A fanfare for the makers in this spot

One of the first and most generous bloggers to help start this still teetering and uneven site-in-progress – one month old today — is an artist who, I think, works in stained glass. He’s shy about mentioning his work, so I haven’t tried pinning him down on the question.

But he’s not the only ‘visual artist’ in our small group of pioneers. Because of this, and because we’re all in some way engaged in making something that didn’t exist before we picked up a paintbrush, pen, chisel, art glass segment, . . . or started tapping at computer keys, I feel as if I couldn’t have done better if I’d invited every blogger commenting here – instead of simply waiting to see who came along.

Considering this last week, a poem came to mind – and this week, to my astonishment, I saw its author, Louis MacNeice, mentioned on The Guardian’s books blog for the first time for the two years I’ve been reading there. There was a brief and well-informed discussion about him among people schooled in the formal analysis of literature. It was about a suggestion that one slot in which he belongs is with poets who have written about trains.

I would call MacNeice sui generis, and would rather bite down on a ten-inch nail than stuff him into any box. That, as you’ll see if you read Fanfare, is almost certainly how he felt himself. Though some lines wobble on the brink of cloying, the poem is a subtle, deeply considered and waltzing-on-air celebration of every form of creativity. He goes to special pains to erase hierarchy and snobbish distinctions – as alarming (posting as ETAYLOR) did a few days ago in a chat with deadgod on the same newspaper’s site:

[T]here is art which is better or more interestingly made than other art, art which deals with more profound matters than other art, there’s art which chimes with your personal tastes and so on.

My partner’s dad was an instrument engineer. He made machines which made practical machines and tools. There’s no art in terms of aesthetics or insight into human life but there’s incredible art in his engineering and concision of thought in making these things. It seems a bit mean not to call what he does art even if he’d be the first to admit that there’s nothing that relates it to the aims of painting, writing or composing ( to name but three ).

Contact with people doing the kind of work that alarming and other envisioners do has been close to the greatest satisfaction from venturing into the blogosphere, for me. I’m thinking, now, of a blog post describing the making of an unquestionably pink, porcine equivalent of the Great Wall of China, and of a stained glass panel by Mrs cynicalsteve, a gifted jeweller and stained glass artist also known as Michele Bailey. That has something to do with painting being the road I didn’t take, at about sixteen – an excruciating decision.

I suspect that a still controversial theory of some neuroscientists explains my reaction. It has to do with cells called ‘mirror neurons’ – whose behaviour suggests that vicarious pleasure and pain are feelings with an actual physical counterpart in our brains:

. . . “Mirror neurons allow us to grasp the minds of others not through conceptual reasoning but through direct simulation. By feeling, not by thinking.”

The discovery is [. . .] shifting the understanding of culture, empathy. . .

[. . .] Mirror neurons reveal how children learn, why people respond to certain types of sports, dance, music and art, [. . .]

To the small fire that never leaves the sky./ To the great fire that boils the daily pot . . . I leave you to MacNeice’s words, and am putting him in a new section I’m calling Geniuses – in the sense of ‘tutelary spirits’.



Filed under Housekeeping, Poetry, The blogosphere, The Guardian, Visual art & artists

14 responses to “A fanfare for the makers in this spot

  1. 3p4

    well i am an artist and i am not shy about it,,it does take a lot of disciplined writing to say much meaningful,, i have an apprentice with whom i can have absolutely sparkling transendental conversations about art and about craft and about integrity and about function vs form vs context vs
    climate vs history,,its a hymn with endless verses
    but for me it needs to be face to face ,,side by side ,,day in day out,, mirror neurons are nutured
    by confirmation,,they are most visible in action against a very plain background,,now you know why i dont ever read fiction,,(and its starting to be equally clear why i dont make long posts as a rule,,)
    with confirmation they can grow into erm ah see if i say anything nouny or adverby here i mess up the background,,,,,they can grow ok ?

    mirror neurons are sometimes called trust,,the twin to truth,,(the one aint no good without the other)
    grow some of that dudes,,

    This is the song that never ends,
    yes it goes on and on my friends
    Some people started singing it,
    not knowing what it was
    And they’ll continue singing it
    forever just because-

  2. 3p4

    Nota Bene
    the term “mirror neurons ” is merely a scrap of image around which to compose a collage,,and not worth parsing,slicing,dicing,refutingandorproving in and or of its self verisimilitude notwithstanding
    do i make myself clear ?

    in fact nerdy i am going to email my boy and tell him to get the hell over here and join in,,english is second language for mauricio but he is very good
    at speaking english,,the spelling not so hot,,his best quality is i can call him idiot and he dont get mad,,

  3. wordnerd7

    @3p4, It’s funny how some people can identify themselves correctly — but then all sorts of others have assumed I meant _them_ when I’ve been obliquely critical.

    Mauricio will be wildly welcome. You’ve never sent anyone to any blog I’ve been on who hasn’t, at the very least, been a good read.

    Yes, I’m sure you’re right about the boffins groping towards, more than defining in any lapidary way, what they’re calling ‘mirror neurons’ today. I’ve read other articles about them since that two year-old (?) NYT piece, and all I can say is that I find the idea extraordinarily persuasive.

    === merely a scrap of image around which to compose a collage,,and not worth parsing,slicing,dicing,refutingandorproving in and or of its self verisimilitude notwithstanding
    do i make myself clear ? ===

    Yes, I think you’re saying it’s okay to discuss them. ; )

    === trust,,the twin to truth,, ===

    I also think about this a lot — how is it assessed in the blogosphere?

  4. 3p4

    about the boffins groping towards,

    ask a monk ask a child,,dont ask a boffin
    no matter where you go there you are
    boffins look some where else

    how is it assessed in the blogosphere?

    that answer is either where you are or somewhere else,, your choice,,

    answers are sights on the journey,,only you can see them ,,no one can tell you,,some can (do)empathise with your experience of sightseeing

    dont look for a destination smell the rose that by any name is,,,babbl e babble babel

    i mailed mau,,

    the mantra for mau and i is”play the video”
    this means to erm ah damm i showed mau this sight but i took many moments of deeply open
    communication,,trust truth

    it may sound corny trite simple (grannies and buddhas always do,,but they’re always right)
    but “”no matter where you go,,,, is a very very
    important sight to see

    how is it assessed in the blogosphere

    beats me dude ,,i was hoping you knew

  5. 3p4

    how is it assessed in the blogosphere

    damm question wont sod off,,keeps whinging at me,,real writers dont mix metafives anyway

    a mechanism for teletextual character interpolation and associated resonances of interpersonal interaction potential

    a basic formula
    (des n+1) + -(pinenut martin)=
    (landmark) x (perspective) = (a tree inthedistance)

    DO I make myself clear,,,too bad

    des is very recognisable,,(deliberately)
    qed words and their layout carry identity,, fact
    pine martin has abrain the size of a peanut
    and remembers infallibly every single pinenut buried during the summer when winter rolls around
    qed it takes very little brain to perform very complex data construction and analysis,,letters are pinenuts and we have big brains,,now whether this is fact or not ,, who cares ,,it took boffins years to notice the pine martin,,so if a brain experiences a
    pattern,,(non consciously) and it is rewarded often enough it becomes a template for interpretation,,

    how is it assessed in the blogosphere
    how is it learnt in the blogosphere
    same way as your golf swing
    so are shooting under par ?

    was accused the other day of being excessively fond of the lyric voice in poetry””

    wordy,, que est difference of “accused of” and
    “appraised as” and “judged to be” and “defined as”

    lexical stewed prunes,,= signposts

    special thanks to V. Borge,,

    Fore !

  6. Why Des, 3P4? Why Des?
    Stars and mirrors….mirrors and stars…
    Reading you just now, I see them all. 🙂

  7. Wordy,

    I love the connections you make.

  8. How great that we hear about Michele Bailey.

    What you say about “mirrors” echoes something my father said:

    “If, in the course of this writing, I find myself drifting into reflections about Africa, or India, or anywhere else, that play on some notions of a special or mystical quality in their peoples, I rebuke myself, delete and start again. I am to celebrate Thisness not Otherness, in all I have seen and been through, the Inotic not the Exotic, how much the Same everybody and everything is, not how Different. The Odyssey may be a journey sometimes through the strange, the mysterious – but never the unknowable; then out the other side, towards the holy grail of discovery: how familiar everyone and everything is; how densely, intricately, elegantly, contracdictorily, multifacetedly, everybody is like everybody else. That will be the arrival of my journey.”

    Tony Hall

  9. 3p4

    why des ? cos he is so tangible and open,,reality as tangible as a childs,,(in my world that is a statement of “practical stature” and not dismissive)

    it was not a slight against des to use him in my
    post,,des is on my posters Alist except when he has a conspiracy tantrum,,all that ranting is very unhelpful to himself,,retrospect will be 20/20

    wordy is inquiring into the intangible values inherent in text,,des is a useful title in the research library,,

    dont get the stars and mirrors bit..i note your smiley,,

    a really useful widget : treat adults like kids and kids like adults,,

  10. Hi 3p4,
    The smiley was to say I was just teasing.
    The stars and mirrors bit…lovely shiny glistening things..
    because reading your words felt like an engaging puzzle or maybe a riddle or maybe 2 dancing commas all at once doing the waltz or tango. 🙂
    You’re spot on about Des.
    He’s tempestuous, eccentric, spends several hours at a time or maybe 2 days at a stretch writing poetry, going without sleep. Only cigarettes and tea. Sometimes.

  11. Hello Wordy. 🙂

    & my dear Isa,

    I’ll remind you very delicately about mirrors if Arabia wins the Man Booker next year.
    (I’m smiling broadly.)

    Anyway, are you still in S.Africa?

  12. wordnerd7

    @ISA, yes I have been thinking about Michele, and sometimes wonder whether you two might have an unusually helpful conversation, considering the parallels in your recent experience.

    A very special post indeed, that one with your father’s thoughts on ‘otherness’ – a subject I seem to think about at least three times a day. _Thank you_ and I’ll have something much longer to say in reply in the near future. . . Will you please forgive me for not reading often enough at your site, lately. The subjects are important and deserve respect — and certainly undivided attention, a commodity in short supply at present.

    As someone interested in Arab culture and poetry, I thought you might enjoy recent posts at @Suzan’s site, which include one from which I’ve extracted this clip. .. think of SIXTEEN THOUSAND versifiers :


    the third edition of the Million’s Poet will be broadcast live tonight from the AlRaha Beach Theatre in Abu Dhabi.
    [. . .].
    How it works is that the reality show/poetry competition draws on an ancient form of Bedouin poetic art, once common in Arabia and part of the tribe’s daily life. [. . .]

    In the first episode tonight, 48 *Nabati poets will be chosen by audiences from the 100 already selected last week by a judging committee. The committee had initially met 16,000 poets in Kuwait, Riyadh, Jeddah, Amman and Abu Dhabi.

    Over the next six weeks, eight different poets will compete to get through, into the second round. The live competition is to be aired over Abu Dhabi Television and The Million’s Poet Channel at 10.30pm every Tuesday. ===

  13. @Susan.

    And are YOU back from Singapore?

    I am back from South Africa. Nobody believed I was actually going there – I think I looked very shabby and underwhelmed at the prospect.

    Do you think you’ve been upgraded. You tell me sweetie. Have I?

    I stepped out on Thursday night, met my wife in Johannesburg, and, the following Monday, we stepped back in.

    In South Africa the crickets had eaten the lawn and the pool was green and I think if we left the house to its own devices for a time there would be no trace of it.

    There are strange ancient stone ruins on the property which is about 250 acres set in a further couple of thousand.

    It was explained to me by the artists at the top of the hill that the nature conservancy project that my parents had bought into had always been an elitist project – whatever that means.

    I brought back a big navy blue wooden suitcase full of letters and old poems with “Eve Hall” written on its side and front in tipex.


    So where is our famous Kuwaiti poet to enoghten us on this blogged subject.

    Look forward to hearing from you when you have a mo.

  14. wordnerd7


    === In South Africa the crickets had eaten the lawn and the pool was green and I think if we left the house to its own devices for a time there would be no trace of it. ===

    I’ve been slow to see why Leigh’s aerial photograph of Matumi looked like a body, to you, but understanding has dawned gradually . . . This new post is a reminder of why bodies have to be buried with the greatest dispatch in the tropics. though I suppose SA is technically sub-tropical. . . From a long-ago reading of du Maurier, I seem to remember that the worst of what happened to an abandoned Manderley was giant rhododendrons run amok.

    Yes, our Kuwaiti poet_s_, I think you mean . .. what a good question. : )

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