Romancing the Gibbet (4) The Morrismen Murder

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‘Romancing the Gibbet’ is a collaboration between poet, Ralph Hoyte and historian, Steve Poole, exploring ‘dark tourism’ at sites of extraordinary public execution in Georgian Britain. Poole explains the historical background of a single public hanging. A case from 1772, when William Keeley was found guilty of murdering Joseph Dyer after spotting him flashing his money at the old Fish Inn on Broadway Hill. Evidence old and new was shown, and the site discussed. Amazingly despite the cost, Keeley was hung at the site of the murder and put on display. Having a hanging gibbet was both fascinating and appalling to folks at the time, and oddly the act of displaying the dead as a deterrent to crime has not proven to lower nor raise the area’s crime rate. The Oxford Journal at the time commented: “It seems that Keeley is a famous Morrice dancer, and on Sunday morning before the fact was committed, he was teaching a set of fellows to dance. Warner used to play on the tabor and pipe to the dancers. It is to be hoped the Justices will suppress such nurseries of idleness and drunkenness as morrice-dancings have generally proved!”, in other words, they considered Morris Dancing especially on a Sunday to be a waste of a good mans time. Hoyte then performs extracts from his poetic responses. Together Poole and Hoyte play some spoken-word imaginative responses too, Influenced by the works of the romantics Coldridge and Wordsworth; their study of nature and human nature combined and compared in verse. We listen to the Ballard and mixed voice performance with a sense of the subline. The project has four free audio trails. At this event, a sample audio-trail was relocated in and around Broadway Tower for us to try out. Adding the performance elements and music to the location even if you are listening through your phone was something extraordinary and very atmospheric. With the day we attended filled with cold mists and temperature in the low 2 degrees, it was easy to imagine being on a ghost trail of long ago folklore.

Remembering to download the app to your phone or GPS-enabled tablet beforehand would have helped me keep up. However, this event has inspired me much on my search for local history stories and folk tales to find and preserve for the next generation of creatives to use.

Introduction to Letterpress

Wednesday 2nd October: Introduction to Letterpress

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Letterpress is a direct relief print method, meaning that a design is printed by transferring ink from plate to paper.
The group were each given a verse from the Lewis Carroll poem; Jabberwocky. Keen Children’s Literature readers, both Stephine and I were aware of the poem and its author, so chose to work together on the task.
“Jabberwocky” is a nonsense poem written by Lewis Carroll about the killing of a creature named “the Jabberwock”. Included in his 1871 novel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The book tells of Alice’s adventures within the back-to-front world of Looking-Glass Land.

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In The Life of Lewis Carroll (1932), an early Carroll biographer, Langford Reed, stated: “Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) was an individual who, through his rare and diversified literary gifts and power of communication, left an indelible mark upon the imaginations of children and adults both during his generation and in generations to come.”

With the original of the poem being Victorian and Reed’s use of the words “indelible mark” in mind the tactile quality of letterpress seemed very appropriate. We didn’t stop there, having access to more than 50 fonts at UWE’s proofing press room Stephanie and I came up with the idea of mixing the fonts to emphasise the disjointed imagery in the poem. Below you can see our result in the first stanza compared to the uniform font in the stanza below it.

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Executing this effect took a lot more thinking than originally expected, but also lead to more ideas forming. Firstly, we discovered “typesetter”, setting letter by letter and line by line had to be done upside-down to make sure the type was backwards in a composing stick, a mechanism which holds several lines, so the print is correctly orientated on the paper when transferred. As a result, we had to ensure we chose font types of the same size to sit firmly in the composing stick. We choose 24pt, which was slightly less than the 30pt originally recommended by our technician to give us more space to manipulate on the final image. We generated our font choice at random, again to emphasis the impression of chaos and unconformities of Wonderland. Selecting by blindly picking from three fonts meant we had to record a number to each letter and character, mapping our result to return the fonts correctly at the end. Apart from the start of each line, capitalisation we also selected at random by adding a dot to a number in our blind selection. We considered the use of irregular spacing, but this caused too much white space and overly disrupted the readability of the stanza creating a river of white in the text, a serious consideration that has to be thought over in any letterpress task. Instead, the decision to add additional spacing before the word “shun” as if shunned away, worked well.

However, we also reflected that the character of Alice at this point in the novel is in the “back-to-front world” sparking the idea to purposely reverse and capitalise the “C” in “catch” to look like the letter is trying to catch the “cat” part of its full form, and the misspelling of “claws” with a “K” as this letter is a sharper form than a “c” indicating sharp, dangerous claws of the Jabberwock.

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The type of depth is dependent on the paper. Typically Letterpress papers are thick and soft to allow the type to create a deep impression, which gives tangible evidence of the printing process.
Maximal control over the quality of the print is apeling, many of our group seemed to like letterpress for that. I found the method of compositor gradually to build out the text of an individual page letter by letter difficult and brian taxing. The risk of “furniture” popping out violently from the press scared me in honesty. What I did love was the colours are true and vibrant, and the lines are sharp. Digital printing is done by accumulating groups of small dots to produce the image. While the resolution of the dots is usually small enough that the resulting print looks “close enough,” we can see the difference, especially when viewed side by side.
Dark ink on a light paper gives the best image. Inks are translucent, and the paper colour will show through. For light colours on dark paper, foil stamping or engraving should be used instead of Letterpress. Building up the colour density of a specific colour can be achieved with Letterpress pieces run through the press two times using the same colour, but again this is a risk on registration moving. However, the risk is the lowest in all our manual print techniques thanks to the methods and mechanisms involved.

The chances of using Letterpress outside of UWE is debatable. Presses are being discarded by commercial print shops and becoming affordable and available to artisans throughout the country. There is currently a viable sales market for this form of print.
“Letterpress publishing has recently undergone a revival in the USA, Canada, and the UK, under the general banner of the ‘Small Press Movement’. Renewed interest in letterpress was fueled by Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, which began using pictures of letterpress invitations in the 1990s.” (Pertwee, 2019)
I do think I will be using this form as publishing and illustration are hand-in-hand. Learning this process has helped me think more about page layout and text as a part of the illustration itself. More investigation on my part is needed.
I do understand this process a lot more now having used it form myself, and I better appreciate the use/effectiveness of the text.

We also had a chance to use the Albion press, which is an early iron hand printing press, designed and manufactured in London by Richard Whittaker Cope around 1820. It works by a simple toggle action. Originally used for commercial book-printing until the middle of the nineteenth century, now it is mostly artisans who use them for proofing, jobbing work and by private presses for art projects.
I thought it might be fun to use the woodblock letters to help me start a poster image for the 1976 science fiction film Logan’s Run. The showdown scene between Logan 5 and Francis 7 always reminded me of 19th Century American Western genre, so, I chose the Slab Serifs font mixed with the smaller LHF Becker font to reflect that drama visually. I plan to use the large “0” to represent the tunnels used to flee the city in the film. Logan’s Run explores utopian and dystopian themes. The 1970s were dubbed the “Me Decade” by writer Tom Wolfe. An important concept expressed in the film is “the dangers of hedonism” (Wolfe,1976), meaning youth worship. Sexual freedom and seeking pleasure or luxury at whatever cost of the 1970s has also reflected in the current social demographic term “Millennials”. I’m interested in exploring this link and what effect hedonism has on a cohort of people.

What About Raymond Carver?

Though Raymond Carver published only a handful of books in his lifetime, he is often considered one of the great American short story writers. Debate still exists as to whether to consider Carver a minimalist for his frequent use of sparse language, a voice of the working class for his commitment to ‘ordinary’ characters, or a champion of “dirty realism” for his frank depictions of modern American life. But no matter how you might regard his work, Carver’s legacy and reputation have only grown since his death in 1988, at the age of 50.

“Well, of course I had to keep him on a leash,” his mother, Ella Carver, said much later — and seemingly without irony. Mrs. Carver might have had the right idea. Like the perplexed lower-middle-class juicers who populate his stories, Carver never seemed to know where he was or why he was there.

Born in Oregon in 1938, Carver soon moved with his family to Yakima, Wash. In 1956, the Car­vers relocated to Chester, Calif. A year later, Carver and a couple of friends were carousing in Mexico. After that the moves accelerated: Paradise, Calif.; Chico, Calif.; Iowa City, Sacramento, Palo Alto, Tel Aviv, San Jose, Santa Cruz, Cupertino, Humboldt County . . . and that takes us up only to 1977, the year Carver took his last drink.

His two passions were stories (which he failed to get published despite a strong work ethic for submissions) and Maryann Burk, a local girl four years his junior. When his parents moved to California for work, Carver already had the plans in motion for their marriage.

The relationship between Raymond and Maryann would define much of Carver’s life. Within two years of marriage, they’d had two children, Christine and Vance. Most of their early life was fraught with financial difficulty. Carver’s passion for writing was intense, but was at odds with his disdain for any other kind of work. As such, Maryann tended to act as breadwinner, usually through waitress jobs, as she supported Carver’s attempts to get recognized and also his attempts to earn a college degree, a goal thwarted by both financial trouble and Carver’s insecurities.

Carver’s most important break came through a long-time friend, Gordon Lisch, who had become an editor at Esquire. Through the connection, Carver published his first major-press collection, the Lisch-edited Will You Please Be Quiet, Please? In the years following, he and Maryann finally separated and Carver gained control of his drinking. The book was widely praised, and it is clear in light of his biography how well he made use of the sadness and desperation he had experienced in his own life and those of his lower middle-class communities.

From there, Carver’s fortunes improved. Sober and committed, Carver published another collection – What We Talk about When We Talk About Love – and though it’s often criticized as having been too heavily edited by Lisch, it won even more acclaim than the previous collection. Along with another poetry book (Fires), Carver then prepared his final collection of all-new stories, considered by many to be his masterpiece: Cathedral. In this time, Carver met and moved in with Tess Gallagher, a poet who would eventually become his wife and partner until his death.

Financially stable through both fellowships and book sales, Carver spent his final few years cementing his reputation as a great American literary figure. His relationships with his mother, Maryann, and his children grew stronger. And then he was diagnosed with cancer.

On August 2, 1988, Carver died from lung cancer at the age of 50. He is buried at Ocean View Cemetery in Port Angeles, Washington. The inscription on his tombstone reads:

LATE FRAGMENT

And did you get what

you wanted from this life, even so?

I did.

And what did you want?

To call myself beloved, to feel myself

beloved on the earth.

 

His poem “Gravy” is also inscribed.

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The Conversation Challenge

 

Task: write a conversation where there are ….

A.      All gender-neutral pronouns.  No, He or She

B.      No gender obvious names.

C.      Setting must be a café

D.      And the characters are exchanging gifts.

My Attempt

                The streets were swollen with people. Manic delivery drivers parked in the road and ignored the angry horns as they raced against the stream of shoppers and dived in and out of business doorways. I watched relived that my partner Avery, did all our Christmas shopping and I only had to cook the meal for us and our children on the big day. I kept checking my watch, it was unlike Jo to be late. The newspaper before me was becoming less and less interesting.  Finally, there was a bustle of activity. I looked up to see Jo was there fighting the narrow door with a pram. I rushed to help.

                “Hi, how are you?” asked Jo abandoning the pram to kiss me on the cheek.

                “Fine, fine. What happened to you?” I enquired looking at the dishevelled mess of my friend. The person who had nearly always been perfectly presented when we worked together.

                “This monster wanted to feed before we could leave the house.” Jo now balanced baby Sammy on a tilted frame with a baby bag swinging in the arched stance.

                “Here give me Sam, and go and get yourself a cuppa.” I offered.

                “Thank you, Lesley.” Jo put a hand on my arm, smiled and then walk straight past coffee counter, making a beeline for the loos. I laughed and bounced the babbling, bright-eyed Sammy on my knee. Sammy smiled back. clearly unaware of the energy it must have took to make organic carrot purée and get fine oatmeal to the right temperature and still make it into the city centre for 11:20 coffee with an old friend.

                I reached for the all-too-familiar soft brown bear out of the baby bag. There I caught a glimpse at what must have been my Christmas present. Wrapped perfectly and jo’s hand written tag saying;

                 “happy holiday and best wishes Jo and Sam, x.”

                “Shit!” I exclaimed having realised my gift for Jo was back in the office. What was I thinking? Jo had managed to get here and wrestle Sam into the loathed car seat. Which, to be fair, we all didn’t understand how to operate. Jo had driven through city traffic to sit and have coffee with me, here so it was close to my office, and had remembered the gift. What excuse did I have? I Had even been sat here waiting, wondering why Joe was late. The irony that I could have run back to the office and been back within 10 minutes wasn’t helping. If only I had realised. Well, I felt right idiot. Sam added by barfing onto my suit jacket from my continued bouncing. Because of the forgotten gift, I didn’t complain. I figured I deserved it.

                Joe came back with another coffee for me and a tea. Anticipating the vomit episode from Sam Joe had stolen loo roll.

                “I kind of saw it from over there at the counter.” Jo stifled a laugh.

                “Saw what?” I asked wonder if my sneaky peek at the present had been spotted.

                “Half digestive carrot all down your back, perfectly timed as you bent over for the blasted bear… Well done Sam.” Said Joe turning from me to the little bundle of smiling joy and trying to clean me up all of the same time.

                “Made your strike while I was distracted hey? Fair play. But maybe keep the sneakiness to hockey tournaments”

                “Hope you can tech Sammy better than you captain, Captain.” Muttered Jo jokingly.  “Will you be able to change at the office?”

                “Yeah,” I replied hardly caring.

                “Sorry Lesley, I’m still getting used to this parenting thing. No matter how hard I try. I’ve never got everything I need. Maybe I should go back to the warehouse logistics.”

                “I don’t know about that. Just don’t leave me holding the baby” I laughed trying to wrestle Sam into a clean bib. We were now both laughing as it took us the two of us to get Sam into the highchair.

Would you like to guess the gender of Jo, Lesley and Sam?….

I’ll let you know if your right or if I was able to hide them.

A love Poem

1          Love poem

 

My butterfly life, never settling with the flower of a wife,

I wonder if I am capable of true love or if I am cursed to wonder.

How my arms ache to hold, how my lips burn to kiss

But, I do not want a butterfly wife.

I don’t want a pretty little miss who doesn’t mind who she kisses,

I am a man who needs a real wife.

 

I am a man with a butterfly life. I am not a gypsy,

nor travelling salesman who sells potions and lotions from door to door.

I do not hunt for a wife only long for a love.

I don’t just want some other cute young tipsy,

nor a woman who has a tendency to mother.

I don’t want women who constantly smother or call you guilty.

 

 

Oh my butterfly life I need an anchor.

Life so fleeting, that it is constantly moving and never settles too long.

I have been through so many changes and have had so many stages.

Some say I am pretty, and for my flesh hanker.

Say that I am infamous, that I’m famous, because I own many pages.

Oh, but, I am also lonely, and desire only her.

 

by S.Bryant

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Worst poem ever

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Haha, (evil laughter) the task set to our class this week was to write the worst poem ever to illustrate what a poem should not be. so….

 Poorly poem

Yer, well it has been written

And it ani’t got real words in places

Some odd stanza brakes like a lot of bad poet’s mistakes

Every line starts with a capital letter and the punctuation is all over the place and it has mixed pace so you sound as if you have been training for a marathon race by the time you have got though and read to the end of the line.

Also Kev and I think is a crime not to have some kind of rhyme.

Your getting stressed about the stresses and iambic meter which you don’t know if that’s AABB or ABAB C

And well, it just

Ends.

But, it never actually ends cause you read it to your friends and they have to say well that was nice but it lacks a little in places and they have fake smiles on their faces.

So ya think you have a gooden and you send it to the Guardian and they don’t even email back and just, just, don’t know if you should have never got out of bed.

Then forget what your tutor said about cliché use and do it all again

Repeat the pain until you are a poet.

And you didn’t even know it.

Meeting Stephanie Hale

Meeting Stephanie Hale

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arranged by our tutor Julia at Worcester university.

Julia and Stephanie met working for the BBC. Stephanie Hale was the former Assistant Director of the Creative Writing Diploma at Oxford University’s Department of Continuing Education and is now the director of Oxford Writers literacy consultancy.

Stephanie’s advice for new authors is primarily to research your market. even if you are doing a genre-based novel.

Also stories must always escalate from the beginning. “In the last 10 years of my experience readers don’t like to wait, especially in literary fiction. They wanted to move fast and they wanted all set up being done within the first chapter.” Stephanie warns us.

What is the worst misconception authors have? “The one thing I’d don’t want an author to be is negative and expecting things to just drop in their lap.” Stephanie often finds that rebranding or re-titling the book can sometimes help an author who has been struggling.

When asked why she wanted to be a publisher Stephanie answered “mostly because people kept asking me. I was quite good at marketing and a lot of people wanted to go from part-time to full-time and I could help with that. I was able to bridge the business to the literacy writers gap and back either way.

How many authors make the cut this year? “out of thousands there is only about 90”

why do people often choose to self-publish?

“I’m not against people self-publishing. As self-published authors you get most of the profit. if you go to the mainstream publishers you only get around 8%. If there was any type of publishing I’m against its vanity publishing where you pay to be published.

If you’re going to self-publish you need to learn marketing skills. Don’t hand the book over and just think it’s going to be okay. When you read about anybody who goes from destitute to millionaire, you find that they have had to put in a lot of hard work and have had to know the subject well in order to sell it.” publishers expect 3000 to 5000 followers on a social media site before they’ll even look at publishing you after you have self-published your own work.

For Stephanie the business side often produces her books. for example, clients wanted to know how to sell 1 million books so that’s what she wrote and that’s exactly what she called it “How to sell 1 million books” she always says to keep going and keep learning.

What are the things you look for in an author?

“The character of the best kind of author is resilience. writing is a business you need to be up to doing this for hours and hours of a day. secondly is marketing. you’ve got to be okay about it; talk about your work, why you love your characters and what inspired you to write. You need to know that you will need even more hours spent researching your book than when you are writing that book. Lastly the perfect type of author understands their reader. They look at what that reader is looking at, they read what that reader is reading, then and only then did they make a story for them.”

Stephanie’s top tips

  1. Don’t outsource. Instead find out what your readers like about your work. Respond to them yourself whenever possible.
  2. Plot is so important. Grammar can be sorted out, but if you don’t have a good story it isn’t even worth the paper its on.
  3. Your first chapter must be a wow! Personal experience and lots of research always help to do this
  4. Get on social media and exploit it. Find out now who is doing similar work to yours and have a look at it. Market research is very valuable.
  5. Sometimes you are the story when it comes to selling your work. Things like what inspired you to make this story or what’s it about these are facts only you can say with passion and be believed.
  6. Bulk sell your book. Get your book into a reading group or on a popular reader’s blogger by sending them free copies for a review. It often works well.

I have to say it was a shock at how high the bar is set for new authors, but I’m glad I took the time to talk with a brilliant mentor and publisher. Now I won’t be wasting so much of my time and energy. Stephanie’s talk has motivated me to really aim my writing and do a lot more research before starting a story.

Thank you Stephanie Hale.

oxford LCA

Listening to Alexis Deacon

Listening to Alexis Deacon

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born in New York this award-winning illustrator and writer loves storytelling

“I always knew I was going to be in illustrator because sharing and trying to communicate was so important to me. understanding of the stories help us to do that”

Alexis’s number one tip for writers: “start as close to the end as possible”

Alexis read some of his stories to us and took us on a very cleaver memory trail which turn out to be completely made up. Why? To teach us in his own words… “imagination and forgotten memories, like my best friend being a chocolate rabbit are boundless sources of stories and images.” Alexis encourages us to live our imagination out and play with our own imaginary friends in our heads

We transport imagination through line drawing and image making.  “make it as real to you as you can and thoughts can be shared. draw and draw all your life children do this without being told as we get older we stop drawing and stop imagining but true illustrators don’t, so keep going nothing you do is a waste.”

Alexis went to art college at Brighton he found it hard to make drawings for other people thus he tells us his first book – monster zoo- was a big learning curve.

Watching a couple of Slow Norris’s one day gave him great pleasure and started his imagination going. “the two were just wondering towards each other down the same rope. They met in the middle had a staring contest, they both made a face and went the other way. This one moment inspired my first published book – Slow Norris” Alexis advise us to take moment like these and let your imagination go wild if you find it entertaining the chances are it will engage your reader too.

What is illustration? He asked us then answered “It is universal communication. The face is universal and universally understood. looking at the face we filter out other things and we see just the expression we only need simple values to tell this story. we are hardwired to understand expression from an early age. You need to keep that in your mind when you produce your character’s form on to the page.  just like the face gestures transporter and give us information too. Learn to love gestures as the context is strong. this gives you a good story and an expansive narrative from these simple ingredients of image.”

Alexis closing advise to us who are studying illustration this year – “By illustrating you give your story to someone else so you need to leave enough space for the reader to imagine too”

  
 

Travel journal

An Oxford education

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A captured and stolen history can be found in Oxford. Its museums, galleries and universities; pool, collate, and collect culture. Its own British Empire heritage and that of its once discovered or conquered limits. All boxed and viewed in glass. It holds it up showing it off and in its own way Oxford holds itself up in high regard.

Is it always beauty and class?

I hold education in high regard. I am in awe of well cultured and educated people. I want to be educated too. Even if I am only from a council estate in middle England.

We took the opportunity to be on a coach trip to Oxford and see the free wealth of culture. I enjoyed being part of the art class again, only this time not as their art technician but as a student instead.

Architecture in historical abundance is the result of a stone built medieval town in England; small enough to explore on foot. History and education side-by-side in my favourite place, Radcliffe Square. After coffee and delicious homemade cakes in the Vaults & Garden, in the crypt of the University Church we had recovered from the long coach trip. We were now sketching people busy in the open market along the street.

The distance travelled in traffic jams I dislike a great deal. Oxford was built long before the combustion engine was invented. So motor vehicle access is restricted and parking expensive. Walk or cycle instead is the preferred mode of transportation for most.

My academic and creative brain went wild in an atmosphere cram packed with stories and mysteries from the ages gone by. I was so tired when I got back to the coach.

The light of the Ashmolean museum full to the brim with world Art. It made my eyes water they could not physically stare any longer over the patterns and shaped culture and beauty. The natural history museum’s open hall and stone-flagged floors contradicted to the dark and depths of Pitt Rivers snug atmosphere comparable to a Cotswold farmhouse. This one building brought me to the floor in stunned admiration. I had wondered around learning about evolution, and why animals have developed the way they have according to their environments (I felt like a boffin in the making) when I walked haphazardly through a carved archway. This was like having been drinking crisp bitter tea, then shoving a tray of dark chocolate sweets into one’s mouth. Pitt Rivers museum is a part of the natural history building yet is very different. A deep dark jungle of discovery that had belonged to one very enthusiastic collector. Many items are displayed together at once. There is no sorting except for the helpful staff “pots and pans there, boats over here, jewellery, swords, shields, are on the next floor and the Gods are to the left of the big totem pole Madame”- my case in point.

So I don’t know which kind class you may be. However, I’m sure in Oxford you will find beauty.

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