William Blake, Our Contemporary

Could Allen Ginsberg have written “Howl” without him?

By Michael Glover

The great painter William Blake (1757-1827) traveled far in the realms of gold, to borrow a phrase from John Keats, but much less far in the body. (He lived in various parts of London for all but a little more than three years of his relatively long life.)

So, where did he go when he was not actually using his legs? According to Blake himself, the only known authority, he regularly conversed with Sophocles, Aristotle, and Jesus. And then there were the angels, many of whom were also his fast friends. He had his first angelic conversations on Peckham Rye, a glorious park, still thoroughly angelic in appearance and character, in south London. Did anyone mind?

When asked after his death whether she had any complaints about his behavior, Blake’s long-suffering wife Catherine tentatively mentioned an innate predisposition to spend a little too much time “in paradise.”

“I have very little of Mr. Blake’s company,” she said

In recent years, Blake’s works have traveled quite far physically through the galleries of Tate Britain, the principal earthly depository of his delicate works in the United Kingdom. This spring, the London museum had a major re-hang. The last time this had happened was in 2013, under Penelope Curtis, its last director. That year, a dedicated Blake Room was created inside the Clore Gallery. The extension, which opened in 1987, was created to show off prized works from the enormous J. M. W. Turner bequest. Blake had his own little room carved out of it to show off a choice selection of his paintings and prints.

William Blake
William Blake, “Satan Smiting Job with Sore Boils” (circa 1826)

The walls were royal blue. The space was very dimly lit because works by Blake are so fragile and so light-sensitive. His pioneering use of mixed media makes them very unstable. They are often not on show for very long.

Was Blake thoroughly embedded in the 18th and 19th centuries? Only partially.

His prints, and especially those commissioned by clients, are often thoroughly neo-classical in feel and execution. But when he was let loose to make works of his own imaginings, he was a wild thing, a freelance mythologizer, a blazing forerunner of psychedelia.

This spring the Blake Room of 2013 disappeared from amongst the Turners, and 15 Blakes did a flit to the other side of Tate Britain, in the general direction of modernity.

This is a good decision. Turner and Blake had precious little to talk about.

William Blake
William Blake, “The Simoniac Pope” (1824–7)

Blake now lives in room 7 beside a gallery devoted to a selection of works by Chris Ofili, a contemporary painter upon whom he has had a huge influence. Ofili loves Blake’s use of color, his free-flowing line, and his unparalleled ability to conjure into fantastical beings.

This decision, at a stroke, tells us a lot about Blake and his posthumous fame and reach. He was always out of key with his times. This is why he was ignored, abused, and so thoroughly misunderstood during his lifetime.

In fact, Blake feels very close to the near present. The doors of perception opened up to him almost 200 years ago. Could Allen Ginsberg have written “Howl” without him?

I recall, as if it were yesterday, one rainy evening I spent in a giant marquee at the Hay Festival in the early 1990s. Ginsberg was sitting on a chair on the stage in front of me, squeeze-box bouncing up and down on his bony knees as he sang, with painfully exquisite tunelessness, a fragment of a famous verse from Blake’s Songs of Innocence: “…And all the hills echo-ed.”

He sang it over and over, over and over, over and over, and over.

Source: William Blake, Our Contemporary

Obituary: Jan Morris, a poet of time, place and self

She was an award-winning journalist and author with more than 40 books under her belt.

Jan Morris, who has died at the age of 94, was one the finest writers the UK has produced in the post-war era.

Her life story was crammed with romance, discovery and adventure. She was a soldier, an award-winning journalist, a novelist and – as a travel writer – became a poet of time and place.

She was also known as a pioneer in her personal life, as one of the first high-profile figures to change gender. Continue reading

Kae Tempest “Hold Your Own”

When time pulls lives apart
Hold your own

When everything is fluid, and when nothing can be known with any certainty
Hold your own

Hold it ’til you feel it there
As dark, and dense, and wet as earth
As vast, and bright, and sweet as air
When all there is
Is knowing that you feel what you are feeling
Hold your own

Ask your hands to know the things they hold
I know the days are reeling past in such squealing blasts
But stop for breath and you will know it’s yours
Swaying like an open door when storms are coming

Time is an onslaught
Love is a mission
We work for vocation until
In remission
We wish we’d had patience and given more time to our children

Feel each decision that you make
Make it, hold it
Hold your own
Hold your lovers
Hold their hands
Hold their breasts in your hands, like your hands were their bras
Hold their face in your palms like a prayer
Hold them all night, feel them hold back
Don’t hold back
Hold your own

Every pain
Every grievance
Every stab of shame
Every day spent with a demon in your brain giving chase
Hold it

Know the wolves that hunt you
In time, they will be the dogs that bring your slippers
Love them right and you will feel them kiss you when they come to bite
Hhot snouts digging out your cuddles with their bloody muzzles

Nothing you can buy will ever make you more whole
This whole thing thrives on us feeling always incomplete
And it is why we will search for happiness in whatever thing it is we crave in the moment
And it is why we can never really find it there
It is why you will sit there with the lover that you fought for
In the car you sweated years to buy
Wearing the ring you dreamed of all your life
And some part of you will still be unsure that this is what you really want
Stop craving
Hold your own

But if you’re satisfied with where you’re at, with who you are
You won’t need to buy new make-up, or new outfits, or new pots and pans
To cook new exciting recipes
For new exciting people
To make yourself feel like the new exciting person, you think you’re supposed to be

Happiness, the brand, is not happiness
We are smarter than they think we are
They take us all for idiots
But that’s their problem
When we behave like idiots
It becomes our problem

So hold your own
Breathe deep on a freezing beach
Taste the salt of friendship
Notice the movement of a stranger
Hold your own
And let it be

Kate Tempest is changing her pronouns

THE HOBBLEDEHOY loves Kate Tempest and now we love Kae. Here’s Kae’s latest message from her Facebook:

Hello old fans, new fans and passers by – I’m changing my name! And I’m changing my pronouns. From Kate to Kae. From she/her to they/them. I’ve been struggling to accept myself as I am for a long time. I have tried to be what I thought others wanted me to be so as not to risk rejection. This hiding from myself has led to all kinds of difficulties in my life. And this is a first step towards knowing and respecting myself better. I’ve loved Kate. But I am beginning a process and I hope you’ll come with me. From today – I will be publishing my books and releasing my music as Kae Tempest! It’s pronounced like the letter K. It’s an old English word that means jay bird. Jays are associated with communication, curiosity, adaptation to new situations and COURAGE which is the name of the game at the moment. It can also mean jackdaw which is the bird that symbolises death and rebirth. Ovid said the jackdaw brought the rain. Which I love. It has its roots in the Latin word for rejoice, be glad and take pleasure. And I hope to live more that way each day. Funny because I know this is much more of a big deal to me than it is to anyone else, but because of my role as artist, it is in some ways a public decision as well as being a private one. So, here is my announcement. Sending my love to you all and wishing you courage as you face whatever you must face today. This is a time of great reckoning. Privately, locally, globally. For me, the question is no longer ‘when will this change’ but ‘how far am I willing to go to meet the changes and bring them about in myself.’ I want to live with integrity. And this is a step towards that.
Sending LOVE always

Cheers, Kae!