!
I’m sure any snow that falls won’t stick, but it’s definitely still chilly. In the 40’s today with a high of about 53. What a strange year! Your illustration about the moon sums it up nicely. I hadn’t thought of a single image to illustrate how stories are all the different descriptions of shared experience. Likening that to a visual reference gels the understanding for me in a new way. Thanks again, Sue!! It’s bound to get warm soon. I guess I can break out the hot chocolate again. 😀
What a wonderful comment! I’m glad to share the moon analogy pleasantness with you! Thank you!! And yes, what a strange year in so many ways. We’re still enjoying hot chocolate nights too…with our book reading of course 🤣📚☕ Hope you enjoy your cocoa too!! ❤