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Tree, stone, earth and sky

Saturday, 15 April, 2017 0 Comments

“The tree was so old, and stood there so alone, that his childish heart had been filled with compassion; if no one else on the farm gave it a thought, he would at least do his best to, even though he suspected that his child’s words and child’s deeds didn’t make much difference. It had stood there before he was born, and would be standing there after he was dead, but perhaps, even so, it was pleased that he stroked its bark every time he passed, and sometimes, when he was sure he wasn’t observed, even pressed his cheek against it.” — Karl Ove Knausgård, A Time for Everything

Trees


Winter reflection

Sunday, 29 January, 2017 0 Comments

“Are the evenings longer where you are?” she asked.
“There’s a brightness between the trees,” I replied.

Winter sky


Parr near and far in Ireland

Saturday, 8 October, 2016 0 Comments

The great British photographer Martin Parr lived in Ireland, in Boyle, Co. Roscommon, between 1981 and 1983. So Near and So Far is the title of an exhibition of his pictures from the region that runs until Tuesday at the Roscommon Arts Centre. The images are included in Parr’s book A Fair Day: Photographs from the West Coast of Ireland.

Parr in Ireland


iPhone 7 photos

Monday, 12 September, 2016 0 Comments

No, not photos of the iPhone 7; photos by the iPhone 7. The first thing that has to be said is these look like professional magazine photos, not smartphone photos. The depth of field is really impressive. Thoughts: Is this the final nail in the coffin of consumer stand-alone cameras? And will next year’s iPhone 8 camera allow 3D capture for object and VR? Anyway, here’s the story:

“On Sunday, Sports Illustrated photographer David E. Klutho took photos with the new iPhone 7 Plus camera at the Titans-Vikings game. The iPhone 7 Plus has a 12–megapixel telephoto camera that offers new zooming capabilities. Each new model also features a wider aperture and a lens that allows the camera to capture brighter and more vibrant colors in photos and videos.”

iPhone7 photos


All you who sleep tonight

Thursday, 8 September, 2016 0 Comments

“Life is not easy for anyone here. Loss and fear, failure and disappointment, pain and ill-health, doubt and death – even those who have escaped from poverty have no escape from these. What makes life bearable is love – to love, to be loved, and – even after death – to know that you have loved and been loved.” Vikram Seth

The novelist and poet Vikram Seth divides his time between India, England, China and the USA. His most famous work is A Suitable Boy. Published in 1993, the book is one of the longest novels ever printed in the English language with its 1,488 pages and 591,552 words. A sequel, to be called A Suitable Girl, is due for publication next year.

At Evening

All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love,
No hand to left or right
And emptiness above —

Know that you aren’t alone
The whole world shares your tears,
Some for two nights or one,
And some for all their years.

Vikram Seth

Evening candle


A bevy of mysterious, beautiful swans

Sunday, 10 July, 2016 0 Comments

A group of swans in flight becomes “a wedge,” but it’s called “a bevy” on the water. The genus Cygnus has its own terminology of the collective and the literature also offers “a colony of swans” and, best of all, “a whiteness of swans.” When W.B. Yeats observed The Wild Swans at Coole, he was taken by their transitory nature:

“But now they drift on the still water
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes, when I awake some day
To find they have flown away.”

Wild swans


Strong structures, solid foundations

Sunday, 10 April, 2016 0 Comments

“We depend on our surroundings obliquely to embody the moods and ideas we respect and then to remind us of them. We look to our buildings to hold us, like a kind of psychological mould, to a helpful vision of ourselves. We arrange around us material forms which communicate to us what we need — but are at constant risk of forgetting what we need — within.” Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness

The tower


Swineherd of the brass pig

Friday, 8 April, 2016 0 Comments

etymology: A swineherd is a person who looks after pigs, but the more popular term today is “pig farmer”. The word “swineherd” is a compound of swine + herd and comes from the Late Old English swȳnhyrde, from Old English swȳn (‘swine, pig’) + Old English hierde (‘herd, herder’).

Swineherd is a poem by Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, who was educated in Cork and Oxford and is now a Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin. Along with Leland Bardwell and Pearse Hutchinson, she founded Cyphers, a fine literary magazine.

Swineherd

When all this is over, said the swineherd,
I mean to retire, where
Nobody will have heard about my special skills
And conversation is mainly about the weather.

I intend to learn how to make coffee, as least as well
As the Portuguese lay-sister in the kitchen
And polish the brass fenders every day.
I want to lie awake at night
Listening to cream crawling to the top of the jug
And the water lying soft in the cistern.

I want to see an orchard where the trees grow in straight lines
And the yellow fox finds shelter between the navy-blue trunks,
Where it gets dark early in summer
And the apple-blossom is allowed to wither on the bough.

Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin

The brass pig


The heart of the Valentine matter

Sunday, 14 February, 2016 0 Comments

According to the ancients, Saint Valentine of Rome was martyred on 14 February in the third-century and buried in a cemetery on the Via Flaminia. History and hagiography disagree on the exactness of all this, but Saint Valentine’s Day is widely recognized as an occasion for romance and E. E. Cummings provides suitable words for the occasion.

Love was Cummings’ main subject of interest and he approached it, and poetry, with a charming sense of linguistic invention that enabled him to create verse that was lyrical, visual and unique: “[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]” is classic Cummings.

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)

                  i fear

no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet) i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world, my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

e.e. cummings (1894 – 1962)

The heart of love


Recommended reading

Friday, 5 February, 2016 0 Comments

The reader

“I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading! How much sooner one tires of any thing than of a book! When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” — Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something — a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things — which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.” — Alan Bennett, The History Boys

“Some of these things are true and some of them lies. But they are all good stories.” — Hilary Mantel, Wolf Hall


Fin de siècle

Sunday, 24 January, 2016 0 Comments

The story doing the rounds is that a wealthy art collector visited the Paris home of the Irish photographer Kevin Abosch last year and saw this 162 x 162 cm print of a potato hanging on the wall and inquired about buying it. Abosch said the price was non-negotiable: €1,000,000. The buyer bought the photo.

Potato

Back in 2013, The Potato Diggers by Paul Henry was sold in London for €400,000, a record price at auction for the artist. Henry was born in Belfast and studied in Paris at the Académie Julian and at Whistler’s studio at the end of the 19th century.

Paul Henry

“It is easy to think of potatoes, and fortunately for men who have not much money it is easy to think of them with a certain safety. Potatoes are one of the last things to disappear, in times of war, which is probably why they should not be forgotten in times of peace.” — M.F.K. Fisher, How to Cook a Wolf