Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

I'm more likely to celebrate the new year with a glass of something fizzy, but couldn't pass up posting the photo of this purse cake from My Sweet and Saucy. (Thanks to A.M. for the link). Besides, I thought B. might like it....

When I started this blog I really didn't foresee the purse theme taking over. When I said "hold-all" I rather imagined stuffing this blog with interviews, reviews, poems, remarks on the literary life. While I wish I had more time to pursue the reviews and interviews, I'm not unpleased with the directions Capacious Hold-All has taken. The Capacious Project has been full of surprises, wonderful pieces written by exceptionally talented writers. There will be a few more contributions to the project forthcoming and then it seems it will have run its course. If you're a writer who has a burning desire to talk about what you carry, then by all means drop me a line. I'll likely continue with the project through until the spring.

A book that I keep returning to is The Pink Guitar by Rachel Blau DuPlessis. I read this book while writing my first book, All the God-Sized Fruit, and continue to find it indispensable. In the first essay, "For the Estrucans" she talks about "the thrilling ambition to get everything in, inclusively, reflexively, monumentally." She quotes Woolf. "What sort of diary should I like mine to be? something loose knit and yet no slovenly, so elastic that it will embrace anything, solemn, slight or beautiful that comes into my mind. I should like it to resemble some deep old desk, or capacious hold-all, in which one flings a mass of odds and ends without looking them through." The desk, the diary, the tote bag, the reticule, pocket book, the journal, the experiment, the blog. I find I'm more and more interested in these things, what they mean to each other, and in that thrilling ambition to get everything in. And yet, a line near the end of the essay also speaks to me. DuPlessis quotes Sara Lennox: "So many of those experiments have fallen by the wayside, victim to the economic situation and our own discouragement and exhaustion." Part of me looks ahead to the new year - the juggling, balancing act - of the part time job I need to find pronto, of the family, the writing, readings, small excursions, walking the dog, keeping the house in minimal order etc, etc. and I'm exhausted in advance. Thankfully, there's that other part of me, gripped by that thrilling ambition, undiscouraged, committed to the flinging of odds and ends. I think that might even constitute a new year's resolution - to continue, to balance and re-balance, to be gripped, to fling.

And so. I wish you a sparkly, fizzy and cake-filled new year!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Everything Comes Alive when Contradictions Accumulate

I'm afraid to notice how many books entered the house this past year. All I can say is that I got a new bookcase for Christmas - dearly needed. I thought I'd list some of the books - poetry, non-fiction, novels, that have taken up residence, along with a random line or two from same, to give a flavor, a scent, a waft of perfume...

The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard: "Behind dark curtains, snow seems to be whiter. Indeed, everything comes alive when contradictions accumulate."

XEclogue, Lisa Robertson: "It's the same day. I had meant to read you the word in my purse - a word like lipstick, petulant and sentimental as a dress, yet complicit with your smudged revolution."

Finding Beauty in a Broken World, Terry Tempest Williams: "I am also learning to trust the motion that comes through color and interstices, not in the controlled, static placement of each cube but in the joy of odd arrangements and unpredictable moves of choice."

The Frozen Thames, Helen Humphreys: "I am looking out the window of this shop, down at the frozen river, at the spot where my mother and I nearly drowned four years ago."

The Midnight, Susan Howe: "I'm only a gentle reader trying to be a realist. Can you hear me?"

The Red Fairy Book, Andrew Lang, ed: "But just as she had been bound to the stake, and the flames were licking her garments with their red tongues, the very last moment of the seven years had come."

Nest, Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge: "I wrote before production began, "I want to include all of myself, a heartbroken person who hasn't worked for years, who's simply not dead." "

The Gift, H.D.: "She says 'vespers' and the word 'vespers' means those meetings they have sometimes, almost like love feasts, when they have coffee and sugar cake around a table."

Blue Studios, Rachel Blau Duplessis: "But I would like to simply and openly to declare our collective debt to feminism, no matter that some people might reject, balk, wonder, resist, demur, take themselves away or out of that, see it as a trap. Feminism, gender curiousity, and related investigations of social location have changed the terrain of the possible."

Fond, Kate Eichhorn: "Enter this scene of accession numbers and mould. Observe methodical trajectories. Respect prohibitions. Contain spillage."

Sentenced to Light, Fred Wah: "O you thread stone writing"

Another Beauty, Adam Zagajewski: "To wake and fall asleep, drowse off and waken, to pass through seasons of doubt, melancholy dark as lead, indifference, boredom, and then the spells of vitality, clarity, hard and happy work, contentment, gaiety, to remember and forget and recollect again, that an eternal fire burns beside us, a God with an unknown name, whom we will never reach."

Going Home, Tim Lilburn: "We need to find our own way to take this place into our mouth; we must re-say our past in such a way that it will gather us here."

Home, Marilynne Robinson: "Until you forgive, you defend yourself against the possibility of understanding."

On Certainty, Ludwig Wittgenstein: "Instead of 'I know it' one may say in some cases 'That's how it is - rely upon it.' In some cases, however 'I learned it years and years ago'; and sometimes: 'I am sure it is so.' "

Monday, December 22, 2008

Embroidery is Like Rudimentary Geometry

From the NY Times review Seeing History in the Eye of the Needle of the show English Embroidery From the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1580-1700: ’Twixt Art and Nature:

One of embroidery’s great attractions is its self-evident structure. Many of its stitches are challenging beyond belief. That much is confirmed by a video in the galleries and a catalog essay by Cristina Balloffet Carr, a conservator at the Met. The essay’s close-up photographs of stitches are magnified 30 times, making it all the easier to appreciate the nearly superhuman evenness of technique that abounds in this show. Metallic threads, glass beads, appliqué, relieflike passages called raised-work and fluttering bits of stripped ribbon (good for tents and flowing skirts) are added options.

But the basic concept of embroidery is like rudimentary geometry. It centers on the merging of two very different dimensions: a flat grid of fabric, and thread, which is an extended line of many colors. This is achieved by the hands, eyes and brain of one person, who attends by one stitch or another to every centimeter of a work’s surface. The simplicity and concentration are always felt, no matter how complicated the actual motifs become.

From Pockets to Pouches

An installation view from an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum in 1997 called, From Pockets to Pouches: 300 Years of Handbags. An interesting photograph - the open door in the background, the light.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Crazy Crafts

Do you remember Crazy Crafts with Molly Earl? I've been indulging in a few crazy crafts of my own -making Christmas ornaments, wee capacious hold-alls. There's something therapeutic about messing about with sequins and glue and embroidery floss. Meanwhile, I've been making my way through an anthology called M/E/A/N/I/N/G: An Anthology of Artists' Writings, Theory and Criticism - a real treasure trove. There's a quotation used as an epigraph to an essay called, "Monstrous Domesticity" from another book (The Subversive Stitch by Rozsika Parker) that I recall as I stitch: "To know the history of embroidery is to know the history of women." I wonder what Molly Earl would have thought of Etsy?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Capacious Project - Dawn Kresan

Dawn Kresan is a poet, who recently completed her manuscript Still Life of a Muse and is now looking for a publisher. She is also the publisher of Palimpsest Press, located in Kingsville, Ontario. View her blog here.

I am a disorganized, cluttery-minded person, and my capacious carry-all is an example of someone failing miserably at trying to compartmentalize her life. When I open my purse, I am not surprised at all by the jammed, wall-to-wall contents — a small coin purse with metal snap closure, business card holder, fold wallet for credit cards and receipts, smaller wallet for cash, notepad but no pen, weekly planner, four months worth of receipts, parking ticket, my daughter’s report card, unopened mail, salt shaker, Canadian Tire flyer to remind me to exchange the ill-formed shaker, a clear plastic pouch for business related items and another for coupons. I am always loosing papers and forgetting appointments, yet I never tire of purchasing various containers to theoretically manage the clutter. My life is a mess and for the longest time I have been fighting it. I make lists, then I loose them, make some more, then find the first few and must consolidate all the lists back into one… and it goes on.

Recently, I have decided to stop fighting my natural predilection for clutter. Any organizational “system” I tried in the past has never lasted longer than a couple of months. I am more relaxed now that I have resolved to just let things be. Sure, it is frustrating when I can’t find the gift I bought someone — “it has to be in this closet somewhere” — and yes, when I am reminded by my daughter to bring her to ballet class because “mommy forgets,” I do feel like a bungling dimwit, but what I have realized is that trying to live up to an expectation of being a put together woman is more draining than dealing with my organizational hazards and absent-mindedness.

The problem is that I like the idea of being organized. I also like the way I feel when old things are moved out to make room for thought and creativity. I understand the need to clear house every once in a while, to allow for openness and mental expansion. And when I do carve out a little space, it takes only a few days before I fill it with collections of clutter that I find beautiful — swatches of fabric, swirls of plum and burgundy paisley, textured papers, handmade with flecks of dried leaf, floral wallpaper samples, delicate buds still closed or giant cascading blooms, colour swatches from the paint department in Home Hardware, daydream blue and heather haze, iridescent buttons that resemble pearls, and speckled rocks from Pointe Pelee beach. I am a hoarder.

My purse is no different. Amongst the clutter of receipts and business papers are beautiful objects. The small second wallet is covered in pale blue crystals and shimmers in the light, and on the front of the sturdy metal business card holder is a Japanese inspired nature scene. Despite their functionality, they are pretty, in a useless sparkly sort of way. The purse itself is one that I purchased many years ago for under twenty dollars. There is nothing pretty about it. It is black and utilitarian. If a purse says something about the person whose arm it is slung around, then I guess this one reveals my contradictions — a practical yet disorganized and forgetful woman who compartmentalizes, creates collections out of clutter and makes lists of lists, and in the end, enjoys a little colour and sparkle.

Read more about the Capacious Project here.
To view all the contributions to the project go here.