On Desire

May 13, 2017

If I could burst into bloom, red
with the rose of it, with the rise and swell
of it, called into being through
the deep green, and trembling with light,
I might understand. If I knew
how light touches water
with a tracery of trees, gifts
the world as it is not, I might know
why I am not a rose or water or light
but a man who suddenly believes
in witchcraft. What else
but this hollowing fire, this mark
of the thaumaturge, could make
the wild heart, so like a bird, thrash
in its cage? Imagine rain and wind,
portrait of tempest with shed: shivering
slivers of wood, the whole structure
in danger of imploding. Here under
a black sky swirling with clouds
I am ready to be unmade. The air
is charged and blue, and my hands
are burning with light.

Steve Mueske

Book of the Day

May 13, 2017

Fire & Ice

May 13, 2017

Oh, yes…

May 13, 2017

“AN account of Anne Jefferies, now living in the county of Cornwall, who was fed for six months by a small sort of airy people, called fairies; and of the strange and wonderful cures she performed with salves and medicines she received from them, for which she never took one penny of her patients.

– In a letter from Moses Pitt to the Right Reverend Father in God, Dr. Edward Fowler, Lord Bishop of Gloucester.”

Anne Jefferies, who was afterwards married to one William Warren, was born in the parish of St Teath in December 1626, “and she is still living, 1696, being now in the 70th year of her age.” From the published narrative, we learn that Mr Humphrey Martin was requested by Mr Moses Pitt to see and examine Anne in 1693. Mr Martin writes, “As for Anne Jefferies, I have been with her the greater part of one day, and did react to her all that you wrote to me; but site would not own anything of it, as concerning the fairies, neither of any of the cures that she did. She answered, that if her own father were now alive, she would not discover to him those things which did happen then to her. I asked her the reason why she would not do it; she replied, that if she should discover it to you, that you would make books or ballads of it; and she said, that she would not have her name spread about the country in books or ballads of such things, if she might have five hundred pounds for it.”

Mr Pitt’s correspondent goes on to say that Anne was so frightened by the visitors she had in the arbour “that she fell into a kind of convulsion fit. But when we found her in this condition we brought her into the house and put her to bed, and took great care of her. As soon as she recovered out of her fit, she cried out, ‘They are just gone out of the window – they are just gone out of the window. Do you not see them?'” Anne recovered, and “as soon as she recovered a little strength, she constantly went to church.” “She took mighty delight in devotion, and in hearing the Word of God read and preached, although she herself could not read.”

Anne eventually tells some portions of her story, and cures numerous diseases amongst the people, by the powers site had derived from the fairy world. “People of all distempers, sicknesses, sores, and ages, came not only so far off as the Land’s End, but also from London, and were cured by her. Site took no moneys of them, nor any reward that ever I knew or heard of, yet had she moneys at all times sufficient to supply her wants. She neither made nor bought any medicines or salves that ever I saw or heard of, yet wanted them not as she had occasion. She forsook eating our victuals, and was fed by these fairies from that harvest time to the next Christmas day; upon which day she came to our table and said, because it was that day, she would eat some roast beef with us, the which she did – I myself being then at the table.”

The fairies constantly attended upon Anne, and they appear to have vied with each other to win her favour. They feel her, as we have been already told ; and the writer says that on one occasion site “gave me a piece of her bread, which I did eat, and I think it was the most delicious bread that ever I did eat, either before or since.” Anne could render herself invisible at will. The fairies would come and dance with her in the orchard. She had a silver cup, given at her wish by the fairies to Mary Martyn, when she was about four years of age.

At last, “one John Tregeagle, Esq., who was steward to John Earl of Radnor, being a justice of peace in Cornwall, sent his warrant for Anne, and sent her to Bodmin jail, and there kept her a long time.” The fairies had previously given her notice that she would be apprehended.

“She asked them if she should hide herself. They answered no; she should fear nothing, but go with the constable. So she went with the constable to the justice, and he sent her to Bodmin jail, and ordered the prison keeper that she should be kept without victuals, and she was so kept, and yet she lived, and that without complaining. But poor Anne lay in jail for a considerable time after; and also Justice Tregeagle, who was her great prosecutor, kept her in his house some time as a prisoner, and that without victuals.”

We have a curious example of the fairies quoting Scripture. I am not aware of another instance of this. Anne, when seated with the family was called three times. “Of all these three calls of the fairies, none heard them but Anne. After she had been in her chamber some time, she came to us again, with a Bible in her hand, and tells us that when she came to the fairies, they said to her, ‘What ! has there been some magistrates and ministers’ with you, and dissuaded you from coming any more to us, saying, we are evil spirits, and that it was all a delusion of the devil? Pray, desire them to read that place of Scripture, in the First Epistle of St. John, chap. iv. ver. I, “Dearly beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they are of God;” and this place of Scripture was turned down so in the said Bible. I told your lordship before, Anne could not read.”

Anne was at length liberated from confinement. She lived in service near Padstow, and in process of time married William Warren.

How honestly and simply does Moses conclude his story!

“And now, my lord, if your lordship expects that I should give you an account when, and upon what occasion, these fairies forsook our Anne, I must tell your lordship I am ignorant of that. She herself can best tell, if she would be prevailed upon to do so; and the history of it, and the rest of the passages of her life, would be very acceptable and useful to the most curious and inquisitive part of mankind.”

C. S. Gilbert
An Historical Survey of the County of Cornwall

13th May

All good art is subversive either in form or content.

I have in mind, for example, Andres Serrano’s ‘Piss Christ’, a photograph of the crucifixion submerged in the artists urine which outraged critics back in the 1980s: it was (is) considered disrespectful to those of the Christian faith, a blasphemous work that led to debates about the issue of public funding of artistic projects. Twenty-four years after the work’s first showing, a print of the photograph on display in Avignon was destroyed by French catholic fundamentalists. No one understood that the photograph depicted the cheapening of Christ’s image; and the ongoing hypocrisy of those who misinterpret or twist the words of Christ for their own ends. The artist, Serrano, is a devout Christian.

And what about Tracy Emin’s Turner-nominated instillation ‘My Bed’? Sold recently for four million quid, complete with an ashtray full of fag ends, used condoms and the artist’s dirty knickers. Many, probably the vast majority of people, feel the work meaningless and the artist’s success illegitimate. Me? I think it’s worth the four million for Tracy’s knickers alone! Although in fairness, the bed is representative of a bad period in the artist’s life, depicting the four days she lay in bed contemplating suicide. It is a work about life and death; life in the balance; it is Hamlet’s famous soliloquy ‘To be, or not to be…’ It is a four day lay -in, a long sleep – sleep, death’s sweet counterpart.

Then we have Hans-Peter Feldmann’s The Hugo Boss Prize instillation: exhibited at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, he’d cashed in his $100,000 honorarium, pinning it to the walls of the gallery in rows of dollar bills, some crumpled, some folded, some not – much to the outrage of the many who viewed it. Oh, ‘money, money, money…’A fresh blasphemy, but this time against the ‘new’ God of plenty and his royal court of austerity, poverty, hunger and ignorance.

The Guitar Lesson by (Balthasar Klossowski de Rola) Balthus from 1934, created outrage and controversy when it first appeared and still has the power to shook today. This painting of a young girl pulled backwards by her hair across the lap of an older woman, both fascinates and disturbs: the girl has pulled free the breast of the woman who in turn plucks the girl’s naked, prepubescent genitals like the strings of a guitar.

Then we have something like the Mona Hatoum exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Sarah Kane tells us: ‘In a tiny cylindrical room I watched a projection of a surgical camera disappearing into every orifice of the artist. True, few people could stay in the room as long as me, but I found that the voyage up Mona Hatoum’s arse put me in powerful and direct contact with my feelings about my own mortality. I can’t ask for much more’ (from a work of art).
(Sarah Kane, Drama with Balls, 1995).

Again, take William Holman Hunt’s painting The Awakening Conscience (illustrated above). Controversial or not? In its day (1854) it caused consternation among critics and the viewing public alike. Here we see a young woman rising from the lap of a bewhiskered young man. Critics were uncertain as to the subject of the painting. The fact the artist had painted the carpet’s pattern with as much care as the young woman’s face, many felt the work to be simple ‘illusionistic imitation’.

But then John Ruskin in one of his letters to the Times newspaper explained that what we were viewing was a ‘kept’ woman and her lover:

‘there is not a single object in that room – common, modern, vulgar…but it becomes tragical, if rightly read…the torn and dying bird upon the floor; the gilded tapestry…the picture above the fireplace, with its single drooping figure – the woman taken in adultery; nay, the very hem of the poor girl’s dress…has story in it, if we think how soon its pure whiteness may be soiled with dust and rain, her outcast feet failing in the street…I surely need not go on?’

Outrage followed. ‘Not only had the artist famed for his religious conviction dared to portray a mistress rather than a prostitute – prostitutes were non-threatening to families, mistresses were terrifying – he did so with compassion.’

The face of the woman we see today is not the face these early Victorian viewers would have seen. The model, Annie Miller, Hunt’s fiancée, was prone to infidelity, and when Hunt found her out, he removed the expression of guilt-stricken horror for which the painting was most noticeable when first exhibited. The new expression on Annie’s face has far less impact ‘than the painting’s contemporary reviews show’.

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The weather has been pretty shit the past couple of days. Warm and wet. God bless rising levels of humidity, especially when accompanied by falling rain. Horrible. Hopefully, today will be drier?

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If your eyelids aren’t sticky after giving a woman oral sex, you didn’t do all you could to please her…