Nina Katchadourian: Artist or Poet?

Proof you don’t need punctuation to be poignant.

I love all things avant-garde especially when people experiment with different mediums and forms of expression. Nina Katchadourian’s work is engaging and refreshing, she sorts through large collections of books until she finds titles that can be arranged to form a message.

Her project began in 1993 and now features over 130 works. She refers to them as ‘sequences’ rather than art or poetry, but many of the longer collections have musical rhythms and qualities. The project has taken her far and wide but her aim has always remained the same: ‘to examine that particular library’s focus, idiosyncrasies, and inconsistencies — a cross-section of that library’s holdings.’

A friend of mine said that while she appreciated the originality, the title of the project – Sorted Books – highlight’s its simplicity. But is there any difference in taking words from the spine of a book than taking them from your consciousness or the pages of a dictionary?

Time to go rummage through your collection…

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What if money were no object?

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In 2010, when I had to start thinking about applying for university, I had a huge decision to make… Pursue a lucrative and stable career in chemical engineering, or follow my passion and study to be an author and editor. I had my fair share of people tell me that at my age money was the sensible goal, and in truth I would have very much enjoyed being an engineer.

But I wouldn’t love it.

While it intrigued me it didn’t inspire me like literature does and that was the crux for me.

Take a few minutes to be inspired by Alan Watts and ask yourself: what do you desire?

http://youtu.be/tZ7Y1-0bNeQ

Never underestimate the powers of the humble book…

Brain ScanThe decline in adults actively reading for pleasure is well documented – a recent study showed that 28% of adults hadn’t read a book in the past year – that being said, however, book sales are still on the rise, revenue was up 7.4% in 2012 according to the American Association of Publishers. Despite the recent digital takeover the contribution to total sales from ebooks is expected to settle at around 20-25%; it seems people still respect and appreciate the power of tangible pages and ink.

Regardless of medium, the industry is proving robust in a transitional phase. If you haven’t picked up any fiction in a while or you’ve been buried in textbooks, check out DNews’s video on the brain-boosting benefits of a good novel. Research showed that 30 minutes of reading a day increases language and motor skills for five days afterwards. It also improved participant’s ability to empathise with the feelings of others.

In addition to this, reading has previously been proven more relaxing than listening to music or taking a stroll and it also helps reduce susceptibility to Alzheimer’s or dementia. Reading improves your memory by forging new synaptic pathways as well as strengthening existing ones and can ease depression and mental health issues; the list is extensive.

If you’re looking for something good to read or you’re stuck in a rut, check out my Bookshelf Basics and my piece on Reader’s Block.

You cannot open a book without learning something.” – Confucius

Peter Callensen: GSM Genius

Though Danish artist Peter Callesen is a relative unknown in the world of art, few possess the  patience and meticulous attention to detail seen in his work. The pieces in his gallery are some of the most intricately crafted that you’re likely to see; using just a single sheet, from A4 up to billboard size, Callesen contrasts positive and negative space, often leaving a cut-out shadow of the sculpture.

If you appreciate Callesen’s work then you need to check out Dalton Ghetti and Willard Wigan, two artists exploiting uniquely fascinating mediums.

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  Click here to see more of Callensen’s work.

My Treehouse

For this poem I reworked my first Flash Fridays piece into iambic pentameter.

My Tree House

It was my own timber sanctuary.
A citadel swaddled high in the oak.
When it housed my small bones I felt echoes
Rebound and answer my shrill battle cries.

Nearly all of my youthful endeavours,
Whether lit by sun, moon or by torchlight,
Featured this: the landmark of my childhood.
It was old and rickety, but it was mine.

Groaning walls lamented the suffering
Of the trees from which they were once crafted.
Tame winds easily breached the defences,
Whipping dirt and silt across the bare floor.

My toys and figures stood to attention;
Resin fixtures with little company.
Save for a carefully selected stick –
The most versatile weapon I possessed;
By turns Spartan’s sword and soldier’s rifle,
It helped me weather the greatest onslaughts.

*****

Years on I watch as my kingdom crumbles.
The ageing slats, deemed unsafe, replaced
With bricks and cement – ugly materials.
The old floor is hidden beneath carpet.

One room won’t do, first two, then three, now four.
Hoards of foreign objects clutter the rooms:
A bookshelf, a fridge-freezer, a cot.
And there’s no room for my toys anymore.
Call the plumber. Call the electrician.
We need to get this place fixed up, sharpish.

The Man in My Head

Another piece from my portfolio.

    The Man in My Head

You have your drug-fuelled rampage,
Craft a world where ridiculous is plausible
And then leave.

The great manipulator;
One night I beg you to stay,
Others I long to escape.

An artist, you take the smallest threads of my day
A picture I saw, overheard words,
And knit them into adventure.

The only remnants you leave in the physical world,
Are my damp brow, ruffled bed sheets
And the fragmented story I tell to friends.

Reader’s block: the less-famous cousin

Come on, own up, we all have that shelf of shame. The one full of ‘must-reads’ and £1 classics from the charity shop that sit perpetually gathering dust. Everybody talks about writer’s block, but it’s just as easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to reading.

For those that don’t have to read, it’s easy to make excuses and put it off when there are no deadlines and no obvious consequences if you have a dry spell for a month or two.

However, from asking around, and very much from personal experience, the main cause for reader’s block seems to be the pressure of being required to read. Whether for university/college or for work, it can suck the enjoyment out of reading and even the greatest prose can become a chore to get through.

The solution? Downsize and diversify:

How to reinvigorate your literary metabolism

Short stories. Hefty novels can be intimidating, if you find yourself longing for the end of the chapter rather than anticipating it, then try something shorter. It’s always good to go back to basics and opt for the tried-and-tested: head to ClassicShorts.

There’s no such thing as listener’s block. Listen to a short story from newyorker.com‘s archives, Charles D’Ambrosio’s The Point wouldn’t be a bad place to start.

Poetry.  Literature in it’s most easily digestible form. Try Brian Turner’s ‘At Lowe’s Home Improvement Center‘ or look at Carol Rumen’s poem of the week.

Read the news. Anything that gets you in to reading regularly is a good thing. Pick up the i for 20p. If nothing else the depressing reality will drive you to discover a more amiable fictional one.

Go digital. We don’t go anywhere without smartphones anymore. Take your books with you: If you don’t own a dedicated ereader then a lot of classics are free on Kindle/Google Play Books etc. (Interestingly, I’ve seen nooks sell for under £30 recently…) For more smartphone apps check out my Writer’s Toolbox page.

Things worth remembering

It’s okay to not like something. Don’t finish something out of obligation; if you don’t like it, ditch it.

Stop making excuses and find the time. Read on the train, read on the toilet, read while you wait for the dentist.

Be realistic. If you’re feeling guilty because you haven’t read in a while, don’t try to kick-start with War and Peace or Ulysses.

And most importantly, when you hit the literary wall: downsize and diversify.

Moving Out, Moving On

Here’s something I wrote in ballad meter about why we move out of our childhood homes.

 

Moving Out, Moving On

Crouched behind this kitchen island
I hid from the raptors.

The same stairs that possessed girl climbed,
Back arched and on all fours.

Here is the bath where Jaws lived, lurked.
Circling beneath bubbles.

The shower where Janet Leigh’s blood
Still stains the porcelain.

I am not afraid of the dark.
I’m afraid of this dark.