10 September 2017

Printmaking Progress

So part of my vacation included taking a printmaking class. This one focused on relief printmaking but used a Vandercook Proofing Press instead of an etching press or a baren. I've never used a proofing press, so it was an adventure. First we used different kinds of alphabet type to run prints, then they became the backgrounds for other prints. In setting the type we learned the odd terminology of typesetting and using a Vandercook press - placing 'furniture', quoins, keys, lock-up, platen, cylinders, packing, pressure, ink distribution and proofing. Whew!

The next day we brought our lino blocks and locked them in the press bed using the 'furniture'. We then ran prints using plain paper of different weights, and also used some of the pre-printed type images we made the day before. I used Tinman, a linoblock I carved in class. You'll see some of the variants below, along with another print I did cutting pieces out of a flexible medium that had a sticky backing. We stuck them down on an acrylic block positioned on the press. And locked in with furniture, of course. (Furniture is blocks of wood in various lengths and thicknesses that are used to position the block on the press and keep it from moving. Quoins are small metal rods that can be expanded with a Key to help make the whole thing immobile.)

After we finished with the press, there was still cleaning it, a lengthy and smelly process involving dismantling the press rollers, cleaning them with rags and solvent, cleaning underneath where the rollers were, and reassembling the whole thing. So if you wanted to do multiple colors, you spent a lot of time cleaning. Or you printed in one color and did another the next as we did.

What I learned in that class can be applied to my etching press and home studio. I have various blocks I've carved and will be printing them in the next few months. I also am doing a white line print for a Baren woodblock printmaking group. It's a new process for me, a bit tedious, but I think I like it. Those prints coming soon.

What did you do on YOUR vacation?

Dachshund print that refused to play nice in the press and kept fading. Hand printing for the naughty doggy.

27 August 2017

In a Pickle

Last hurrah for autumn.

One thing I love about the coming of fall is the bounty of produce available. I start plotting what to can during the summer, subject to change with the whims of the Farmer's Market. Cabbage for sauerkraut, Bok Choy for kimchi, Carrots and Cauliflower for pickled vegetables, Lemons for preserved lemons, Onions for relish, Fruits for jams, and a big favorite around our house, Cucumbers for pickles.

We generally only make two kinds of pickles, Kosher Dills, and Bread and Butter pickles. This afternoon I put up 8 quarts of bread and butter pickles. That should last us the winter. I think. Something about the sweet and sour taste, and the crispness that makes them irresistible.

Fermented foods are supposed to be good for your digestive system. I have no reason to doubt it, besides, they just taste good. We make all the pickled vegetables including the ever potent kimchi, kombucha, beer, sourdough bread, yogurt. I haven't gotten into making kefir yet, but I think that is coming. Also on my hit list is pickled beets. Anyone have a good recipe?

So what are your favorite pickle-ized things?  Anyone make Lemon Curd?  What other foody things do you have to share?

Pickles in waiting.

And still waiting. These are very patient cucumbers. I recommend them.

Super secret pickling concoction swirling in the pan.

Before and after. Ready for transformation. 

14 August 2017

A Few Words on Revision

Hay bales in the pasture. 

There seems to be a common misconception that because poetry is often short, it’s easy. 

It’s not. 

Good poetry takes work, and part of the work is revision. You may get lucky, and create a poem that needs little tightening up or tidying, but those poems are rare exceptions rather than the rule. A lot of people say, “What ever comes out of my head, onto the paper, that’s it. It’s a poem.” The feeling is that it either works, or it doesn’t work, either way the implication is that further revision is unnecessary or a waste of time. 

Nothing could be further from the truth. Most novelists wouldn’t let their first draft see the light of day, why is it acceptable for poetry? It makes poetry seem like the ugly stepchild of writing, not worthy of the love and attention given to longer works. Raw emotion puked onto the page isn’t enjoyable for anyone. Is it the excitement of creation – the instant gratification- that attracts the non-revisionist? Or the fear of taking a hard, critical look at the writing? Why not make the poem be all it can be, instead of kicking it to the curb right after it’s born? 

Revision is hard, it’s unpleasant, and it makes us doubt and question. Being honest with your poetry is the toughest thing you’ll do. If you can’t critically evaluate what you’ve written, how are you going to take the criticisms of others once your poem is let loose in the big, bad world? And they will criticize. Poetry can be written for oneself, but really, what is the point? You know your truths. You want to share/inflict them on others, or else you wouldn’t put them down on paper. Good poems should leave your senses bruised and battered, and at the same time, awed. They should inspire you in some way – as writer, as reader, as human being.

The fear of revision often comes from the fear of change. Changing even one line of your poem can mean altering its intent and message. Perhaps it’s meant to change. Maybe what you meant to say slipped out, but not in the manner you intended. Maybe you shoehorned the poem into a form it’s uncomfortable with. Is the real, true intent of the poem lying somewhere beneath the surface? You won’t know unless you dig down and pry away all the extraneous dreck that creeps into poetry in the name of ‘art’. If you want people to see the nuggets of truth, you need to scrape off the surface dirt and let it shine on its own. 

Poetry can be one of the most painful writing processes in terms of procedure. You can hide the truths in a novel length work, sneak up on them, and approach them obliquely. Even with short stories the approach is more leisurely. Due to its sparse nature, poetry is pretty much a head-on collision. If you can’t stare down the fierce-eyed headlight of the poetry train, get off the tracks. Write something else. You’ll be doing yourself and others a kindness. Poetry is not for the transient, the dabbler, the weak of purpose, and those with timid heart. It may sound harsh, and it’s meant to. If you don’t want to work at writing it, I don’t want to read it.
“So although the goal is universality, the poem’s arena of achievement is necessarily constricted and the poet’s attitude one of precarious transparency. Good poetry thus produced is cleansed of dross, of falsehood, and everything extraneous to the representation of the poet’s primary subject, inevitably an affirmation to the ideals in question. “Good” applied to poetry in this sense points to its moral significance, which coordinates the poet’s psychological need with an aesthetic aim in the interest of creations that exceed a narrow construct of either. The cure of poetry is the achievement of the poem’s rescue from an accumulation of prosaic impulses that stanch the spring of feeling and idea.”
Kinzie, Mary. The Cure of Poetry in an Age of Prose: Moral Essays on the Poet's Calling. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press, 1993.

*This essay is a reprint of one of my previous essays.

30 July 2017

The Value of Silence

What nature gives, nature can also take away.

Last week the lights went out. Along with the power for everything in our house. It was heralded by an unbelievably loud crack of thunder and stab of lightning. The house plunged into darkness. And silence. This time of year we have air conditioners and fans running. Corgis don't do well in the heat. We want them to be comfortable. The background noise is something you get used to. Now it was gone, along with the quiet hum of the refrigerator and various background sounds of electrical appliances. The house was completely still. It was a bit of a shock. I grabbed my phone and used it as a flashlight to check the fuse box. Not us. We waited patiently for everything to come back on. Electrical crews usually worked fast. Nothing happened. The outage must be big. I got a glimpse of what the term 'deathly silence' meant. I could hear a ringing in my ears as if the sounds were still there.

We grabbed our flashlights and made our way to the front door and out onto the porch. The whole neighborhood was black. No street lights, no porchlights, like a ripple the darkness spread out. We turned off the flashlights and stood watching the show of lightning as it sliced toward the ground and horizontally, cloud to cloud. The thunder finally reduced to occasional grumbles as the storm moved away. It was peaceful. And dark, did I mention dark? As I got used to it, I began to enjoy it. The dogs sat with us, not digging the storm or thunder. Sitting in the dark, petting a dog, I was content. There wasn't even any of that lingering nervousness that a diet of pre-teen horror movies could bring on. This was a good quiet, one born of nature, the feeling you get when you camp in a meadow and look up at the stars.

What a contrast to the day they cut a fiber optic line and our cable, internet, and cell phones went down. It was like cutting junkies off from a fix. I found myself turning to my phone to find updates, only to realize my phone was a brick to the outside world. The world shrunk down to the space I occupied. And it lasted for hours. Our work is tied to the ability to access the Internet. I played games on my phone that didn't require a connection. I cleaned my office. I filed papers. Finally, after a few hours, I went home. Somehow being home with no connections is better than being at work. I wondered what it would be like to lose electrical service and all the other connections all at the same time. Unplugged from the world. I'd like to think I'd take the time to sit, and get in touch with my inner Constance.

What would you do if cut off from power and the rest of the world? 

*Lightning photo courtesy of Pixabay.

16 July 2017

Puppy Max

I felt like doing a flashback post, so I give you Puppy Max.

A few months old and already plotting his herding chores.

Napping after a hard day of dogging.

Contemplating which mischief he will get into next.

"The stealthy Corgi lies in wait for his arch nemesis, Anubis D. Cat." 

Posing with one of my humans.

Max at 6 weeks old. Ears up and ready to fly. After a nap, of course.

Every pizza you bake, every snack you make, I'll be watching you.