Cedar Postcards

I’ve begun making a series of postcards. Here are the first two I’ve designed, back from the printer. These are combinations of two poems I’ve written superimposed on two of my linocuts. You can also see the postcards in my etsy shop.

I decided to give the series a name and hit upon naming them in honour of my beloved childhood dog–a beagle named Cedar.

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Leonard Cohen

The great great poet and song writer Leonard Cohen died yesterday. I was very fortunate to see and hear him perform a few years ago in Toronto when he filled a stadium with fans of all ages.  He and the musicians with him gave the most generous long gracious show.

This is in remembrance of Leonard and in honour of his poetry and songs that make it easier to carry on with life.

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Saturday, Nov. 12: I learned today that Leonard Cohen didn’t die on the 10th–the day his death was reported–but a few days earlier on Monday, November 7th.


A Poem for An Old Woodcut

As I continue turning some of my early prints into booklets, I’m playing around with words I might include with the prints. This last print I’ve been working with (the one that’s also in my previous post) has a lot of black ink in it.  And that got me thinking about some writing I did a few years ago. In 2014 I took a poetry writing workshop at the Art Gallery of Ontario.  After our meetings, I’d often wander around the Gallery, looking at various art works.  This prose and poem came out of one of those meanderings.  I’m contemplating the design of the booklet and will show it to you when I’ve completed it.

Here’s another photo of the woodcut I plan to use that I’ve cut down the middle.

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And here’s the prose and poem:

Black Waterfall

On a day when the tomb-like qualities of the gallery seep into me too much, I enter the rooms of David Milne’s paintings looking for peace.  I find some here, away from the more flashy works of Lauren Harris and Frank Carmichael.  Milne’s are quieter, less assuming, but they give back to me, emitting life.

I stand looking at one that I like.  It’s called Black Waterfall, a scene in the woods by a small falls.  The water is, indeed, black, the colours subdued.  After many minutes, I am surprised to see what I hadn’t noticed: Milne, himself, at his easel in the upper left of the painting.  He’s the same colours as the trees, rocks and earth.  He has disappeared into the scene or become one with it.  I like the humility, the humour and the wisdom of his image, considering where the alienation from nature has taken humanity.

This is a painting I can carry with me, softening the dense traffic of the city, helping me inhale forested air where rivers flow, while the ghost of the artist amidst the trees silently witnesses my passing presence.

*

By the black waterfall

the painter has disappeared

into the trees, rocks and soil

where, being invisible,

he can more closely observe passersby

and the woods and water he’s depicting

camouflaged at his easel like a deer

but not bolting

steady of hand and sight

neither a conqueror

nor a slave

embodying a gentle way

to save a life.

©Lily S. May–May 2014


Reading Old Prints

I’ll be showing you more photos from my trip to Spain, but meanwhile I’ve begun a project to transform many of my old prints into origami books. I first did this when I sent some prints as mail art, but haven’t continued sending them out. Here’s the plan which may change over time. I’m going to go through the lino and wood cuts I’ve made, save one or two of each for myself and make the rest into simple origami booklets. That entails cutting the prints (the most shocking part) and folding them. I’m going to then adhere some poems I’ve written onto the prints turned booklets.

Here’s the beginning of the first experiment, showing a pile of prints, one of them cut up and two folded booklets. I’ll show you some of the finished works later.Pile of Prints

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The Emptiness We Require

A few years ago, I entered several notebooks and photographs in The Sketchbook Project.  In 2012, I sent away for another moleskine book.  I had previously written a poem that I thought would paradoxically work with the topic “Fill me with Stories.” I made a book using very simple line drawings and printing.  I can’t recall why I didn’t send the book in.  Instead, I kept it and found it again the other week while I was straightening out old sketchbooks and notebooks. Here it is.

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The Emptiness We Require

We were empty of ourselves at first

part of sky and sea

feather, rock and sand.

We were sun and moon

lion and ant

wind and snow.

Then we learned our names

and felt alone.

Ocean no longer flowed in our veins

and we hunted the lion and elephant.

Now we are in need of stories

particularly those of love

that fill us with the emptiness we require

to encompass more

than we imagined our lives to be.

–Lily S. May


The Road

Last week while looking through the sketchbook in which I found the artwork for my previous post, I came upon a drawing I had forgotten. A few years ago I used the drawing as a starting point for an oil painting. The painting was, in its style, unlike other work I had done.  In the painting, the little bird in the tree has disappeared and the animal on the ground is now walking alone.  

A phrase just came to mind: Alone and the road before me.  I knew I had heard it before somewhere.  Then I remembered the magnificent poetry of Ghassan Zaqtan.  One of his poems is Alone and the River Before Me, translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah in Like a Straw Bird It Follows Me.  That line had morphed into the one that I thought of. 

Here’s the drawing and the painting.

Line drawing by Lily S. May, ©2008

Line drawing by Lily S. May, ©2008

 

Oil Painting by Lily S. May, ©2009

Oil Painting by Lily S. May, ©2009


March 13: Mahmoud Darwish

Detail, Wool Felt by Lily S. May

The great poet, Mahmoud Darwish, was born on March 13 in Palestine. Different sources have dated his birth to both 1941 and ’42. He died in August 2008. At any rate, today I am celebrating his birth. His words have added more beauty to my life than I can adequately describe. 

From the book The Butterfly’s Burden, which holds English translations by Fady Joudah and the poems in their original Arabic, are these lines that I love:

Tell me how you lived your dream
in some place, and I’ll tell you who you are
–Mahmoud Darwish, ‘Now When You Awaken, Remember’