Tag Archives: language

Making and Becoming

My last post was about going to Carnac as relief from the general feeling of doom and gloom that was pervading our household over the current state of the world and where it seemed to be taking 2016-10-08-12-40-22us. I didn’t mention that while eating our picnic near one of the sets of alignments I spotted an interestingly shaped bit of wood lying on the ground.  Both David and I were the sort of children who collected interesting things (feathers, stones, bits of bone, wood etc) neither of us have out grown the habit and with his 2016-10-08-12-40-09enthusiastic endorsement of it as ‘that’s fantastic looks like waves’. I tucked it under my arm and brought it home.

I photographed it on the tarmac outside the house when I got back so that I’d have a record of it in the state in which I found it. The piece of wood was pretty dirty and definitely not far off crumbling completely.

Found Art is one of my enthusiasms but ‘Found’ is one thing usually the ‘Art’ requires a little more effort. So I set to work cleaning, treating, sanding, oiling, polishing. A continuation of my Antidote to Doom and Gloom. The physical act of working on a piece of art is wonderfully absorbing. To begin with I had to pay close attention because it was extremely fragile and the last thing I wanted was for it to break into pieces but by the time it reached the stage of beeswax and polishing it had achieved its final form and the whole process became a meditation. Sitting in the October sun rubbing a piece of cloth backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards slowly bringing out the colours and the patina. While I was doing this I found myself pondering about the idea of making and the idea of becoming (in the sense of beginning to be). Making contains both the meaning of process of creating and the essential qualities needed for something. Michelangelo’s statement that ‘Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the sculptor’s task to discover it’ encompasses both meanings. But in the found art piece it seemed to me the wood itself played an active part. It transformed and emerged and the finished piece had its own identity. It Became. 

The ‘finished’ piece, and I use finished only in the sense that I stopped working on it, has its own definite character and energy. My hands picking at a bit here, sanding off a rough bit there and polishing it for hours merely allowed this creature to be caught in the moment of its transformation from one thing to another. Certainly not the waves we both saw when I picked up the bit of wood but an ancient and powerful beast. 

It seems to me that making and becoming are inseparable not just in the artistic process but in everything. If we make something without allowing it also to emerge than we have a flawed end result. Maybe that is most of what is wrong with the world at the moment too much making and not enough becoming.

Footnote to self – drink cider after and not before proof reading your article that way you won’t have the embarrasment of re-editing after you’ve posted.

Me, the Cat and Dannie Abse – David Jones

This poem was written in 2009 by a friend of mine, David Jones of Merthyr. He hated reading in public regarding it as complete torture both for him and the listeners but over a pint with a few friends he could be persuaded to share his work which was embedded in the rich tradition of Anglo-Welsh poetry. Wonderfully descriptive of Welsh life and the natural rhythms and seasons of the Welsh countryside. Despite friends urging him to do so he never submitted any work for publication regarding the writing and reading of poetry as a personal and intimate pleasure rather than any kind of ‘profession’.

I thought I would share this example of his work  on my blog. I have only a few of his poems and wish I had more but he regarded them as ephemera and often infuriated us by confessing to have lost the only copy of something he had written.  I can only hope that others of his friends have also kept some of his work since this humble and joyful poet deserves to be remembered.

Me, the Cat and Dannie Abse

There’s a small audience
high backed pews cast shadows of emptiness
on white washed walls.
A tousled haired Dannie Abse
Welsh jew – preaches poetry
from the pulpit of nonconformity
free verse set in tablets of stone

I notice a cat walking up the aisle
a street wise walk, haughty, tail up
tousle haired tabby. Stops. Leaps up
nuzzling in to my thigh
he purrs contentedly. Drinking in words
through the black slits of his eyes,
mesmerised. And I think only
of blood-sucking jumping fleas.

Dannie reads ‘In the Theatre’
The cat becomes agitated
at the words ‘brain-mashed’
he sinks his claws in the varnished wood.
Until suddenly, ‘You sod leave my soul alone’
pirouttes him in the air with a shriek
and he is gone through the slit of the door
into black tumoured night.
Dannie stammers and then moves on
‘Leave my soul alone,
Leave my soul alone’.

A Poetic language

Wales is called the land of song probably  because it’s language is liquid gold that spills off the tongue in musical cadences.    For non-welsh speakers the sounds are hard to explain but ‘ff’ is prounounced ‘f’, ‘dd’ as ‘the’, ‘w’ as ‘ow’, ‘y’ as in ‘oo’ and ‘ch’ is hard as in loch not ouch

The Town Council in Brecon has just invested in  a poetry trail and this one is by a friend of mine who also writes in English.

Mwylachen y Mynydd literally the Mountain Blackbird is the Welsh name for the Ring Ouzel.
A translation – for those who want it
Flash of black,
loud singing
princeof rock
in silver torque

Here is one from his collection The Meaning of Flight
written in English

Twyn yr Hyddod

I’ve had enough of elegies
but must have you know
that mountain where I used to run
marking bounds at the edge of breath,
how its roads exotically wind
among the skirts of the hill,
its acres of snapped stone
hard turf and whin
ignore the long slopes’ fall
to where the pit no longer is.

His thrown ash has left no scent or mark.
The smell’s of nothing but bright air.
And for a sound
hear a skylark, who
forgetting she’s a cliché
always on the brink of falling, climbs
singing up through daylight
just far enough to break your heart.

I thought I’d like to share some of Chis’s poetry  if you want to visit his site its

Book Titles are a Bitch

Well for me they are – I happily write and paint then people want to know what it is called and I have to think of a name – ‘My Book ‘or ‘A Painting’ not being considered adequate by most people!   Language at its most demanding.  People do judge books by their covers and if the title doesn’t grab you are you likely to pick it up and open it?

Those of you who have been reading or at least checking up on the Exiles Within story that I’ve been blogging out in instalments may have noticed that today’s instalment has an additional name.   The Exiles Within – Rats in the Pipes.

The reason for this is that Rats in the Pipes was the orgiginal title I intended to publish the book under then I had one of those moments of doubt.  Perhaps people would be put off by the word Rats?  So I sat and thought and came up with an alternative and more literary title ‘The Exiles Within’  trouble is I’ve now had an even bigger moment of doubt and decided for better or worse to go back to the original title.  I think it suits the story and the characters better.  So in future the name will change though for a few weeks I’ll go on using both on the blog.

All this angst and nail biting has been brought on by the fact that the book is about to stop being my own personal plaything and is about to get published as an e-book.  This means certain decisions have to made and they , unlike everything up to now, will be final!  The scary moments of being an author are nothing to do with the writing and in my opinion everythng to do with sending your babies out into the big wide world to fend for themselves.   Still it’s got to be done!

Language and Rights

I want to continue the theme of last week’s blog about language and the meaning of words but in a much more specific context.  I have been worrying about the way in which despite the use of words that imply we have ever more freedoms and choice we are in fact losing rights and being ever more curtailed in our freedoms.   We encounter assertions of rights as we encounter sounds: persistently and in great variety.

Wesley Hohfeld died at 40, he was Professor of Law at Harvard and his published work consists of one slim book with a long title Fundamental Legal Conceptions as Applied in Judicial Reasoning.   This book was one of my study texts in my third year at university and it exercised a very profound influence on my thinking.

Hohfeld created a very precise analysis which distinguished between fundamental legal concepts and then identified the relationships between them.  His analysis of rights is a framework of elegance and simplicity revealing that most familiar rights, such as the right to free expression or the right of private property, have a complex internal structure. Such rights are ordered arrangements of basic components, much in the same way that most molecules are ordered arrangements of chemical elements.

Hohfeld identified four basic “elements” of Rights; Privileges, Claims, Powers and Immunities.  Each of these has a distinctive logical form, and the incidents fit together in characteristic ways to create complex “molecular” rights.  Each of the incidents—the privilege, claim, power, and immunity—can be a right when it occurs in isolation but each Right has an opposite and a correlative.  Hohfeld was primarily concerned with legal rights but his analysis extends equally well to moral and ethical questions.

That is probably more than enough Jurisprudence for anyone who is not a lawyer but I wanted to explain the background to my thinking that prompted this blog.

Most people who are not lawyers or philosophers would probably define ‘Right’ as meaning ‘what is just or fair’ but this is not the same as our modern subjective sense of ‘a Right’.   So why is this important?  Isn’t what we mean by ‘a Right’ clear enough for all practical purposes?  Well I would argue that it isn’t that each and every one of us needs to have a precise and clear understanding of what we mean when we talk of ‘rights.’

This is really a development of the point at which I ended last week’s blog; the way in which the language we speak limits us to the modes of perception already inherent in that language.  The form or label comes to be not merely a useful reference in a catalogue system but a limit and constraint on our thinking and we are vulnerable to other people shifting that meaning without our being aware of it.  Hohfeld identifies ‘Privilege’ as the type of right that is contained in the idea that I have NO DUTY NOT TO DO IT.  In other words there is no infringement of another’s rights in any sense in my painting my bedroom in black and red stripes or picking up a shell on the beach.  What is being steadily and in my opinion rapidly eroded is this type of right and it is going unnoticed in the white noise created by the multiplicity of assertions of rights and counter rights.

Now nobody is going to take away my ‘right’ to paint my bedroom but they are enacting legislation that will curtail and control the way I act in public.  I have no duty not to walk down the High Street wearing a hoodie but my privilege to do this may now be curtailed if it causes annoyance or nuisance, similarly if I stand outside the chip shop talking to a group of friends I may be the recipient of an order preventing me from doing this in future because it causes annoyance or nuisance.  These terms lack any legal precision and are so broad and generalized that they could be used to catch a vast range of everyday behaviours to an extent that may have serious implications for the rule of law.   These terms replace the previous test of anti-social behaviour namely behaving in a manner likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress.  A far more restrictive test than annoyance or nuisance; under the new definition protesters, buskers, preachers, and young people just hanging out with friends could find themselves on the wrong side of the law.  These are laws which are capable of extraordinary abuse in the same way as the notorious ‘sus’ laws were and they will no doubt be applied equally inequitably.  I doubt very much whether anyone will hand me out an injunction for wearing a hoodie but if I was sixteen and black they might well.

What worries me is that people don’t recognise the infringement of perfectly acceptable rights that this entails.  Understanding the framework of rights and the way they build on and interlock with each other is key to preventing their erosion by stealth.