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Monday 30 April 2007

Poetry Workshop

For those who would appreciate the chance to participate in a poetry workshop, but for one reason or another are unable to take advantage of the excellent offerings around these days, I think I have found the ideal alternative. It seems to be for me, at any rate.

Two or three weeks ago I chanced to visit the Books section of The Guardian Unlimited website, where I discovered there to be a monthly poetry workshop.

April's workshop was being run by Carol Rumens. The task she had set was to write a triolet. This, for those who do not know (I didn't) is an eight line poem in which the last two lines are the first two repeated - and just for good measure, the first line is also the fourth. (Incidentally, the word triolet seems to refer to the fact that the first line appears three times.) A rather contrived little arrangement, I thought, but a bit of fun trying to make something out of it - silk purse and sow's ear sprang to mind. Certainly, it does not leave the poet much elbow room. What I found most difficult was to come up with a first line that would fit easily and naturally into its next two, slightly different, slots.

I was in fractal mode, as some of you might appreciate, and so tried to write a triolet about fractals. You will not be surprised to learn (I wasn't) that my effort was not shortlisted - but then, if I only wrote about my successes, there would not be many posts! Shortlisted poems are commented upon by the poet running the workshop, who also leads into the activity with an introduction both useful and interesting - certainly that is so in those I have tried. (Past workshops are available on the site.)

Here, for what it is worth, is my slightly embarrassing effort.

The Fractal

A deepening rose the fractal is,
a sea forever opening,
unique and samely, like a kiss.
A deepening rose the fractal is
where beauty and disorder tryst
and numbers go on partying.
A deepening rose the fractal is,
a sea forever opening.

Hopefully, it will at least give an inkling of what is a triolet. To try the Guardian Unlimited workshops, either click on this blog's title or click here for The Guardian site and navigate your way to the books section.

Tuesday 24 April 2007

Fractal Zoom

I have had another flood of emails asking about fractals, both of them raising the same two questions. (Hey, what about using the comment facility, fellahs, so's others can join in and help me out?) However, I will do my humble best. Before that, though, a word of warning: both emailers seem to have scooted off to my website expecting some sort of enlightenment there. Far be it from me to dissuade anyone from visiting my website or to suggest that enlightenment is not to be found there, but I feel I ought to point out that enlightenment on fractals is conspicuous by its absence. Much else you may find in the way of spiritual insight, but not that.

The first point raised was that it is difficult, when presented with a series of individual plots, to see the relationship between them. I don't think I actually presented a series in that sense with that intention, but here's one which I hope will help. You will see that I have marked on each the area to be magnified for the next plot.

The other query is of a rather more technical nature. I realised, reading the emails, that I had not explained - or not explained clearly enough - the process by which a fractal is produced. Fractals are produced naturally or artificially - in a computer. In either case (matter in the first instance, data in the second) becomes the input for a process which wreaks a small change in it. The slightly modified data or matter (the output from the process) then becomes the new input. It is fed back into the process and modified again in the same manner, before becoming output once more. The new output is fed back in... the process being repeated, usually thousands of times without variation, to produce the fractal, which may be either of two types: self-repeating or self-similar.

Saturday 21 April 2007

Two Sites

It is always a great feeling that accompanies the rediscovery of old friends, and I have recently rediscovered two, both of which I think it worth while to mention.
A week or so back I decided that the links on my website were well overdue for a spot of checking and, no doubt, maintenance. In fact, amazingly, they all seemed to be working - those that were there! Several were missing. One of those was the website of a friend from college days, Bill Booth's "Themes Familiar". I had made a number of changes to my site in the not-too-distant past, and it must be (I thought) that when working on it I had inadvertently dropped some of my favourite links - for all the missing links fell into that category - but when I asked Bill if he had any idea when they fell off, so to speak, he told me that he had never been able to find his! I am at a loss to explain, for I know that his did appear on the site in two places, though not on any of the usual links pages, as I had intended to give it prominence! All I can do is to try to make amends. The link appears at the bottom of this post and I also append two drawings taken from Themes Familiar. I know you will find the site of interest. Take a look for yourself, the interest is wide-ranging: music, material on his native Yorkshire and much else. I still have not restored the links from my website, but I will, I will...

Helen Bar-Lev is the other friend with whom I have re-acquainted myself. An internet friend from the time of my first, faltering steps to producing my own website. We exchanged links and she gave me much encouragement.
She was born in New York City in 1942. She has lived in Israel for 36 years. She holds a degree in Anthropology from California State University, Northridge, 1972. Since 1976 Helen has devoted herself to art: painting, teaching and writing poetry. From 1989 until 2001 she was a member of the Safad Artists’ Colony in the Upper Galilee where she had her own gallery. In January 2007 she and Johnmichael Simon
moved to Metulla, the northernmost town in Israel.

To date Helen has participated in 80 exhibitions, including 30 one-person shows. Her poems and paintings have appeared in many online journals such as The Other Voices International Project, The Coffee Press Journal, Boheme Magazine, The Poetry Bridge, Sketchbook; River Bones Press, The Hypertexts, Palabras-Press, Poetry Super Highway, etc., and also print anthologies including Meeting of the Minds Journal, Voices Israel Anthologies, Manifold Magazine of New Poetry (U.K.), Lucidity Poetry Journal and Across The Long Bridge, An Anthology of Award-Winning Poetry, Sailing in the Mist of Time, An Anthology of Award-Winning Poetry, Harvest International, Poesy first international issue; For Loving Precious Beast, An Anthology of Poetry edited by Yolanda Coulaz.

A book entitled CYCLAMENS AND SWORDS with poems of Israel by Helen and her partner Johnmichael Simon has been published by Ibbetson Press of Boston, Mass. and is available via Lulu and also may be ordered from the authors hbarlev@netvision.net.il. Her watercolour paintings and sketches are featured throughout the book.

Helen is a member of Voices Israel English Poetry Society and The Israel Artists’ and Sculptors’ Association. She is the global correspondent in Israel for the Poetry Bridge and Editor-in-Chief of the Voices Israel annual Anthology.

Above are some images from her On-line gallery.


Themes Familiar
The Helen-Barlev on-line gallery
The Poet's Chair

Sunday 15 April 2007

The Last Word?

This is by way of being a footnote to some earlier posts (eg 18 Jan: "It's how he sees it" and 5 Feb: "It may not say what it says").
In a book review by Adam Thorpe I found the following quotation from Yves Bonnefoy, the French poet: "poetry is what descends level by level through its own text, forever in metamorphosis... until it gives up...knowing that the essential is still to be uncovered."
I suppose you could say that the quotation descends level by level through its own text, forever in metamorphosis... until it gives up...knowing that the essential is still to be uncovered!

Saturday 14 April 2007

Digital Doodles

Just some more doodles from the digital darkroom

Monday 9 April 2007

What's it worth?

Grayson Perry was in the news again last week. A piece of ceramic sculpture attributed to him was to be sold by Christies, the auctioneers, who expected it to realise £4000 - £ 6000. The piece in question, a representation of a boar entitled "The Children's Bore", was inscribed with the sort of comments made by nagging parents: "Get the hair out of your eyes", "Sit still", "Keep quiet", etc.

Perry had made such a piece way back in his early days, and had sold it to a friend, who had become, thereby, his first collector.

Alerted by Christies to the forthcoming sale, he at first thought that it might indeed be by him, but then realised that it was technically too good to belong to that stage of his career. He informed Christies, with the result that it was immediately reclassified as "English School" and given an estimated value of £100 - £150, which raises the question, as such incidents always do, of just what is the true value of a work of art, and how is it to be assessed. Is it, as maybe in a perfect world it would be, intrinsic? Or is it reasonable for a work to reflect the standing of its creator? Is the Mona Lisa more valuable because it was painted by Leonardo da Vinci, or would it be no less a work of art if painted by one of his students? Perry, who you may know to be one of my all time favourite commentators on all things aesthetic, believes that the way we view art derives from religion, that its artists are its holy fools and saints, that their works take on some of the attributes of relics, and that our attitudes towards them have much in common with those of the religious towards their relics, and are valued accordingly.

Well perhaps. A work of art, it seems to me, acquires its value in the same way as any other artefact: it is worth exactly what the purchaser can be persuaded to pay for it. Which maybe begs the question of what forms of persuasion can be used. Can it be seen as an investment opportunity? Which further begs the question of what, at some later date, will persuade another purchaser to pay a larger sum. Is it just its beauty or some other attribute that will make it desirable? Or is Perry on the right lines? That possessing a piece by a famed creator makes us feel closer to, in some sort of relationship to, that person? Or perhaps we do not fully trust our own instincts, in which case the knowledge that it has come from an impeccable source will be some sort of guarantee that we have the "genuine article". Perhaps it is just fashion? Or do we simply need something that is unique - and guaranteed to be so - to reinforce our own status as unique individuals, uniquely ourselves? We have what no one else has. Whatever the mechanism at work in any given case - and the mechanisms must be legion - they would seem to have more to do with psychology than aesthetics.