Discover more from A load off my mind
#53 A list of things to share over a cuppa
creativity, fantasy, poetry, Californian sounds and insomnia.
a cup of tea.
"a good strong cuppa"
"let's have another cuppa tea"
1. A Note from me
I'm happy to have found the time to write down a few things I've seen this week, thinking you might be interested in them too.
It's been a minute since I have sat down and written one of these random list posts. I've missed sharing what I have been consuming and thinking about with you.
I have a bit of a monkey brain, as I tend to jump from one thing to another, but I tend to gravitate towards the same things, mainly music, books, poetry, and other similarly related items. I hope to share this list; we might find some common ground.
Perhaps you will discover something to spark your interest, or you can suggest something I might find interesting. Let's start a discussion.
Sit down with a cuppa together with me.
2. What I've been reading
This week, I started reading the third book in the Sarah J Mass Court of Thorns and Roses series. I am not generally a series or genre reader, but I am trying to have different reading experiences. Hence my arrival to book three: A Court of Wings and Ruin.
To be honest, I did get into the first couple of books; I enjoyed Maas's writing, and the mixture of adventure, romance and action drew me in. The world she creates is a mixture of lord of the Rings, Twilight, C.S Lewis, A game of thrones, Beauty and the Beast and a pinch of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The series is a real cocktail of fairytale, fantasy and magical lore, something deeply familiar yet exciting and emotional with characters that leap off the page. It is a real page turner that is a whole lot of fun, intrigue and mystery as we explore the Faerie Realms through the main character of Feyre (I won't go into too much detail in case you want to read the series, but Feyre's journey takes us into the heart of the fantasy world of magic and magical beings created by Sarah J Mass.)
It's taking me a bit to get back into the groove of the series as it's been a couple of months between the other books as I went and read a few other things in between, but it's going to be a chill read for the summer for sure.
I now understand why people love reading series; they get to spend more time with the characters they know and gather a deeper understanding of the writer's particular spin on mythology; it is all very immersive. This series is a great start to delve into a well-written and fascinating world.
3. Common place quote
I am a collector of advice, wisdom and observation, so I have endless notes and quotes from everything I have read. I gather my favourite quotes into one place, which is known as a commonplace book filled with quips to remember and learn from.
This week's gem is from one of my favourite writers George Saunders whose newsletter is always filled with observations on the nature of writing and creativity.
Writing is neurological work, ultimately: the intersection of a particular mind with a specific experience. Each writer's mind runs in a certain way; it favours certain things, and reasons like this or like that are drawn, inexplicably, to specific topics, light up linguistically for certain reasons. The writer's particular experience has presented her with specific hardships, proclivities, delights, and struggles. It also creates, through the process of the work, certain traps that that very same mind needs to find a way to escape.
4. What I've been watching
I have just finished watching the intriguing adaptation of Neil Gaiman's fantasy series The Sandman on Netflix. Once again, I am not a genre fan, but I found it fascinating to watch. Gaiman's unique mixture and reinterpretation of mythology, religion and fantasy creates an intricate world that his readers adore.
The Sandman has a positively religious following, and I can see how the imagination of Gaiman can entice people. I have a problem with violence and the grotesque, which Gaiman seems to delight in; he has a great knack for creating the most loathsome villains, and his worlds are always dark and nightmarish. And I can't entirely agree with some of his reinterpretations which seem a little grating to my sensibility. That is my personal reaction.
But hey, if you love fantasy, Neil Gaiman is your man. He does suck you in very quickly, a testament to his skill as a great writer and creator of worlds.
5. Poem of the week
I love poetry and will always hunt down some to read nearly daily. Possibly the best source of new and old poets for me has to be the Paris Review.
I was a subscriber until a couple of editions went missing in the post (which isn't the magazine's fault, it's all about the dodgy Italian postal system). But I enjoy their newsletter, which shares the best from their back catalogue.
I always look forward to the weekly edition in my inbox. This week they sent this poem from Cynthia Cruz, which nailed down the exciting ideas surrounding the nature and interpretation of poetry.
I would like this poem
to be a machine.
a counting apparatus.
A means to keep each moment
contained and fixed, akin
to a series of Polaroids,
photographed and fixed
to cardboard or some other
Then photographed and affixed
with Scotch tape to the wall.
Or, a vitrine, a glass case,
within which to gather and collect
each moment, each object
representing each moment.
A bundle, assemblage, or archive
constructed of letters and notes,
diary entries and fragments,
articles and photographs
torn from books.
A machine that measures
the space between
the body and the mind,
the dissonance that exists
inside that moment. And there,
in that static, in the rip,
the mar, the error
between, is where,
when it begins, it will
6. What I've been listening to
Over the past month, I have been obsessively listening to the soundtrack to the documentary Echo in the Canyon, directed by Andrew Slater, which is all about the birth of the California sound of the mid-sixties.
The documentary celebrates the popular music that came out of Los Angeles Laurel Canyon neighbourhood in the mid-1960s as folk was blended with rock by bands like the Byrds, the Beach Boys, Buffalo Springfield and the Mamas and the Papas. It was a prolific time of experimentation and collaboration from 1965 to 67 when bands came to L.A. to emulate the Beatles, and the area became a focus for a new generation of musicians to create a uniquely American sound.
It is hosted by Jakob Dylan (musician and son of Bob Dylan), who explores the Laurel Canyon scene through a series of interviews that reveal personal details behind the band and their songs. The music inspired Dylan to interpret and perform many of these classic songs in a concert at L.A.'s Orpheum Theatre.
The Echo in the Canyon album is filled with beautiful reinterpretations of these timeless songs by Jakob Dylan, Back, Fiona Apple, Cat Power, Jade Castinos, Regina Spektor and Norah Jones.
Listening to these songs takes you back to an idealistic time in recent history, which melds a fold tradition with modern rock experimentation. It makes you want to travel back to the Canyon, where these talented musicians sat around and jammed together to create a new, timeless, universal genre.
Yes, I am obsessed and have added some songs onto our Eclectic Listening playlist on Spotify. Go over and listen to what I’ve been discovering this year.
7. What I've been thinking about
This week I read an excerpt from poet Mary Oliver's selected essays, Upstream, which hit a chord with me. She extrapolated the nature of creative work as a way of reinterpreting life, a vocation that needs to be done with energy and determination. To make something fresh and new, the artist is interacting with eternity.
Mary Oliver's essays are going into my reading pile sometime soon.
In creative work—creative work of all kinds—those who are the world's working artists are not trying to help the world go around but forward. Which is something altogether different from the ordinary.
Such work does not refute the ordinary. It is, simply, something else. Its labor requires a different outlook—a different set of priorities.
Certainly there is within each of us a self that is neither a child, nor a servant of the hours. It is a third self, occasional in some of us, tyrant in others. This self is out of love with the ordinary; it is out of love with time. It has a hunger for eternity.
8. Newsletter love
I have been enjoying V E Schwab's newsletter this week.
I enjoy the conversational tone and how she invites us into her daily life as if we are friends sharing coffee while sitting at the same table.
While being a wildly successful, devilishly busy, epically productive and loved fantasy series writer, she always has time to chat with her readers.
Her style is so conversational and open. I love it.
Here is her introduction to this week's newsletter where she writes:
It's my birthday, and even though I'm a summer baby, I am not a summer child. I have traded my cold-weather goth for hot-weather goth, but I am clinging to every strip of shade.
I heard a thunderstorm rolling in, and I'm hoping for a good downpour. I can't think of anything I want more this birthday than to stand beneath a crashing wall of water, and let it wash my bones clean.
In the meantime, grab an iced drink (I have a fairly pitiful recreation of my favorite iced latte from Tanifiki), and join me on the couch, beneath the big umbrella in the garden.
We have so much to talk about.
9. Image of the week
I have gradually been getting back into doing some digital collage pieces. I have started a new project titled 'All our Ancestors', which I hope to use to launch into my next novel.
I am starting to write some stories from my family tree. I have gathered many old photographs which have been talking to me.
They have been inspiring.
Here is one image I’ve been working on this week.
We are well and truly in the middle of a torrid, humid and uncomfortable summer in Sicily. Which inevitably leads to sleepless nights and insomnia.
Strangely enough, sleep science was the topic in this week's edition of The Marginalian newsletter, where infamous insomniac artist and writer Bill Hayes turned the experience of his sleepless nights into an insightful biography (Sleep Demon's: an in insomniacs memoir).
While confiding in his friend Maurice Sendak (children's author and illustrator of the classic Where the wild things are), he offers Hayes and all the rest of us some valuable advice:
"You know what I do when I can't sleep?" he explained. "I sit up in bed, push the curtains back, and pull up the window shade." Maurice, who'd had a run of serious illnesses, including a major heart attack, said he used to feel frightened and anxious when he couldn't sleep but now appreciates an aspect of it. "The night air makes me feel safe. Real." He inhaled slowly, as though savouring a whiff he'd brought with him. "I'm not afraid to die. The one thing I will miss most, though, is air at nightlife coming through the window."
Here's to savouring the night air and trying to get a good night's sleep.
I hate to be long-winded, so I will stop here.
I'll try to share something worthwhile, well thought out and new here every week, perhaps more often if I get frisky or in some kind of karmic writing zone.
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Speak again soon.
With love and light from RDB
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