Tuesday, November 21, 2006


I spent yesterday afternoon in bed with a hot water bottle and my toy dog, nursing a sore and menstrual belly. I took this time to slip in and out of the waking world to the sound of Joanna Newsom's new album Ys, her follow up to The Milk Eyed Mender .

To me, Joanna Newsom's songs transcend time and space, slipping between this world and all those others which spin together in this incredible and mysterious universe we call ours. And her voice is amazing, somehow sounding both direct and a thousand places at the same time, ageing and ageless. At some points she sounds no more than five years old, at others, she is a mature woman with lines creeping upon her face. Sometimes I can hear her at eighty five, others, she is a voice beyond all time, rattling down the centuries. She weaves her melodies through the cracks of existence and takes us with her down deep into the grass with the insects and the dew, humming across the sea bed to the tops of shipwrecks, spinning dark energy from her fingers, hanging from the corners of stars as she shouts entire verses about meteors and wheelbarrows and I am flabbergasted, left with huge tears in my eyes.

I love it when song can do this to me, when I am a balloon filling with vowels and consonants, crescendos and cadences. When it takes me to those worlds I always longed to go to, or that have become some distant memory, buried deep in the back wall of my being, or even that I never knew existed. When I listen to albums such as Ys, I know it can hold me, in anything, in the same way that a mountain or a wide green open field can, and that reminds me of the immense power that potentially lies in music and in words.

I felt similarly when I watched David Attenborough's Planet Earth last Sunday night on television. This is an extraordinary series, I never fail to be dazzled by the cinematography of this programme, as it tracks the natural world in all it's beauty and complexities. On Sunday, it was about jungles, from the tops of the tallest trees to a man who sat 300 hours alone in a hide in order to catch just a few shots of three birds of paradise performing their mating dances. From colugos, strange squirrel-like creatures that glide through the air from tree to tree by flaps of skin which attach, bat-like, from their bodies to their furry arms, to raiding chimpanzees, capturing and killing a rival member of a tribe, passing its bodily parts and head around to be eaten. It travels from the most impressive, beatific sights in nature to the most horrific, from the vastest to the tiniest all over the world. At one point it filmed a clearing in a jungle over the period of one year, but speeding the film up to show it all in a few minutes. It was clear from watching how these plant forms were growing and moving, how intelligent all forms of life are, as they travel and expand to the tune of their own logic and sense of instinctual survival. Seeds and pods burst to bud, to stalk and to vine, find their way across fallen trunks, scaling trees, climbing towards life and light. The plant kingdom is an entire universe in itself, governed by its own laws and logic.

For much of existence in the world, we humans are utterly insignificant save for the harm or good we inflict on them or their habitat. The animals go about life their way, the insects are indifferent to our desires or our dreams, plants and fish travel through their universes as we travel through ours. The toad belches and sings his way through the night, and it is his night, just as the child clutches his blanket and stares wide eyed and white faced at the shadows thrown by the cupboard door, and his world and the frog's world are as real as any I can muster. A flower knows how to court the bees and feed from the forest. The spider always knows the best way for a spider to be.

I wish I had a great mind for science and logic, I would love to study biology and geology, physics and maths. But my brain is as slow as a tortoise up Mount Everest at such things, stubbornly refusing facts and figures into its depths, preferring always the poetry and images that they conjure, the skew-wiff angle, the endless unravelling, the bits that escape definition, the non-rational, intuitive. Give me Derrida, I'll lap him up with a big spoon. Give me quantum physics and I'm there for five hundred years scratching my head to understand just three words, (despite the fact that I don't see a world of difference between quantum physics and deconstruction in the first place). So I'll refrain from saying something deep and meaningful in a factual way about the universe here now, despite feeling like this post needs it right now. Maybe I can leave that to the beloved Bob, who is currently residing in a tiny caravan alone in a wood somewhere in Sussex, probably eating RicePots and working out another law of the universe as I speak, and who blows my mind about such matters on a regular basis.

Well, it's been such a while since I last posted, so I might have known this would end up a long ramble. And I haven't even recounted all that has happened since I've been away. Suffice to say, I've been favouring music over writing for the last few weeks, hence my absence here, and it's been a productive time in that respect. I've recorded five of my songs for a demo with the help of the lovely Tom, who, aswell as being a dear friend, is also a wonderful songwriter and a talented musician. I've also been teaming up with others to collaborate and jam and things feel exciting for me musically at the moment.

Other things I've been up to recently: poetry submissions, being skint, sobbing daily at The Jeremy Kyle Show (move over Pete Doherty, he's my new hero), my acting debut as a grieving pale faced, black dressed sister who turns into a chiwauwa in Tony's new short and very weird (and good) film, previewed at the Duke of York's on Saturday. Eating lots of Turkish Delight and discovering the Choccywoccydoodah cafe (we're talking a piece of cake the size of your head, a cafe equivalent of an opium den), realising at 33 and a size 14, I'm never going to make it as a Supermodel, not cleaning my flat, loving, mourning, feeling romantic, occasionally reading and falling off my bicycle.

That should do for now.


laurel said...

hi clare (little wave)
good to see you back...and even better to read about the things you've been up to :) Very productive, indeed!
A really creative time for you...almost inspires me to get the lead out and get busy...

clare said...

hi Laurel (little wave back!),

nice to hear from you again, I hope you're well.
It's really good to be back writing on TBH. I've missed it!

Oh yes, get that lead out and get busy.. you do music..? It does wonders for the soul. ;)

laurel said...

I write poetry and 'paint'.
yes, paint must go in quotes...but really, I call it representative art,that way I don't have to worry too much about technicalities.
I'm a huge music lover, listen across many different genres,but can't carry a tune in a bucket...or anything else for that matter.
I paint when I have writers block..mostly birds...flying...
I would love to hear your music...

clare said...

I'm going to post some of my songs as soon as I get the cds back..I can't wait!

Have you ever thought of getting a blog? You could put your poetry, and even your paintings on there?

laurel said...

hi clare..just back from Thanksgiving holiday with the family...tired but content...a lot of driving. I've thought about a blog, but I think it will have to wait...I am packing house now, getting ready for a huge move (to australia).
and of course, I'm lazy about capitalization :) and not sure I can be interesting enough for anything long term..all that stuff..
I can't wait for your songs either!! Really looking forward to that. I was going to ask, but wasn't sure how you felt about posting them...how long do you think it will be before they appear here?