Sunday, 25 September 2016

Puck's Song

As you do, I was sitting around, idly wondering which of half a dozen potential "projects" to take forward, when I suddenly remembered that I'd already put a book together from the photo-collages I'd made illustrating / interpreting Rudyard Kipling's poem "Puck's Song" earlier in the year, but forgotten all about it. I had intended to improve both them and it, but other things attracted my attention, and the impetus has gone: I think it will now have to remain pretty much what it is. It's still a good piece of work, though, I think, and if you're interested here's a link to the book preview on Blurb:
I've only made a paperback available this time but, as usual, there are also PDF and e-book versions, both identical to but considerably cheaper than the book (and in some ways better, not least because more profitable for me!). The e-book is presented on Blurb separately from the paperback and PDF, and Blurb claim it is now "available for Amazon Kindle Fire, Apple iPad, Android devices, and Mac or PC computers", but I haven't tested this claim. Don't blame me if it doesn't work... It's definitely fine on my iPad 2.

Link to paperback and PDF
Link to e-book

I then realised that, conveniently, "Puck's Song" has twelve verses, so this year's calendar has sort of made itself. Each year I have a dozen or so of these calendars made by Vistaprint, and give them away as Christmas/New Year gifts to a select set of recipients. However, if you'd like to grace your walls with one next year (an artist friend living in the Dordogne always deploys his in the lavatory, where he says it can be given appropriate concentrated attention) then let me know via email (see "Since You Ask...", top right) and, provided the demand is neither too great nor too small, I will sell you one for £15 plus postage, payable via PayPal.

Among the potential projects I referred to above is a recent fascination with the look and format of traditional broadside ballad sheets. I've had a lifelong interest in traditional folksong, particularly those songs and ballads which deal with the supernatural and lengthy enforced holidays in the land of the Fair Folk, an interest which was given a boost a few years ago when, doing some family history research, I discovered my paternal line comes from the Scottish Borders, not the Highlands, as I had assumed. It seems previous incarnations of my Y-DNA had been shepherds and farmhands, hanging around precisely the landscape of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer. Indeed, a cousin of a direct ancestor was one of those peasant versifiers that Scotland seemed to breed like midges.

A further nudge was given by a visit to the recent Shakespeare in Ten Acts exhibition at the British Library, where some prime examples of Georgian and Victorian popular typography were on display. Ballad sheets, in particular, I find very compelling. There is something about those long, narrow strips of paper, often topped with a woodcut illustration, that appeals to the illustrator and graphic designer in me. Kipling, and in particular "Puck's Song", seemed an obvious place to start.

Talking of Scotland and the supernatural, some years ago I heard a brief account on a radio programme of the "Brown Seer", a semi-legendary figure, a man with a Nostradamus-like gift for ambiguously-phrased foresight, whose main instrument of divination was a stone with a hole in  it. Intrigued, for years I tried to follow this up, but could find no trace of him. I then discovered, completely by accident, that he is actually known as the Brahan Seer, and everything fell into place. It's a fascinating story.

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