Face at the Bottom of the World: Hagiwara Sakutaro.

from the Chester Beatty Library. Dublin.
Yoku Go No Onna from the Chester Beatty Library. Dublin.


Both earth and sky are greenesses,
Greens that explode and expand:
Shoes flash like fish as I tread the seas
And hang like fish when I stand,
And happiness swims in the shadow of trees
As the light blade hangs from my hand.

Moonlight and Jellyfish

I swim in the moonlight, swim to snare
Jellyfish swarming, flocks of phlegm.

My hands stream out, forgoing me:
Further and further they extend
Among those moving mirrors where,
Coiling, the seaweeds cumber them;
Where, in the mooned alembic sea,
My flesh turns glassy, glassily.

A thing transparent, a chilly thing,
Flows in the water, knows no end…

My soul near frozen, shivering,
Sinks in the sea, is almost drowned,
Drowned in its very trance of prayer
While swarming everywhere around,
Swarming round me everywhere,
The jellyfish in trembles of pure blue
Swim out, swim through
That moonlight they are turning to….

I shall have to balance these excerpts from  The Face at the Bottom of the World with a woman poet, when I get two minutes. In the meantime the edition I read these in is from the UNESCO Collection, Published by Charles E Tuttle and Company 1969.

Here, In Ireland our jellyfish are small and brown with electric blue veins in the top. I made a poem about a whole lot of them beached and rotting In Irishtown a number of years ago.There were hundreds lining the beach after a wild storm.

I am publishing this in Images, tagged with Visions.

Julian of Norwich, a literary midwifery

Moony images

When Julian of Norwich describes her mystical experiences and her visions in her Revelation of Love, she describes them in three parts, thusly:

‘That is to sey, be bodily sight and by word formyd in my understonding and be gostly sight. But the gostly sight I cannot ne may not show it as hopinly ne as fully as I woulde’

There are sixteen ‘Shewings’- ‘Showings’, a term that midwives and those experienced in the process of birthing would recognise as the first indications of imminent birth.

Julian Of Norwich was an anchoress, she went through a process and experience of visionary state which she then communicated in a non-theological manner. The visions emanated from her experiences in spiritual writing and in an illness that threatened her life. The writing is astounding in descriptive terms, this is how a vision began:

‘and the bodily sight stinted and the gostly sight dwellid in mine understonding. and I desired as I durst to see more’.

The introductory to the folio editions and mss of Julian of Norwich is in print by The Exeter University Press and introduced by Marion Glasscoe.  Glasscoe compares the writing of Julian of Norwich to the experiences of Isaac Luria ( a 16th Century Kabbalist) in trying to vocalise his experience. Indeed , Simone Weil and others like Paul Celan have hit upon the same type of writing although discussion on this topic of mysticism is severely limited and often in the essays accompanying their major works. It’s an area of interest that I have threaded throughout this blog in pieces about Weil,  Karlen , Julian, Celan and Marguerite of Porete (who was unfortunately murdered during the Inquisition for refusing to disclaim her works).

Someone entered ‘Penelopiad Rubbish‘  into the search engine and ended up on the site ! I suggest reading the ‘Suicide Angel’ by Margaret Atwood before embarking on her lively engagement with mythos, the stringing up of the abused maids might be a little heavy on the palate as an introductory to Atwood and her waddling Penelope, whose shrewish hatred of Helen and thirst for blood might be off-putting to the faint-hearted.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

“The Fountain” by Denise Levertov.

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water
to solace the dryness at our hearts.
I have seen

the fountain springing out of the rock wall
and you drinking there. And I too
before your eyes

found footholds and climbed
to drink the cool water.

The woman of that place, shading her eyes,
frowned as she watched-but not because
she grudged the water,

only because she was waiting
to see we drank our fill and were

Don’t say, don’t say there is no water.
The fountain is there among it’s scalloped
grey and green stones,

it is still there and always there
with it’s quiet song and strange power
to spring in us,

up and out through the rock.

by Denise Levertov.

This poem was sent via Chaikhana, One of my favourite poems is ‘Your Childhood in Menton’, by Federico Garcia Lorca- published in Poet in New York.

Hildegard of Bingen

I read the story of Hildegard many years before I had heard the music. I have published a link to the ‘irupert’  Hildegard site on the right column of links, and an image of ‘ O Vos Felices Radices’.

I first heard ‘The origin of Fire’ in Mayo at a point just South West of the Reek, which is the local name for Croagh Patrick, on those few days that led to the New Year in 2005 , just after the Aceh Tsunami (which very directly effected a close family member).

We seemed to have appalling percussive weather and had gone (possibly insanely) to a local beach near the base of the reek, we were literally blown out of the car.

On arriving home and being truely miserable, someone had put on a Hildegard disc and had lit candles. There was the smell of cooking.

The room filled with her song and the news emerging from Phuket was good, we did not know that there was another dying being accomplished and that the Hildegard was an oasis of calm and beauty in that horrible time. I would encourage everyone to read the depths of her visions, with the awareness that she spent her whole life in praise and composition.

The images most general to her (of her affliction) show a flame striking her forehead, and her scribe/confessor. It’s over 900 years since the compositions but the quality of contemporary interpretations are excellent– however it’s not something I would seek to listen to everyday.

Along with Julian of Norwich, Hildegard’s work is outstanding in times when education for women was limited to church and mostly the males did the vision thing. Julian’s use of Amirah– or it’s english language equivalent transcends the religious content, but the context of those lives provided the poetic tension and purity of expression.

 ‘The Ordo Virtum’ – (The play of Virtues) and ‘Symphonia Armonie Celestium Revealationum’ comprise the major works. These number 77 songs/antiphons. It is amazing how much you lose as you get a bit distant from education.  In school we studied antiphon form and even sang a few – but most of the time we were too distracted by other things to pay much attention.

XLII- Sonnets From the Portuguese By Elizabeth Barrett-Browning

My future will not copy fair my past-
I wrote that once; and thinking at my side
My ministering life-angel justified
The word by his appealing look upcast
To the white throne of God, I turned at last,
And there, instead, saw thee, not unallied
To angels in thy soul! Then I, long tried
By natural ills, received the comfort fast,
While budding, at thy sight, my pilgrim’s staff
Gave out green leaves with morning dew impearled.
I seek no copy now of life’s first half:
Leave here the pages with long musing curled,
And write me  my new future’s epigraph,
New angel mine, unhoped for in the world!


Of course Elizabeth Barrett Browning‘s rhyme schemes drove the literary establishment cracked, the mention of her name for the Laureateship ( after the death of Wordsworth) was not truly in earnest but it was good discussions began…..

The Sonnets from the Portuguese were written to Robert and handed to him after their elopement , when he was in deep grief over a death in his family. and 341 years after the name of Barret-Browning was mentioned in jest for the British Laureateship, the cycle of male-domination of these laurels was broken by Carol Ann Duffy in 2009 !