A New Chapter, Revisited

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Allow me to revisit “A New Chapter” as I try to make sense of the situation into which I have launched myself, following my disillusion with social media1. It is my goal here to consolidate my view on the matter with the benefit of a calmer, more collected and objective state of mind.

Resolve

My cause is Romantic—the adoration of nature through Art (music and poetry, in my case)—but this project did not begin with so grand an ideal. It started as a creative resolution to an emotional struggle, evolving into the artistic endeavour it is today. In this new form, it took on a life of its own, generating the inevitable extensions of a modern day project—a brand, website, social media presence, and other requisite additions—into which, in an attempt to present something valuable, I invested as much attention as I did in the project proper.

Romance

At the end of 2018, I summarised this manifestation of the project in the following paragraphs from “This December”2:

Therefore, in the year to come, I shall continue to post to social media and write monthly digests3 on this blog. It is of great benefit to me to reflect periodically upon my work and the essays allow me to do just that: to consolidate my ideas, discuss my process, evaluate what I create and document my progress—in fine, to diarise my artistic endeavours. Whether this has any value to a reader, I do not know—the kind of person who takes an interest in my work is unlikely to be forthcoming on the subject—but I must proceed regardless.

I take great care to produce what is meaningful to others: whether inspirations, ideas or the results of these. Were I to fail in this quest, nothing would displease me more. That notwithstanding, the goal of this project remains unchanged. It is still an expression of everything I have come to value and a task I find deeply fulfilling. Its purpose is not to generate wealth, accolades or fame, but something nobler: to celebrate Beauty. And what better way to celebrate than with others?

At this time, I also joined crowdfunding platform SubscribeStar4, outlining my motivations in “This February”5 thus:

I am delighted to share that I have joined SubscribeStar, a platform enabling one to support a creator through a subscription. My reasons for doing so are to create an opportunity to support what I do, and to establish a space where I may experiment with ideas. Whether on matters philosophical, sacred or secular—in the form of essays, musical and poetic sketches or photography—it shall be my studio; a creative laboratory, if you will.

The artistic process is complex; the thinking of the artist obscure. On SubscribeStar, I shall clarify my process and thinking in the company of sympathetic minds with whom I hope to deliberate. I shall treat it also as a journal wherein I may share the updates, observations and discoveries hitherto contained in the monthly digests.

It all seemed to me a logical progression, and I was, all things considered, confident about the direction.

Reason

I would subsequently learn that in my fundamental premise I was misguided: no one valued my contributions—at least, not sufficiently to move them to support me in this way. This brought me to an impasse, one I resolved by terminating my social media accounts and adopting, in effect, my blog and SubscribeStar as their replacements. The latter, however, created another conflict that also needed attention.

I had to admit that in my case, SubscribeStar was not a workable idea. Firstly, my artist cycle is not suited to a monthly subscription model. Periods between my releases are too long. For example, the poetry collection I am working on at the moment will not be realised for another year—and even then, a one-time donation would be the most logical approach to fundraising for its production6, rather than a monthly subscription.

Secondly, SubscribeStar required me to devise rewards for subscription tiers. Given what I have just explained, I had only content typically reserved for my blog to offer. However, in placing this content behind a paywall, I encountered a circumstance at odds with my primary reasons for being online—that is, to provide insight into my artistic philosophy and to abate some of the isolation one feels in the artistic process. How then do I make restricted what I require to be public? There seemed to me no solution to this dilemma that was not also deeply contradicting.

Reality

It was, therefore, only logical to conclude that I must also abandon SubscribeStar along with social media, ceasing there all activity and concentrating instead on my blog. To this end then, I have moved all the SubscribeStar paywall content to the blog and made it public under a new category titled SubscribeStar7. The “Artist Questions”8 series I started on SubscribeStar, I shall continue on the blog9, as well as the periodic screen-share livestreams while I work.

Over the past three years, I have put much time, care and effort into my social media accounts and it would be senseless, I think, to remove them (and indeed SubscribeStar) entirely. I had considered reconstructing the timelines on my website, but this to me is equally senseless, whilst the platforms themselves exist. I leave them, therefore, as they are10. At the very least, they have value as an archive of the development of this project on the platforms in question.

Having made sense of this situation then, I proceed untroubled with what is important in life, with or without followers, namely Art.

Footnotes

  1. “A New Chapter” outlines my initial reaction.
  2. “This December”
  3. The “This Month” posts were a series of monthly digests started in January 2018 and ending in February 2019.
  4. Forgotten Fields on SubscribeStar.
  5. “This February”
  6. Something I would almost certainly do privately, if the response of my followers is an indication of their interest in my work. I shall not entertain here the possibility that my work is of no interest to them at all, for it begs the question—one I cannot meaningfully answer: why follow me at all?
  7. SubscribeStar Blog Category
  8. A series in which I answered (and shall continue to answer) art-related questions.
  9. Though with less frequency, as my priority shall be the completion of the poetry publication.
  10. Forgotten Fields on Facebook and Twitter.

The Value of Reflection

I completed “The Leaves” a few months ago. Today, I changed a few significant words within the two short verses to make them more consistent with the autumnal scene the poem describes, and whilst doing so was reminded anew of the benefits of distancing oneself from a work (completed or not) for an extended period.

Returning to a work after days, weeks and in this case months (but also years, as I found in another instance1), helps one see it more objectively, unrestricted by the sentimentality that sets in; for in the thick of the writing process, besotted with a line, a word or an idea, it can be difficult to let go and consider possibilities more ideal.

Depending on one’s level of self-awareness, the work will often suffer to some degree as a result, and it takes a tremendous amount of humility (and courage) to admit to oneself that a particular cherished idea is simply not the best. Distance allows one to reflect upon it all, to comprehend and appreciate what one has set out to do2.

SubscribeStar Poetry Publication Progress (2019-04-15)
SubscribeStar Poetry Publication Progress (2019-04-15)

Footnotes

  1. From my Twitter account (no longer active): “An idea may come to one in an instant but giving it form takes days, weeks, months, even years. I remember composing ‘Autumn’, one of my earliest poems, in 2012. It was completed in a matter of hours; and whilst the result is adequate, I now consider it nothing more than a draft.” (Tweeted 1 April 2019)
  2. Incidentally, in my ceaseless quest for simplicity, I have also reduced the title to “Leaves”.

“To a Swallow” Update

I have now extracted from all the various verse variations those options that contain within their lines the most evocative expression of the poetic theme: freedom. The text does not quite resemble in its structure a poem yet—as there are many word and line variations within the verses (which I separate with slashes, for example, “skipping/slipping/sweeping/swooping”), making them appear convoluted—but the familiar traditional stanza shape will slowly emerge from the nebula in the weeks to come.

Sunbirds in the Salvia

With the South African autumn in full swing, the Southern Double-Collared Sunbird (Cinnyris chalybeus) is a frequent and conspicuous visitor to the garden, particularly to the Cape Honeysuckle (Tecoma capensis) and the Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha), both now in bloom.

The latter only flowers in autumn but the former does so all year round and so the Southern Double-Collared Sunbird (and its impressive cousin, the Malachite Sunbird (Nectarinia famosa)), are always about. They dig deep into the flowers for nectar which they extract with their long, thin tongues. If you look closely at the second image, you will see a small part of it protruding from its beak.

In the third image, notice the blue and red collars from which “double-collared” in its common name is derived. Though not visible in these images, since it is not usually on display, there are also yellow tufts hidden on the male’s shoulders which he flaunts in the sunlight when looking for a mate becomes a serious pursuit.

These little birds are very forgiving of their admirer, and so I am able to photograph them up close (provided I do not make any sudden movements).

Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Male (Cinnyris chalybeus), 10 April 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Male (Cinnyris chalybeus), 10 April 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Male (Cinnyris chalybeus), 10 April 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

Livestream

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Presently live-streaming my screen whilst working on the “To a Swallow” poem, extracting from its drafts the most promising variations thus far.

Livestream Ended

Footnotes

Made during the livestream:

  • I want to describe a swallow on the wing as “a symphony on high”, but that is a little grandiose for the subject. It would have worked for a flight—impressive to behold—but that is not the subject of the “To a Swallow” poem.
  • I have now four major variations of the first verse, each with line variations of their own. These I shall further explore once the rest of the verses have also been put through this process of clarification.
  • There will be four verses in total at this stage of the draft, though three would be more suitable to the theme: freedom in movement.
  • The reason for this is that three verses tend to leave one wavering, whereas four typically resolve any tension and neatly conclude—that is to say, bring to a halt—a poem in this style.
  • “To a Swallow” is written in four-line stanzas in iambic trimetre, of which the line “a SYM-pho-NY on HIGH” (da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM) is an example.

Little Red Pipes

On Thursday, I passed through the Houwhoek Mountains and flashes of red amidst the autumnal greens caught my eye. I ascended a precipitous hill—camera in hand—to investigate and was rewarded by my first ever sighting of what I believe to be Tritoniopsis triticea. It is known in Afrikaans as the Rooibergpypie1 (“red little pipe”) and is related to Tritoniopsis antholyza, an equally fiery-flowered plant that adorned the Perdeberg2 (“horse mountain”) slopes I visited in early summer3, 2018.

In fact, when I saw the red flowers scattered upon the Houwhoek Mountain slopes on Thursday, I instantly thought of Tritoniopsis antholyza. Both flower between January (mid-summer) and April (mid-autumn)—though Tritoniopsis antholyza starts two months before in November—and so I was pleasantly surprised to see that it was a new species (to me) in the same family. Tritoniopsis triticea is more delicate4 and taller but no less beautiful. I hope to see more in the weeks to come!

Tritoniopsis triticea, 4 April 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
Tritoniopsis triticea, 4 April 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.

Footnotes

  1. Pronounced “Roowuhoyee-behRCH-pey-pih”, with a trilled “R”, “CH” the guttural “kccch” sound in “loch” (not the “ck” in “lock”) and the “ih” in “did”.
  2. Afrikaans for “horse mountain”, pronounced “pehR-dh-behRCH”, with a trilled “R” and “CH” the guttural “kccch” sound in “loch” (not the “ck” in “lock”). Incidentally, the “Houwhoek” in Houwhoek Mountains is to the best of my knowledge a combination of the surname Houw and hoek, the Afrikaans word for “corner”.
  3. It is summer in South Africa from December to February. I wrote about Tritoniopsis antholyza on my blog in “This December” (part of a year-long series of monthly digests in 2018).
  4. It had rained earlier, hence their slightly dishevelled appearance.

The Southern Double-Collared Sunbird

With the arrival of the South African autumn, the sunbirds are more active than ever. They are “chee-cheeing” in the trees and darting about the flowering bushes in an iridescent display. Southern Double-Collared Sunbirds (Cinnyris chalybeus)—and Malachite Sunbirds (Nectarinia famosa)—are regular visitors to the garden from the nearby woods where they nest. A few days ago, I photographed a female.

She was accompanied by a male who could not quite decide what bush was to his liking, and so I was unable to photograph him on that occasion. I include, therefore, a male I photographed in April last year. I must add that in the case of the photograph of the male, there is no enhancement of the image; its feathers are as splendid as they appear—in fact, they are even more magnificent to the naked eye!

A Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Female (Cinnyris chalybeus), 29 March 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Female (Cinnyris chalybeus)
A Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Male (Cinnyris chalybeus), 3 April 2018. Copyright 2018 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A Southern Double-Collared Sunbird Male (Cinnyris chalybeus)

More of the Chandelier Lily

I was delighted to photograph a Chandelier lily1 as it emerged from the ground directly from the bulb, and as it began to unfold into the branched flowerhead, from which it derives its common name, one week later. What a sight!

A Chandelier Lily Reborn, 22 March 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A Chandelier Lily Reborn
A Chandelier Lily Unfolding, 29 March 2019. Copyright 2019 Forgotten Fields. All rights reserved.
A Chandelier Lily Unfolding

Footnotes

  1. Brunsvigia orientalis, possibly Brunsvigia litoralis, a slight variant.

SubscribeStar AMA01

The Agonising Paradox

“Letting Go”1 promises deliverance but embraces sweet enthralment. In a piece just under two minutes long, nearly half of which is devoted to a playground field recording over which a wistful synthesiser presides, a sorrowful melody briefly loops, then disappears.

The theme here is not “abandon”; there is no celebration as the title suggests, only “longing”—for connection, intimacy and approval. If there is a “letting go”, it is unwilling and temporary—the artist’s pain is comforting and familiar to him; his grief, consoling.

Consequently, he presents it to us in a disarming, innocent and sympathetic melody wrapped in a misleading title and nostalgic cover art. This is not deception, however, but a raw exploration of an inner conflict: the paradox of loving our psychological afflictions.

The Beautiful Mirage

“Longing” is reflected in the black and white cover image: the children, a symbol of blissful abandon, run away from the photographer. The melancholy picture, the ephemeral field recording and the plaintive melody all suggest that peace to the artist is unattainable.

He knows the darkness from which his composition emerges—too well to truly let it go. Like the tune, he wants to be optimistic, but in a minor key—his despairing sense of life—struggles to be so. Artist and artwork, by their very nature, resign to despondency.

For as long as this resignation lasts, the music rises in a slow and desolate pitch, reaching for a beauty beyond its grasp whilst mournful synthesised voices yearn for salvation and joy. Yet they will not tear themselves from the shadows and ultimately fade away.

“Letting Go” glimpses beauty, but it is a mirage to the artist; or perhaps the artist is a mirage to it, for he needs it to be . . . distant . . . justifying his unwillingness to seize it. Still, we shall not rush to blame him; what, after all, is more terrifying to the wretched than joy?

Footnotes

  1. “Letting Go” by Distant