Normally I like to post a little more often during the summer months, but I have been neck-deep in poetry revisions for my new book coming out later this fall. (More details on that later!)
And this evening I’m going to be co-hosting the LivingArt program on KPFT, Houston’s Pacifica station, from 6:00-7:00 (Houston time). If you’re here in the city, it’s 90.1 FM. If you’re looking for it online, click this link.
I cannot deny that I’m (probably ridiculously) nervous about this radio appearance — far more so than for any other radio spot I’ve done before. So send some good vibes this way, please. Our guests this evening are the very excellent John Hovig and Adam Holt, and I know they’ll be great.
Catch you on the other side of my editor’s duedate for this book of poems, my friends. And I can’t wait to tell you more about it!
Hey there. 🙂 For any of you in the Houston-and-surrounding-areas area this weekend, I’ll be appearing on Saturday at BrazCon, which is a book festival and comic con aimed largely at the YA set but really open and friendly to all ages. It’s a free event, happening all day. I’ll be speaking on two panels and signing books, so please come by if you’re around and say hello!
Click on this link to see more about the event, including author and artist lists and a full programming schedule. Spoiler alert: there’s a LOT to see and do here! In addition to a veritable slew of authors (myself included), you’ll find workshops on writing and drawing (with Mark Kistler, no less!), a cosplay contest, anime, video and card gaming, fandom paraphernalia (including, if I understand correctly, Daniel Radcliffe’s wand he used when he played Harry Potter in the films), and Houston’s Quidditch team. Plus Star Wars. And Doctor Who. And more I haven’t listed here. Check out their website for further details.
Sounds pretty fabulous to me. I hope to see you there!
This year my New Year’s round-up really needs to be split into two posts for thematic and length reasons. So today I’m going to cover blog statistics for 2017 and some cool author stuff coming up, and tomorrow you’ll get another post about resolutions and why that concept is such a mixed miasma of obligation and glory.
I came late to the blogosphere. Sappho’s Torque has been around since August of 2011, and like many of the authors whose blogs I read, I try to do a summary of the year’s statistics here. 2017 saw my readership expand significantly, which is a trend I rather like and which I am grateful to be able to say about every year’s blog stats. It’s a slow way to build an audience, but it’s a worthwhile one. I’m grateful for all of my readers and hope you enjoy my work here. I wasn’t sure blogging would really be right for me when I started, but a friend in the publishing industry convinced me to do it, and I’m glad she did. My hope is that I will continue to post here, in a mix of thoughtful memoir writing and commentary and all of the very popular series connected to my other interests (reading, music, food, fashion, poetry, etc.).
Sappho’s Torque is being read in a lot of countries around the world, but as I write in English here, it’s no surprise that most of my readers are in English-speaking countries. The USA, the UK, and Canada have my biggest audiences, but my blog also has a healthy following in India and Germany. Welcome!
Most people find my blog through search engines, by far. This was a surprise to me. The next most common access portals are Facebook, WordPress Reader, and Twitter, with big gaps between them.
So what else is going on in my artistic life these days? I’ve been considering resuming some of my old hobbies — in particular, making jewelry. You might remember that I am desperate to make art and have been my whole life. I can’t stop the urge. Writing is the art I’m most competent at, I think, and it’s definitely my primary vocation, but I also dance and paint and make stuff. I even have an Etsy shop, called Arts Eclectica. In this shop you can find my handmade cards, and soon you will also be able to find there journals and jewelry and my daughter’s art. She is already a much more accomplished visual artist that I am, and some of her watercolor paintings have been made into limited-edition print runs, which we’re going to make available there.
I also have an exciting author event coming up in a few weeks! I’ve been invited to speak at BrazCon, which is a combination teen book festival and comic con happening here in southeast Texas on Saturday, February 3rd. Last year it was extremely well attended for a relatively new event, and it should be even bigger this year. For those of you in the area who want to drop by, it’s going to be held at Shadow Creek High School in Pearland from 9:00 to 4:00. I’ll be speaking on a couple of author panels and also signing books. More details on my schedule closer to the event. If you’re there, drop by and say hello! More author events for 2018 are in the works, but I can’t say much about them just yet; rest assured you’ll read about them here when I have firmer details.
Finally, because I think that a community thrives when its inhabitants are readers, and because I love the concept, this year we put up a Little Free Library in front of our house. Within a week it was full of not just my family’s contributions but also those of others who have passed by it. Our LFL has been particularly well received by the kids in the neighborhood, some of whom come by several times a week, which has been an absolute joy to witness. I even have a whole box of books in reserve to make sure I can rotate and restock as often as needed.
Tomorrow I’ll post about my goals for 2018. Leave a note in the comments about what your resolutions are, if you have some — or whether, like many people, you’re not sure if the concept of resolutions works for you.
Thank you, every one of you, for reading my blog and making my forays in the blogosphere fun. Happy reading!
Auden’s poem about Brueghel’s painting cannot make an appearance, in my mind, without also acknowledging William Carlos Williams’ poem on the same painting, on the same subject. The two poets’ styles couldn’t be much more different from each other, and Williams’ poem also relies more heavily on description than many ekphrastic poems. Yet it still highlights the most salient feature of Brueghel’s painting, titled as it was. It still conveys, through brevity, diction, and line/stanza breaks used as punctuation, a gut-punch of despair for the futility of Icarus’ sacrifice, of Daedalus’ trauma.
Landscape with the Fall of Icarus
According to Brueghel
when Icarus fell
it was spring
a farmer was ploughing
the whole pageantry
Here’s another poem by Auden. It’s one of my favorites and is my first go-to when teaching ekphrastic poetry. I love that the first stanza of the poem, which comprises more than half of it, isn’t really about the painting at all, but about the theme Auden believed the painter was getting at. This, I think, is the most important aspect to an ekphrastic poem: that it doesn’t really describe the art it’s about so much as it responds to it. It continues a dialogue begun by the initial artist.
This concept might seem simple at first, but I’ve found in teaching this form for many years that it’s not as easy to put into practice. So here’s a bit of a challenge for you, should you choose to accept it: write an ekphrastic poem and either post it at your own online space and link to it here in the comments, or else email it to me at forest [dot] of [dot] diamonds [at] gmail [dot] com. Be sure to include the original artwork you’re responding to. (I still have a spot or two open later this month, and maybe your poem will be curated into the mix here.)
Musée des Beaux Arts
About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
A delicate milk floods winter
overwhelming my intentions with
making faint the resolution to
meaning, to spin yet another
tale – for no one, for nothing.
I used to be so deft at that.
Now if such impulse rises
I stare it down blankly
as if addressing
a sudden stray cat staring
greenly back serenely
shrugging off the gathering chill
taking a long-known meeting
(or else a common standoff
the maker of the first sound.)
Neither of us can think of
a thing worth saying
that words could hold.
The mercury dives. And that idea,
hazy, deep, abandoned and
unbiddable, ignores my invitation,
winks slowly to show me who’s boss
and fluidly turns – an eddy in the year
fades back to the giving darkness
that lifted it –
a lace pattern once so crisp and
diamond-clear distilled to
Paula Billups is a visual artist whose work takes in the media of painting, drawing, collage, artist’s books, installation, and collaboration. She bases her studio practice in Boston and Berlin and exhibits internationally, most recently in Cuba, Toronto, Berlin, and Luxembourg. Core themes of her work include interior shamanic processes, hidden and lost knowledge, and contradiction of the human desire for omniscience. Poetry has been a running thread of her creative life since the age of ten. She writes a blog at paulabillupsart.blogspot.com and files her poetry at paulabillups.tumblr.com. You can learn more about her work at www.paulabillups.com.
* The title for this post comes from something Chuck Wendig says sometimes. His version is NSFW.
I have been desperately trying to make art my whole life.
When I was a kid, I drew all over the place, including the walls. I wrote on furniture. I filled books — some of them journals — with my scribbles and illustrations. I doodled the hell out of things. And it was never really idle, but always an attempt to make something creative where there had been nothing creative before.
I had my last Art class in fifth grade. When I started sixth grade, at my school, I had to choose one elective. I could take Art, Spanish, Speech, or Continue reading “Art Harder*”→