PRESIDENT SPEAKS FROM THE ART. Poets too.
By Norman Warwick
It would be a grand, but false, claim to suggest that the President of The Cabildo Of Lanzarote is in direct contact with us to keep us informed of new arts enterprises created to deflect the health crisis.
Nevertheless, despite surely currently being a very busy lady, President Maria Dolores Carujo Berrien is distributing regular newsletter briefings via social media. We have been able to occasionally share these with our English speaking readership of Lanzarote Information and I have also posted some, where relevant, to this Sidetracks & Detours blog. There have been fantastic Cabildo productions recently, including a dramatic stage biography of Cesar Manrique broadcast as a video and a virtual concert by The Tonin Corujo Quartet.
The President ( pictured right) even recently posted the following message on facebook.
´Despite experiencing difficult times, we continue to discover artists from our island. Rabbit Ricardo Espino Armas, 20, a third year student of Criminology at the University of Salamanca, has composed a beautiful song for Lanzarote, inspired by the island´s beaches, sand, sea, timples, parrandas and Cesar Manrique.´
The President included video footage of Rabbit Ricardo performing the lovely, lilting song that you will be able to find on the president´s facebook page. She concluded that brief report by saying, ´so proud of the talent of our island. I love you so much.´
Those sentiments are currently surely being echoed by thousands of us, whether indigenous people or new residents of this wonderful location.
Even when confined to the house or garden, though, and when a fifty yard trip for a loaf of bread is the highlight of the day, there is still a way to discover sidetracks & detours as you follow your art. Communication and sharing is the key and we here in the ´office´ are incredibly grateful to all those who correspond with us, advising of new initiatives taking place in the arts despite the current fears.
It would be easy to lean the other way, to fall into sloth and despair during these times, and to attach too much wrong connotation to Wordsworth´s claim the The World is Too Much With Us. Better, in fact, to commemorate the 250th birthday of one of England´s greatest poet as, albeit for short distances only, we each ´wander lonely as a cloud´ even here on Lanzarote.
Wordsworth´s special birthday is being significantly marked by a very special recording on which the sonorous tones of Stephen Fry and Brian Cox’s can be heard declaiming William Wordsworth’s aforementioned The World Is Too Much With Us, Caroline Quentin is reading the Romantic poet’s Lines Written in Early Spring, and William H Macy has taken on his She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways, which I have always loved and think of often when following my art and wandering the Sidetracks and Detours that provide my blog content.
According to Alison Flood in today´s Guardian, a host of actors have accepted an invitation to record their favourite Wordsworth poems to mark the 250th anniversary of his birth, with the poet’s descendants now appealing to the public to send in their own readings to help them build a living archive of his writing being read online.
The project, Wordsworth 250, arose after the coronavirus pandemic derailed plans by his descendants to mark the anniversary with a range of celebrations in the Lake District. After a few ideas they had were cancelled cancelled, Christopher Wordsworth Andrew, the poet’s great-great-great-grandson. e-mailed everybody in the family suggesting they should all send in their own readings of favourite Wordsworth poems.
´I thought the idea of Wordsworth family member all reading a Wordsworth poem via their i-phones might be quite unusual and amusing,´ Christopher has explained
There are around fifty direct Wordsworth descendants, and the majority became involved in what was initially intended to be just a family memorial. However, when Mr. Andrew managed to contact Fry, who was keen to join in, he suddenly found himself with dozens of celebrities reading for the archive, including Ruth Wilson, Tom Conti and Hugh Bonneville.
´Lo and behold, we found that actually everybody rather likes Wordsworth,´ Mr. Andrew told The Guardian. ´Not just the daffodils and Westminster Bridge, but a whole load of other things as well. I was terrified about getting fifty readings of Daffodils, but actually people have sort of veered away from that.´
Insert photo 4 The readings by the Wordsworth family and the celebrities have been published online and Mr. Andrew is keen for members of the public to send in their own, either as video or audio, to be released alongside. He hopes to get to 250 readings – around 100 are online so far – but has promised he will try to publish everything that comes in.
´The celebrities tend not to want to be filmed because they’re not going to be looking beautiful,´ he joked ´but everyone else is doing it on their phones. Video or audio, I don’t mind.´
Mr. Andrew himself has recorded the poem St Paul’s, about how the troubled poet is soothed by a sight of the great cathedral in the snow, “high above this winding length of street, / This moveless and unpeopled avenue, / Pure, silent, solemn, beautiful”.
Like the lines from Daffodils, those lines seem so appropriate for these times, don´t they? Great art, however long ago it might have been produced, is not static but moves with the times, and speaks to the people about the times they are living in, as well as continuing to remind us of the times in which the art was created.
Mr. Andrew describes St. Paul´s, in his conversation with Alison Flood, as being ´about Wordsworth leaving a friend and walking, downcast, through an empty London, and he looks up and sees St Paul’s with a veil of snow in front of it.
´It’s an unknown poem,´ he says, ´reminiscent of Westminster Bridge. It’s lovely.´
Wordsworth still means so much to modern readers, but nevertheless Mr. Andrew has been amazed at public response to this commemorative arts project.
´It’s been amazing,´ he says. ´People have come back and said, ‘That’s the best two or three hours I’ve spent in lockdown’ after going to their old Wordsworth book which probably belonged to their father or grandmother or somebody, and reading a load of poems, starting with the ones they know.´
Mr. Andrew reminds us that his great, great, great grandfather is not a difficult poet to read. ´There’s nothing scary in Wordsworth,´ he suggests. ´There is nothing to worry us about not understanding what he’s saying. It’s very clear poetry and (reading it like this) is a really nice thing to do.´
Poetry has been booming in the lockdown, with multiple poems about the pandemic by amateurs being broadcast or going viral online. Other projects also include the former poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy leading poets in responding to the pandemic in verse and actor Patrick Stewart reading a Shakespeare sonnet every day online.
´I always think if you hear a poem you get it much more quickly than if you try to read it on the page,´ Mr. Andrew contends, “So that’s why having an archive where you can see someone like me, just a member of the general public, read a poem, will make it much less scary. None of us [Wordsworth descendants] are really poetry types – I work in wealth management, very unpoetical.´
This week´s editions of my own UK blog includes will bring news of a new-build National Poetry Centre for the UK and also of a new album due to be released in May by current poet laureate Simon Armitage reading new poems set to music with his group LYR.
I had, in fact just finished writing that piece only half an hour before we had a text message from Marlene Bewick in the UK at ten past eight on Saturday night, advising us to listen to a programme on BBC Radio 4 that had started at 8.00 pm. We therefore were able to listen to most of a fascinating programme presented by Simon Armitage. On the programme Simon was interviewing, (although ´sharing a joyful conversation with´ is a better description) Guy Garvey, lead singer and writer in the band Elbow, who were formed in Bury, just down the road from our house in Heywood in the UK when we lived there.
As we are over here, the UK is in lockdown too, of course, but we still receive news of all sorts of arts events being tailored to the situation.
Marlene, who sent us the text about Simon´s radio show should have been staying over here with us this week, but of course that can´t happen for a while yet. Nevertheless, Marlene´s husband, Sidetracks & Detours jazz correspondent and radio presenter Steve Bewick, has recently wandered through the townships of nineteen fifties South Africa to discover a long forgotten, but hugely influential jazz opera from that era.
In fact, even my old University Of Leeds has sent us news of a proposed massive field-study seeking to detect whether dialect language is still thriving or barely surviving in the UK.
Surely, if busy Presidents like Maria Dolores Carujo Berrien can find comfort in the arts then so, too, can all of us. If you would like to share the art that is helping you through all of this please feel free to drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will try to include your thoughts on these pages.
Meanwhile take care and stay safe, and thank you for reading.