Friday, 10 October 2008

Anything can happen...

Oh my goodness. Very tired after a few crazily busy days in the city. Can hardly manage full sentences. Still I have a few things to get down before my brain curls up forever.

Firstly, thanks so much for all your comments on the last post. I hope those of you who didn't comment have been having a good think about the subject anyway...maybe you already do think about it...all the time...so you didn't need me to prod you! Still, special thanks and huge hugs to those of you who were brave enough to name pieces of writing that you thought were (just maybe) your best so far. It's a fairly brave thing to get in print (even the luminous print on here) because, of course, if you say something is (just maybe) your best then you're risking others reading it and saying or thinking 'well, if that's your best...I don't like it much...you must be really crap'. So Colin, Jim, Hope, Kat – extra hugs to you...and how uncrap you are! In fact, having spent a few happy hours with Mary Poppins in Edinburgh, I think you are all, without doubt, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Oh yes.

All our time away I was wondering (now and again) what I might suggest as the poems of mine that I'm most pleased with this far. I can't exactly ask you all to fess up and then sneak off quietly, not saying a word now can I? It is tricky though...for a start we change our minds all the time, don't we? Sometimes I feel...you know...a little confident about what I write...and then others...oh god...what am I doing, someone call the police! But still...I have been thinking about it...in amongst the tourist trip...so here are a few thoughts on it all.

1.Portraits
I called in to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery very quickly in Edinburgh. I really wanted to get the bus out to the Gallery of Modern Art but that fantastic bus service between the main art galleries doesn't exist any more (shame!). Still, just being in the Portrait Gallery made me think about the Joan Eardley self-portrait that I first saw there and which inspired my poem 'She's not there' (in book and on website under 'other people'). Certainly some people have liked that poem quite a lot but as it's about being crazy it's never going to be a favourite of mine. Being crazy may help creativity but it's a right pain in the arse a lot of the time. I will admit though that I like the last line and was pleased when that popped out. I like the second verse too. It cheers me up when I read that bit...I feel maybe all is not lost!

2.Wars
I went to the Inverleith House gallery in the Botanic Gardens too where there was an exhibition of work called 'Protest Pictures' by Richard Hamilton (who I'd never heard of, I must admit, but the title intrigued me). A lot of the work left me fairly 'yeh, well...' but I was struck by 'Desert Storm' – a painting about the Iraq War depicted on a TV screen with blood dripping out of the TV and the war looking like a board game (Risk? Diplomacy?). There have been a lot of comments in the media and arts linking modern warfare and video games, about people watching war on TV... but I thought this painting was a really good, clear, impressive, quite startling statement on the subject. I know some people don't like any art with a message but I like all sorts of things and I liked this. I don't really understand artists who don't want to work with and about issues that affect us all...I just couldn't work like that, personally but, yes...I know...we're all different. I have written one war poem ('Happy war' in book and on website under 'occasions') and I will admit that it is one of the ones I am most proud of so far. It is hard to write a poem about something so huge and important without getting into corniness and clichés and 'yeh, isn't all war terrible?' territory but I think this poem manages OK and says what I have to say without making anyone cringe (well, I hope so). I am proud of it and I know at least one ex-soldier who likes it too. So shoot me.

3.Trees
I've never been to the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh before...hardly been down that end of the city in fact...but what a beautiful sanctuary it is. Best of all it is so full of trees...and I love trees, any kind, all of them...I am a right old tree hugger! Another poem I am quite proud of is 'Save the trees (or else)' (in book, on postcard, on website under 'modern world'). I had been reading about Byron and came across a form he used called the ottavo rima so I tried it with that poem. I've never had much feedback about it so maybe I have done something poetically shameful but it is one of my personal favourites – short, packed full of ideas and I like the bit about sycamore keys because I remember collecting them as a child.

4.Wham bam
I did get to the Museum of Modern Art...a lot of walking that day (Beloved and Small Girl were at the zoo)...and I paid my hard cash to see the Tracey Emin exhibition. I didn't expect to rate it much...all the cynicism about modern art must be catching...but you know...I really enjoyed the experience. I don't think she is one of the best artists that ever lived or anything but I had a great time and you can't say that about many art exhibitions, can you? I laughed out loud (at the film where she has her backside stuck up in the air for most of it...poor security guard!), I shed a teeny tear (the little story about her as a little girl not being invited to a party – funny the things that prompt tears...), the video about dancing was great (my teenage years and Tracey's were...not that different), also I liked the big bold quilts (though I did itch to correct her bloody spelling!). I will admit it got a bit samey here and there and it is, in a way, all about her but then a lot of artists can be samey and a lot of the stuff that seems about her...it can be about other people too – it is just life. Lots of women get raped as teenagers, lots of women have abortions and struggle to cope with their mixed emotions, lots of people struggle to live and be a bit sane - I really don't mind that she tackles all this stuff head on. She is English and yet so NOT at the same time because this is a girl who does not know when to keep quiet and be a lady! I even liked the famous bed and stood at looked at all the crap she had laid out around it for a while and kind of understood it. What is different about Tracey is that so many people (and women in particular - artists or otherwise) spend so much time covering up and hiding everything (their weak spots, their disgraces, their dirty bits, the bits of their bodies they don't like, their real natures, their desires) but Tracey does just the opposite and I kind of love her for it, I have to admit. I know a lot of 'serious art people' (quote from in-house mother) don't like her but if they're anything like 'serious poetry people' then...blimey guv'nor, they can't half go on (sorry, Dick van Dyke/Mary Poppins moment). On the wall at the start of the exhibition it says that Emin's work is 'deeply confessional and almost embarrassingly personal'...what a strange bunch we are, we humans, 'embarrassingly personal'! Doesn't anyone remember 'the personal is political' any more – is feminism so forgotten? I would say – go to the exhibition if you're in the area - there's a lot of good in it. You may not like all of it...and I guess a lot of it may be of more direct interest to women...but it shouldn't be really...babies, sex, art, sadness, craziness...men get involved in this stuff too.
And a poem? It reminded me of one of my short ones called 'Girls learn this only once' (on website under 'little poems') and probably another little poem called 'Weirdo' too...and a whole load of personal poems....too many to mention! I am fairly unashamed about writing blatantly personal stuff sometimes. There are quite enough others doing the opposite. (P.S. Colin - I loved your fairly personal 'On saying goodbye to a brother'...very moving and some lovely details...like the 'little clumps of madness'...).

5.Flying nannies
We all really enjoyed 'Mary Poppins' at the Playhouse Theatre and the tickets cost a bleeding fortune so it's just as well! The production has enough of the Disney but some new songs too. It didn't remind me of any poems – it was just good old fashioned escapism. Where else can you get tapdancing chimney sweeps, flying nannies and statues that come to life? Fantastic.

6.Graves
Like most kids, Small Girl is very keen on the whole Greyfriars Bobby business and this time we went into the graveyard for a look round. You'll be interested to know, Sorlil, that the leaves were indeed falling like rain so I may have to change my mind on your first draft (I did say I was undecided!). I love graveyards (and Kat's poem on the subject too). I have a graveyard poem called 'Optimistic afterlife' (on website under 'circle of life') and I think I have put it on this blog before. I don't think it is a great poem particularly but I am very fond of it and its sunny outlook. It gives me hope for the next phase (and those of us with no religion need hope too!).

7.Speaking of which
We went to the science museum called Our Dynamic Earth (the day-out no creationist should miss!) . Small Girl loved it...especially the whole lift-that-takes-you-back-in-time thing because of course she believed it completely (why would she not?). I learned a few things as we wandered through time (always necessary) and I particularly liked hanging out with the early life forms...they are so non-judgemental. Despite all my talk of hope I am also one of those people who firmly expects the human race to have run its course fairly soon and quite a bit of me is looking forward to it, I have to admit. Humans can be great but they can be really annoying as well (except you fine readers, of course). I have a poem about this subject too (hell, give me enough time I'll have a poem about everything...) and it's called 'Just like the dinosaurs' (in book and on website under 'circle of life'). People have liked it. I like it. I like the end...
'The what was hard and what was really
Not'
I think the last bit is very true and... I like truth. Overall.

So there you go...Edinburgh trip and poetry confessions all in one long ramble. Going to bed now. Very tired.

xx

26 comments:

hope said...

Glad you had such a nice trip! I must admit that after viewing "Mary Poppins" as a child, I wanted Dick Van Dyke to come visit...even though we didn't have a chimney. :)

Your poem "Trees" is one of my favorites! I love trees...always have. My little icon is part of the huge pecan tree in our yard which overlooks the driveway. It's so large people think it's an oak...probably well over 150 years old.

Which reminds me...I placed "Auchmithie Road" in a shadow box, along with my "rocky bits of Scotland". It sits on the wall above my computer. Quite inspiring. Thanks!

No, go rest up. Holidays can be tiring. ;)

Rachel Fox said...

Feeling better for some more sleep!

I'm really glad you like the trees poem, Hope. If anyone else does and wants some copies of the postcard - let me know. I like to spread the tree love!

'Auchmithie road' I wrote as a present for a friend. A friend (not Verona) has put it to music and it makes a good song. He's a bit shy though, the friend in question.

x

Sorlil said...

Crikey, you sure packed a lot in, you'll be coming home for a rest then!
I've always wanted to go to the Greyfriars Bobby graveyard, had a vivid dream about it ten odd years ago and want to see if it fits my dream in one of those weird premonitiony kind of ways.

Rachel Fox said...

Yes, Sorlil, and that wasn't all of it! We visited the Scottish Parliament, the SPL, lots of cafes (!), quite a few bookshops and charity shops and music shops (I love Coda - the folk CD shop) and the other two went into the Castle (while I had other jobs to attend to).

The graveyard was great - the wind and the leaves and it was one of those almost warm autumn days. It's a bit of a mess (but I don't mind mess) and there are some fabulous OTT graves and monuments. I have another graveyard poem called 'Monumental things' (under 'circle of life') which I've just remembered - it's a simple little thing but you might like it...a bit.

So what are your leaves doing?

x

Sorlil said...

My leaves are going into another poem as in pockets stuffed with leaves!

Colin Will said...

I've posted the poem on my blog, Rachel.
Colin

Rachel Fox said...

Good, Colin, and thanks. Now everyone can go and read it. Off you go...

x

Jim Murdoch said...

Carrie was very taken by an old graveyard we visited in Edinburgh the one and only time we've ever been there. It was the age of the graves, some of them older than America…the nation not the country. I like graveyards but I honestly don't think I've ever written a poem about them. Milligan and Murphy spend the night in a graveyard but that's it I'm afraid.

As for the Botanic Gardens I went there once when it was raining. All I can remember were the greenhouses: hot, hotter and you-have-got-to-be-joking hot.

Rachel Fox said...

I love visiting Edinburgh for lots of reasons. Firstly because I'm English and all English people (and indeed most foreigners) love Edinburgh. Also it reminds me of Madrid...the mysterious old town with all the little wynds and staircases in the most unexpected places and the flashy, the so-straight-it's astounding new town, the art galleries, the neverending bars and cafes, the extremes between the hard-edged rough'n'ready areas and the fancy quarters that are so chock full of lawyers and architects and women talking on their mobiles about skiing holidays that you almost choke on your stuffed croissant. In fact this time there were a lot of Spanish speakers in the city too (working and touristing) and it was quite mild weatherwise so I could almost have been in Madrid at times...happy days.

x

Colin Will said...

I spent fifteen years working at The Botanics, first as its Chief Librarian and then in senior management. Ended up running the whole organisation at one period, until the new boss could take up his post. So you could say I've very attached to the place. And yet I don't feel at home there any more. My friends have moved on since I retired, and so, in so many ways, have I. It's true what they say, "You can't go back."

swiss said...

coda! forgot about that

trees you say? am reading colin tudge's the secret life of trees (available stupidly cheap on amzon sellers) currently. i'd say it's a must for tree lovers. and full of stuff and cool words. some of the botanist (tho not as much as colin - go on!) might wrankle at some bits but still well worth it

if you're ever in perthshire give me and t a shout and we'll take you to see some lovely trees

Rachel Fox said...

Colin - I thought of you as I walked amongst the trees. I thought... no wonder he's so calm and thoughtful (at least on the blog!) - it must be one of the best places to work in a city. I was surprised to see grey squirrels...it's still only reds here...you don't see them much but when you do they're red.

And Swiss...I will add that book to my list. I'm not very knowledgeable about trees but maybe I will be one day. I still know more about heavy metal and dance music remixes...a misspent youth and a misspent quite a bit after that!
I've looked at your page - do you write poetry? I couldn't quite work out whether any were yours or if they were all by other people? I love cycling too but am far too lazy to actually get on a bike much. I walk.

x

Rachel Fox said...

And Swiss...I bought the new CD by US band Crooked Still in Coda. I never thought I'd listen to quite so much banjo in one lifetime! Their singer Aoife O'Donovan is one of my very favourite singers - her voice is...practically perfect in every way!

Where in Perthshire, roughly? It's a big place!

swiss said...

liking that cello/banjo thing! haven't been to coda since the last time i spent unfeasibly amounts in it!

i'm in perth itself but am always out and about in wider perthshire somewhere

the poetry. the lounge page is all other people. the other page is just me. i've had more in the way of short stories published mainly, i think, because i'm better at it, but poetry suits the blog so there you are!

Rachel Fox said...

I've only stopped in Perth once properly. Must go again! It is one place in Scotland where I haven't looked for a book stockist for my thin too - any suggestions?

Rachel Fox said...

My thin? Oh dear. I meant my thing. My book. You know.

BarbaraS said...

I enjoyed your commentary on the Tracy Emin exhibition; I've wondered about her work for a long time, and I appreciate what you're saying about female artists covering up and hiding things: don't we all!

Sounds like you've had a really busy time; hope you're well rested and digested now -I expect you'll be incorporating some of these sights into your poetry!

Sorlil said...

don't be fooled by swiss's modesty, his poetry is really quite startling!

Rachel Fox said...

Glad you enjoyed that bit, Barbara. I very nearly didn't go to the exhibition...it's out of the centre and I was trying to cram as much into one afternoon's freedom as I could (you know this pattern I imagine!). But I'm really glad I did go...it's one thing to hear about someone and read about them but quite another to go and see their work for yourself. I really was surprised how much I enjoyed the whole selection and felt moved, amused, warmed, surprised. There were quite a lot of other pieces and subjects that I didn't mention too. There was a video of her talking to her Mum that was just fascinating (well, to someone like me...and I suspect...to someone like you too). It's very easy to say 'it's not art, it's not art'...there wasn't much painting for sure but art...certainly a lot to see, a lot to think about. I was surprised how often she used the word 'soul' too.

Rachel Fox said...

So what name does Swiss write under? Or is he/are you an international man of mystery?

The Weaver of Grass said...

Liked the trip round Edinburgh - you certainly did a lot in a short time! We have a good train service from here to Edinburgh - it is such a lovely city. They have some lovely Gauguin works in The Art Gallery.
Interesting your reaction to Tracy Emin. More or less the same as I feel about it. As to it being all about herself that does raise an interesting point - for whom do we create anything - is it an expression of ourselves or is it for someone else? I have been thinking about that with the poem I put on on National Poetry Day asking for help to make it a better poem. I agreed with the comments exactly and am now struggling to rewrite it (not easy) but I feel I must not move away from my actual dream (or would moving away be classed as poetic licence?) Must stop now, my brain hurts after all that thinking!

Rachel Fox said...

Hello W of G
I'm not sure who artists create for...it changes all the time, depends on the piece etc. As for art that's all about the artist (like Emin's) - I just think artists are very varied and that's how it should be...some use their own lives as subject matter, others do the complete opposite and others are at every other point in between. Emin is at one extreme...it is pretty much ALL about her life but that's just the kind of person and artist she is. I wouldn't want to see work by artists like her every week (me, me, me, shut up already!) but once in a while...it's interesting, thought-provoking, appealing. There was a lot of writing in the exhibition...hand-written sheets, framed and up on the wall...too much to read in the gallery I think...I certainly didn't read all of it in my time in there. I was reading the other week that her book is worth a look. I might get to that some time. Sounds like a can't sleep in a guest house kind of a read.

And as for rewriting...maybe leave your poem a few days to soak through then come back to it in a little while. In the meantime take some notes, chuck some words about, let your mind wander a bit...enjoy it!
x

swiss said...

international man of mystery? sounds good to me!

Poetikat said...

Hi Rachel,

I'm feeling a bit crap at the moment with a raging sore throat (I haven't had one of these since oh, high school).
I've extracted the poem titles from your post and will have a look. Sorry, I'm not up to much more just now.

Kat

Rachel Fox said...

Most of them are in the book, Kat, so you will have them already.

I'm not surprised you're poorly. Tough times for you...in every sense. Thinking of you.
x

Poetikat said...

I've just heard your voice for the first time. I listened to a poem and a song (the one for Heather). You have a fine voice with a lovely timbre and I would buy your recording if you had one. You managed to tap into that sense of the unknown future - for someone you love, but also for us as a human race.

I read all the poems you mentioned and will need to read them again. I did really feel something for "She's not there" - we ARE the bits and pieces people, aren't we? I can't speak for everyone, but I certainly am.

Kat