22 May 2014

Feeding pigeons out on a limb

Deborah Stevenson and Jacob Sam-La Rose

To the Roundhouse yesterday for the launch of Deborah Stevenson's poetry pamphlet Pigeon Party where Jacob Sam-La Rose did a brilliant job of MC-ing the event.

As you'd expect from Debris Stevenson it was a launch party like no other. Or as a friend put it: "Deborah totally smashed it".

The aftermath - this pigeon stuff just does not wash off

04 April 2014

10 March 2014

You want weapons? We're in a library. This room's the greatest arsenal we could have.

Paper can be written on, printed, illuminated, illustrated, annotated, highlighted, defaced, written over, scored out, erased, and written on again. It can be cut, ripped, torn, shredded, crumpled, spindled, folded, drenched, digested in acid, composted, riddled by insects, invaded by hyphae, and burned to extinction.

Compared to the plastic bag, that cockroach of the apocalypse, paper is one of the most perishable and human materials we have invented.

Sappho's books were first ordered burned by Pope Gregory Nazianzenn in 380 CE and again by Pope Gregory VII in 1073 CE - burnings which were driven by the anti-pagan zeal of the Byzantine emperors, rather than any queasiness over Sappho’s sexuality. Poets may be the unacknowledged legislators of the world, but our legislators are often unable to resist a bit of make believe.

Given such treatment it is no surprise that Tzetzes, writing in the 11th century, said that “time has frittered away Sappho and her works.” But things are never as simple as that where paper is concerned.

Although it is estimated that only ten per cent of Sappho's works are currently known, it is a remarkable, and heartening, fact that we discover more of her poems every year. One poem was found amongst the grave cloths of a mummified crocodile. Others have been found on the torn papyrus, or cartonnage, used to pack bodies in coffins.

Earlier this year a complete poem was discovered on a papyrus fragment found during the excavation of the municipal dump of the Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus. The townspeople of Oxyrhynchus seem to have treated the dump as a landfill library, disposing of every sort of written paper there, from census records to grocery lists. And because paper was so precious, the pages are often palimpsests: compound documents of title deeds, household accounts,  letters and homework, all superimposed on one another. And poems. Somewhere in all those layers of writing there are poems, poems by Sappho, lost for thousands of years, and invisible to the naked eye, but revealed by laser scanning...

Fragment 38

"you burn me" - Sappho
a thousand years
after they first drew breath
her words burned  
do you understand?
her words
Heretics and
are best cleansed by fire 
again you misunderstand -
we are scientists
not Philistines 
we advance by experiment
destroying any data
that contradicts our hypothesis
until we arrive at the truth

He embraced censorship
As proof that the poems
He abjectly doubted
Had hidden merits
So deadeningly absent
From the works they left him
His hopes of immortality
Pinned on a body of work
That didn't exist 
Poets died
But he saved their books
His attic
Became the library of Alexandria
The place of the cure of the soul
- Or so he imagined
Before the nightmares began
Before he assumed the mask 
Of Herostratus

The PaperLove Blog Hop is a celebration of all things paper! Follow the links to discover more bloggers who love paper and use it to inspire and delight. And if you want to explore a whole world of paper, and stretch your paper passion further with a host of creative projects, why not join the innovative new online course PaperLove (starts March 31). Led by me, book artist Rachel Hazell, PaperLove is a five week creative adventure for paper lovers. Find out more here.

Participant list
Majo Bautista / Tona Bell Louise Best Cathy Bluteau / Jennifer Bomgardner / Giova Brusa /Lindsay Buck / Beka Buckley / Joanna Caskie / Jonathan Chapman (Mr Yen) / Halle Cisco / Sarah Clare / Cathryn Clarge / Dawn Clarkson / Rhiannon Connelly Jenny D’Fuego / Molly Dhiman /Ian Dudley / Ayisatu Emore / Akmal Farid / Monika Forsberg / Claire Fritz-Domeney / Louise GaleChrissy Gaskell / Julie Hamilton / Emma Hawman / Rachel Hazell / Holly Helgeson / Claudine Hellmuth / Kim Henkel / Sarah Hoffman / Joanne Hus / Paula Joerling / Beth Kempton / Julie Kirk / Eos Koch / Katie LaClair / Kristy Lankford / Michelle Manolov / Doreen Marts Rosie Martinez-Dekker / Tori Mears / Maria Mederios / Lise Meijer / Debbie Miller / MaryJane Mitchell /Suzy Naidoo / Grace Noel / Hannah Nunn / Camilla Olsson / Jo Packham / Rachelle Panagarry /Monette Pangan / Melanie Paul Nicole Piar / Jen Pitta / Liz Plummer Julie Reed /Michelle Reynolds / Lisa Rivas Angee Robertson / Natalie Ryan / Aisling Ryan / Elisabet Sapena / Kyrrha Sevco / Jamie Sprague / Elizabeth Steele / Terri Stephens / Juniper Stokes / Mary Tanana / Maike Thoma / Linda Tieu Gabrielle Treanor / Tammy Tutterow / Deborah Velasquez / Jordan Vinograd Kim / Cat Whipple / Brooke Witt / Katie Wood Amelia Woodbridge

18 February 2014

Follow me for papery goodness

I'm taking part in the Paper Love blog hop this March. (Click the Blog Hop button on the right for more information, or if you want to join in yourself).

I have to say, however much I love paper and pens (and I have a serious habit) the vast majority of my writing and editing gets done on the iPad these days. I feel bad about that, but it is just so ergonomic and convenient.

On the other hand, I do have a Hobonichi Techo planner, a handmade notebook, a brace of Herbin pens, and a pocket full of Kaweco pens on my desk at the moment, so...

Anyway, if you want to read a blog post about my love of paper, check back on the evening of 10 March.

17 February 2014

22 December 2013


A visit to the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in my teens fixed my lifetime fascination with his art. Seeing the familiar paintings in real life made me realise how much wattage they lost in reproduction. The few pictures I'd found weak or pointless when I saw them in books made perfect sense when they were right before my eyes. With the usual contrariety of youth, it was Van Gogh's pen and ink drawings that moved me even more than his symphonic paintings.

Another early love was the printmaking of Durer and Rembrandt, and all of this fed naturally into an interest in Japanese art.

Gregory Irvine's book traces the influence of the rise of Japonisme and the Art Nouveau movement on Western art, including Van Gogh, Whistler, Monet, Manet, Klimt and Schiele.

Greg maybe a friend, but this is a seriously good book, being named by the Financial Times as one of its books of the year.

20 October 2013


Here is a series of prints I made of a drypoint etching of a nightjar I saw on my summer holiday in Aveyron, France.

First printing

Cryptic nightjar with chine colle camouflage. My favourite print, but no one else's.

Multi colour print

The course tutor's favourite image

02 July 2013


Last weekend we placed the memorial stone on Freya's grave. Here are some pictures from the work in progress in the workshop of Bernard Johnson, stone carver and letter cutter.

11 May 2013

Art Week

We're participating in Oxford Art Week. This is my favourite piece, a dodo in bronze resin made by my wife.

Picture taken on a 55 year old Yashica 635 twin lens reflex camera.

10 April 2013


One of the most interesting responses to the death of Margaret Thatcher was by Russell Brand (published in The Guardian).

When I awoke today on LA time my phone was full of impertinent digital eulogies... 
Interestingly, one mate of mine, a proper leftie, in his heyday all Red Wedge and right-on punch-ups, was melancholy. "I thought I'd be overjoyed, but really it's just … another one bites the dust …" This demonstrates, I suppose, that if you opposed Thatcher's ideas it was likely because of their lack of compassion, which is really just a word for love. If love is something you cherish, it is hard to glean much joy from death, even in one's enemies.

06 April 2013

The AllTrials Campaign

The safe introduction of new medical treatments requires clinical trials. The problem is that the results of almost half of the clinical trials undertaken have not been published, and some have not even been registered. The information gathered during these trials is effectively lost, and cannot be used to improve the treatment of patients, or to guide future research. 

All Trials are campaigning for the registration of all clinical trials, and the full disclosure of their methods and results.

They are running a petition to persuade governments, regulators and research bodies to ensure that this happens. You can find it here if you want to sign.

30 March 2013

No cigar

Entered the Hungry Hill short story competition 2013, and got shortlisted twice, but didn't win.

You can read one of the stories Instructions for Patients here if interested.