Marie, your story cracked me up. I was actually reading it in the library at Uni and was getting the “can you please just shut up” stares coming from all directions! It was quite inspiring although you may not have intended it to be. I love that you had the urge to read and didn’t let your boyfriend or his mate talk you out of it. Sometimes stubbornness is a virtue I think! Either way, I too was stoked that we began delving into the works of Blake (as many others also were considering how many people began their LJ’s this week with “thank God…some Blake!”) and particularly enjoyed finding the latent meanings etched into the ‘empty’ spaces around the words. As you said, each design is unique and brings a wealth of rich and further understanding to each poem themselves. I was taken aback by the accompanying images to each version of the poem “Nurses’ Song”, especially how without even reading the words, the picture tells the viewer a story. Take for instance, the one featured in “Songs of Innocence” – the Nurse is seated below a willow-like tree that stretches its far-reaching branches across the length of the page. She is dressed in a traditional warm hued dress that may suggest her passion for children and her nurturing nature. The children are also dressed in light, airy colours that remind me instantly of naivety, innocence and summer. Summer? I am not sure why, but it may have to do with the fact that the hill is a vibrant green and while the children are in contrast to the rolling green, they are also part of it. Perhaps the pastel colours are complimenting each other and giving off that warm and bubbly sense. I can almost hear the echoing giggles of the children as they chant nursery rhymes and run about gaily. The fact that the Nurse is immersed in her book (or diary in which she writes this poem?) is suggestive of the trust she has in the children and the ease she feels with nature. The image is calming for this fact also. Thus the image is reflective of what is later revealed by the Nurse in her song – that she has a pull towards duty (to care for the children), yet is willing to spoil them, to allow them to enjoy every waking hour of their stress-free childhood.
This reading is contradicted in the coupled poem within the “Songs of Experience”. It is interesting to note the images that frame the poem here are created using a similar colour palette, although, their portrayal of meaning is different. Making a social comment about the notion that males are far more superior and worth grooming than females, the image emulates accepted gender roles of the time. Like your boyfriend’s mate, poetry (in a pretentious English voice) is only meant to be read by women and for that matter, those who have nothing better to do with their time. Men, on the other hand, must be well looked after and fussed over because their worth in the world is far more valuable than a useless woman. This image rejects the innocent playtime that the previous children enjoyed and rather takes the view that play is not productive (cannot teach you anything, cannot create wealth, is futile from a Utilitarian perspective) and should be channeled into something educational. The Nurse however, does not look at ease as she did in the previous image. She appears anxious and distracted. Perhaps she is disappointed that her duty forces her to perpetuate the life of experience (no play, just work). Like you said though Marie, perspectives are definitely challenged and explored when looking at Blake’s poetry and other writings, especially within the Illuminated works which offer a realm of interpretative possibilities that you have experienced in you discussion the other night and that the rest of us enjoy during class!
Blake, the visionary, attempts to "recover the connection" (Malouf, Remembering Babylon p.29) between the unconscious and real state of humanity because as it appears, we have become obsessed with the materialism of world and have naively forgetton to find "a heaven in a wild flower". Blake's wish for us to discover the extraordinary in the ordinary and to regain our touch with our sensuality, instinct, passion and wisdom is his way of attempting to recreate a Golden Age - a world that was in touch with its humanity and knew no boundaries to the richness of nature. Blake understood and advocated that if humans could reunite their "zoas" (as featured in the above image), the Golden Age could be restored and humans would be able to enjoy a completed identity. Being a man that had utter distaste for structured religion, Blake understood that God was inside him and all, like a guiding light, and so to become in touch with one another would be to interact with a transcendent. In this case, he was well aware of the integrity of humans. In the end, if we can learn to see through our eyes and not with them, just as a child does, we could experience the true beauty of the world, it only takes one human force - the force of the imagination. As Blake believes, the imagination is of a higher order and an integral part of our lives. It can enhance and deepen our experience of the world. If you take your colour palette, (your life) squeeze out as many paints as you wish, (bring to the present as many memories that you can think of), and mix them up in wierd and wonderful ways, (good and bad) you will be amazed at the beauty that you can create at the tip of your fingers (finding the extraordinary). Guided by our Poetic Genius, we could experience the spiritual nature of the world without compromising its bliss through our limited perceptions.
Beyond the Bridge and the massive marshmello on a skewer,
The porcupine-like roofed structure and the city that knows no night;
Further than the labyrinth of suburban dwellings and in places where smiles are fewer,
The chaos and rumble of human traffic and where trees are a sight;
Away from mobile phone static and the hum of music from a deafening Ipod,
The seductive buzz and erratic flash of colour on the T.V;
Outside the bricks and steel and stone and where human emotions are shod,
The bellowing groan of trucks and where people are too invisible to disagree.
There is a meadow where pure souls dwell,
Where native birds sing in chime and bell.
A place not too far where branches intertwine,
Where water runs free like a slithering serpentine.
Somewhere unknown where the gentle breeze blows,
Where moist leaves dwindle as softly as air flows.
Someplace with no laws nor any distinct rule,
Where you can thrive as you will and act as a Fool.
A utopian destination where you decide your fate,
Where no one will judge nor discriminate.
A space of spiritual insight where appearances come last,
Where emotions are animated and encouraged to flow fast.
A site full of magic and light so bright and warm,
Where no one is turned away and deceit a foreign form.
Upon your entry, you are endowed with instinctual opportunity,
Where love is bound by trust, understanding and sincerity.
But this Jerusalem was destroyed and is now a mere dream,
A filament of an optimist’s imagination that has been filtered out;
Through strict authority and the curbing of freedom it may seem,
A human’s individuality, opinions and beliefs have been sucked dry and are now stout.
Bullying predators that encroach the Babylon and shadow any good,
That pride themselves on their pride and will entrap a subverting cabal;
They steal the gleaming glow that the country once enjoyed and could,
And have designed a mechanical distracted kingdom that is nothing beyond banal.
I can’t help but question: what constitutes “civilization”? Now I know the definition includes things like a diverse division of labour, structured social hierarchy and is say synonymous with ‘culture’, however I believe it to be much more than the superficial. A civilization is defined by their beliefs as a combined whole and also as individuals. I don’t necessarily think it would be morally right to classify people according to what culture or civilization they belong because each individual is entitled to their own opinions, attitudes and beliefs. Take for instance the most common example of Muslims. Just because certain people within our civilisation are associated with that religion, does not necessarily categorise all of them as terrorists. It would be ignorant and unjust to do so. You may be wondering why I may have brought this idea up. Well, I believe that Gemmy was a perfect victim of the terrible act of ‘classing’ people. Sometimes the categories we put people in, barricades them and confines them to the term you have bestowed upon them. Think about the common petty thief. The fact that we are quick to put him or her down and accuse them that they are not worth our social efforts and attention would actually coerce them into believing such a view and thus, make them find it hard to reform. If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will? Saying to someone “oh, you’re just a petty thief no-hoper” will have the person receiving lose hope and retreat within themselves because they feel worthless. Gemmy is not accepted by his ‘like’ people not because of his gender, looks or race; rather because he allowed himself to move past his barrier and be immersed in a civilization which is very different. And so why should he be so loathed by his own kind? There is no other reason other than ignorance and stupidity. They feel threatened by his knowledge of nature, by his instilled instinct and by his relationship with what is ‘real’ (happiness, human connection). What we must remember though is that Gemmy learned all these things because he is essentially ‘white’. Sometimes I find myself getting caught up in the story and I actually forget where Gemmy comes from. He seems so native and centrally gentle that I could very well mistake him for those good-natured people that brought him up. On that note, Gemmy actually allowed himself to learn, he let his obstacles fall and only then did he become one with those he met. If he was opposed to the new society and its attitudes, belief and culture, it would have been impossible for Gemmy to have survived and in turn become ‘more human’, which leads me to my next point. When reading this novel, I ponder the extent to which we can have a “real” world without recognizing the importance of the supernatural (or even natural) and those who allow it to inform and transform their lives. Without acknowledging the simple wonders, such as the beautiful, pure skin underneath Janet’s scab, other wonderful things will pass us by. Whilst we must adapt to our environments, we must not be passive civilians. We must learn from the serenity, growth and rebirth of nature, the companionship, dependant survival and loyalty of all the animals, and the history, tradition and culture found in our built environments. In Blake’s words “we must see the world in a grain of sand” and find the extraordinary in the ordinary, find the beauty in simplicity and the eternal nature of things intricate. In a nutshell, we must be aware.
Looking at Patti Smith
After a hectic first week filled with party preparations for my cousin’s 21st, long queues at the Co-op Bookstore, swapping tutorials, getting to know new faces and new tutors, re-organising work shifts, getting started on unit readings, catching up on all events of the holidays (so as to keep ‘connected’) and all other exciting things that fill my life…I finally sit here in front of my laptop, in an unusually frosty-aired study, still dressed in my pajamas, overlooking a beautifully sunny winter’s day, ready to reignite my friendly relationship with roselie87.livejournal.com. To inform you of some things you may read, see and experience with me this semester, allow your eyes to float over the next paragraph.
To grace the pages of this journal this semester will be the likes William Blake and David Malouf, combined with a myriad of Twenty and Twenty-first perspectives on the visionary imagination and I am more than excited to begin such a study! Our very first week into the unit wet our literary palettes with a look into what Ginsberg had to say about Blake as a way into Blake’s reputation, talent and workings. Being an alcoholic radical that is perhaps considered the modern day Blake, along with Patti Smith who keeps his ideologies alive, Ginsberg wrote a conversation appraisal of Blake’s works as a way of expressing his awe for the effect they have on his own life, realisations and beliefs. I was particularly taken aback by the quote “But the spirit of the universe was what I was born to realize” because at this very premature point, I believe that Blake willed his readers, viewers and followers to acknowledge the “spirit of the universe”, in which case, has obviously achieved. By this is mean that Blake disliked organized religion, etc because they try to categorise it into over-simplified creeds and practices, where as Blake believed that God was a more practical being in our lives and this His presence could not be measured but acts as a helping hand in any time we wish its grace to enter our lives. Although his idea may have been considered heretical in his time, Blake believed that God was not a distant, remote figure with laws that had to be obeyed; rather that he is connected and lives within man, which is something I’d like to think is true.
It is really uplifting to read Blake passages that have reference to how faith in a divine being may humble you by placing you within a greater whole. I love the way he looks at ordinary things and turns them into something extraordinary, challenging our complacency and how passively we live our lives. So often we take for granted things like the sun for instance, that we just expect to rise every morning. If we stop and really thing about it, how amazing is the sun? Something indestructible that aids tremendously in our survival, which can also contribute to so much death and devastation through drought, etc. It is an astounding light that brightens our everyday that brings us distinction. It actually patterns our life because we work our life around its cycle. It determines what we wear each day, sometimes what we do in our free time, influences our mood…no wonder Blake suggests that angels pull it up every morning – it is divine! Something else I found interesting in Ginsberg’s response was his epiphany that came about as a result of reading Blake, that tradition defines us because history is so much a part of our lives. By this I mean a person who loves painting will paint a picture, which will become part of our history because many years later, when we view it, we are appreciating their love that they have left through their toils. Another example that is more explicit in the passage is looking at a brick or carved stone on any ordinary building and then thinking about how at some stage in history, someone actually laid that brick or used their own hands to carve it. I then believe that Blake is hinting at the idea that we have lost our simple connection with the ordinary because we are too preoccupied and manipulated by advertising, money and other fabricated materialisms. He challenges us that we have the power to appreciate and to provide and tells us not to sell ourselves short. What a man! Can’t wait to find out more…