This is the unabridged version of my new blAst for those of you who are not too busy to read its dense detail and not a bit squeamish as it contains details about the results of high explosives in WW1 that some folk may find difficult. The reason I mention them is because I firmly believe, in my naïve and stupid way, that all war and any assault on other humans with intent to kill or maim should be banished. (I don’t mind hard tackles on the field of sport as in some ways that is a way of working off aggression and in fact competition in International sport has proved to be a substitute for conflict on the field of battle!)
Reporting on my contacts with the ‘outside world’, UWE have put out their latest Artist’s books Newsletter and am happy to share that they, Sarah Bodman that is, included the whole of my ‘report’ about the poetry library’s Open Day on pp 39 thru 41 which includes a couple of newstyle visual typo poems. Best to see them in colour http://www.bookarts.uwe.ac.uk/newspdfs/95.pdf
Also on p 42 the Book Art * Art Book 2 show in Colchester’s Slack Space gallery is flagged up. Some of the best Artist’s book makers in Essex will be showing new stuff from Wednesday 4th – Saturday 28th February. Slack Space is open Wednesday-Saturday from 11am-6pm. I am going to read from my poems at the opening on Thursday 5th.
I did offer to put on a show at firstsite whilst the gallery was empty and they did honour me with a reply in which they graciously pointed out “a 5-week long residency by Maria Loboda, during which time she will fabricate a new work in situ” is soon to begin. That is music to my ears because I felt it was such a waste of space to have the walls bare for the time before the next scheduled show in March.
In a way it’s good to have no demands on my time so that I can concentrate my time on preparing my own contributions to the world of artists books and more generally to my vision and creation of the outputs I perceive and wish to make like the new book for the forthcoming BABE in April.
I quote Rabindranath Tagore who wrote a beautiful poem Gitanjali:
‘I gave myself up for lost in the depth of a glad humiliation – in the shadow of a dim delight.’48.
He also thanks his god for ‘Day by day thou art making me worthy of thy full acceptance by refusing me ever and anon, saving me from perils of weak, uncertain desire’14.
‘All desires that distract me, day and night, are false and empty to the core.’38.
(the numbers refer to the ‘verses in his epic poem Gitanjali for which he received the Nobel Prize).
Warning on the words that follow – “This blog gets a bit heavy man, it’s not exactly hip man,” said Neil from the Young Ones, (a great band).
In my last blog I mentioned Solzhenitsyn saying that just after the WW1 a number of old folk offered the following explanation for the great disasters that had befallen Russia (including what he referred to as the ‘ruinous revolution that swallowed up some 60 million of our people’ and I suppose the casualties of fighting Hitler): “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.” I also related the recent incursions into Ukraine as treading thin ice under which loomed the possibility of yet more war scenarios in this our blighted planet, as if we, or ‘they’ the powers that be have learned nothing from the wars we look back on in this 100th anniversary of WW1 (and commemorations on Churchill who oversaw some heinous actions by British forces alongside his country’s heroic stance against Nazism in the second world-wide tragedy WW2).
Since I posted that blog Russian military craft loitered about 25 miles from Britain, apparently it was Russia’s show of contempt for manoeuvres by Nato forces in Poland after the incursions into Ukraine. There’s a strategic logic to ‘Russia’ wanting parts of Ukraine which could be overcome if Ukraine were to allow Russian access to the sea and Crimea on a friendly basis. Maybe that’s impossible, I don’t know, I’m no expert. But Russia’s moves in Ukraine only began after the Ukranians ousted what seems to have been a puppet governor who seems to have lived the life of an emperor, but he had Russian backing I would imagine because he allowed certain ‘privileges’ to his backers.
Last week I watched Fergal Keane’s report http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00vyrzh/the-first-world-war-from-above about the aerial photographs taken over the trenches and the unimaginable devastation left by effects of the then latest in a line of war to end all wars, WW1. The revelations were staggering even to me who had studied History to A level (in which we couldn’t study ancient history like I wished to because the exams only allowed coverage of the European modern stuff; WW1 & WW2), I had met WW1 veterans and had heard about interminable repeated accounts of the horrors of the trenches and the sending over to certain death millions of men from books, magazines and TV. This documentary blew my idea of those horrors asunder. I had not imagined a millionth of it. Death in conflict is nasty at any time by any method but WW1 created unprecedented massacres in what can only be described as hell-holes. My home town had lots of men killed in the war, particularly at the Somme. Some of the remnants would have become ‘sappers’, because of their mining backgrounds in the pits of Burnley. These poor bastards had to dig for a year under the German lines before Ypres and lay 450 tons of high explosive. They dug into a chalk soil and used their bayonets to take out tiny bits of chalk which they had to catch before it hit the ground because any sound would have alerted the enemy. They were indeed extremely successful. About 19 explosive caches were sunk deep under the ground beneath German headquarters. They were set off to explode one after the other in a line which ran toward the Germans who would have seen the previous ones going up and would have had no time to escape. The biggest part of a body found afterwards was a foot in a boot. All the rest of the people involved had been blown to smithereens ‘no bigger than a fingernail clipping…minuscule fragments’. The prize? 5 miles of ground and a determination on the part of General Erich Luddendorf to NOT give up but (he decided) to retake every inch of ground lost no matter what the cost. Therefore, Passchendaele. And that is the maniacal thing about WW1, from its unnecessary outset the ‘leaders’ of every side were literally ‘hell-bent’ on continuing the carnage with scant regard for human and material losses. The nearest thing I have read of the mayhem is Kenneth Patchen’s book, The Journal of Albion Moonlight which gives an inkling of the madness of all out war. http://ndbooks.com/book/the-journal-of-albion-moonlight
Why do I, a man renowned for his sense of fun, give such gory detail above? Because Keane’s documentary brought home to me the true horror of what happens when some men feel they have the right to wage war. That is occurring this minute in Syria. The ruins on the news are reminiscent of the ruins of France after WW1, although no matter how bad they look they are not the result of trench warfare, just more potentially damaging munitions. I am a sad bastard myself, I still agree with John Lennon, Ghandi and the Dalai Lama who wish(ed) to do away with war. That very notion, abandoning war, seems like madness to so many who perpetrate war and the manufacture of weaponry. War seems like madness to me. And I want to return to the top of this piece and talk about this absence of god. I don’t mention god in any attempt to push any religious doctrine or say one is better than another, remember Bob Dylan’s words that “the Germans they too had god on their side”. And the Arab world all say they believe in Allah yet they attack one another. And some cultures say their god is more important than any other god and indeed that there is no other god but theirs. Which is almost as mad as the two ‘world wars’ because it is so blind, so selfish, so blinkered so demeaning of the thoughts of ‘others’ who may themselves have perfectly good ideas on what is good and right etc, but to condemn them out of hand by saying theirs is below yours and indeed is ignorant in the highest state of idiocy.
Men have forgotten God? Yes almost undoubtedly. They had their own god but it was a territorial god, still is in many ways. Many out there are fighting purportedly for their version of god, but not any god who would embrace their actions. I believe any god worth its salt would not wish the devastation humans have wrought upon their own species as far back as the history books can go. The god they forgot is a universal well-being. A being well for all of humanity. Maybe humans could rename god, the WellBeing, or BeingWell? But I wouldn’t wish to start another movement.
For me there may be a god. There may be a something behind all existence. I am not bright enough to work it out. Greater humans than me have tried. BUT, I do think that most religions are at their base saying the same things; do not kill, do not covet, do not steal nor do bad deeds etc.
I am not certain there is any ‘after-life’ in any recognisable way, not sure we see our relatives on any ‘other side’, not sure if we come back as better beings, or as slugs if we do ‘wrong’. But I am certain there is part of me that was there when the Big Bang took place, apparently that’s true. And am certain that in my genetic make up, my DNA, there are parts that have come down to me from ancestors thousands of years ago. And that my genetic code is passed on to my childers and down to any who may be born in later times. We do re-incarnate in that way, that can be measured.
Also they can work out which part of the world my ancestors came from and research can find out where a skeleton dug up from the ground after being there for say 1500 years where that ‘person’ hailed from. We live in a marvellous world, let’s look after it, let’s try to safeguard what’s good in it and let’s push to end war. Even without war humans have a pretty hard task. But it’s worth it.
Here’s a beautiful poem by Tagore’s Gitanjali
The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day
Runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures.
It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean cradle of birth and death
In ebb and in flow.
And my pride is from the life-throb of ages
Dancing in my blood this moment.
Here’s It’s a beautiful Day, a great band I was lucky to see at the Bath Festival, Shepton Malet in 1970 doing their version of a song by Fred Neil.
here’s Fred Neil’s original version ‘This old world may never change The way it’s been’
A ‘babyhowdy’ said, ‘this remains one of the most utterly exquisite songs I’ve ever heard! EVERYONE should hear this song, and it doesn’t matter how or where you first hear this masterpiece, so long as you hear it!
and Tim Buckley’s
Maybe one day there’ll be no humans and this will be Planet of the Dolphins. I’m still searching.