Call for Submissions: Festival of the Trees 60

Talk to the Trees!

If you're inspired, write, paint, compose, perform your communion with a tree or trees, post in your blog, or Picasa or Flikr , or YouTube or Vimeo, or SoundCloud or Jamendo, wherever you hang your on-line hat, and send me the link, and I'll include it in the round-up on Festival Day! I'm hosting the next Festival of the Trees at my blog, Rubies in Crystal, on June 1st. Any and all entries welcome!

Call for Submissions: Festival of the Trees 60

Host: Rubies in Crystal - here!

Deadline: May 29

Email to: brenda.clews [at] gmail [dot]com — or use the contact form on Festival of the Trees Submit page

*Important! Put “Festival of the Trees” in the subject line of your email

Theme: Trees in sound and motion: arboreal conversations

The Festival of the Trees 60th edition is all about expanding your arboreal horizons. This month the Festival is hosted here, at Rubies in Crystal. Share a conversation with trees. We are asked to observe our own engagement with trees, and record it—with video, audio, slideshow, or any other creative composition we can dream up.

Consider this your Director’s License, complete with the big high chair (wooden, of course). When you create your tree submissions, be conscious of the role of the spectator. Each viewer will have a different experience from your own experience with the trees. Share something which invites your audience to take a seat, listen, and reflect on the different ways that humans perceive trees – or become more aware of their own regard for trees and forests.

Here’s a little multimedia arboreal inspiration to kick things off:

cherry blossom haiku (who else is listening with you at dawn?)

The Beauty of Denmark, Botanical Ecosystem (does the camera follow your eye, or does your eye follow the camera?)

Ecology: Forest Canopy Freestyle Rap (what’s more to explore than the eyes can see?)

Tree Bird Moon Ghost (what do you hear in the forest? how would you translate it?)

All tree-related submissions are considered, so as you wander the web this month, keep the Festival in mind and send us links to any tasty trees you find! Submission deadline is Sunday May 29th.

Festival of the Trees (home site)

When Actors Deny their Best Performances

[Wrote this, it looks like, on November 8, 2010, but never got around to posting it.]


Last Tango in Paris (1972), re-watched 30 years later, contains a disturbing aspect. Researching the film, I discover the two main actors, Maria Schneider and Marlon Brando, both felt, in Bertolucci's final film after editing, raped by the director---even though this film was probably the 'performance of their life' for both actors.

Watching Breillat's, Sex is Comedy, in which a director elicits a moving sex scene between an actress and an actor who hate each other in real life, and Breillat is perhaps notorious for not using stand-ins, dummies, tape, but filming actual sex in her films, opened these questions for me. In Sex is Comedy the film becomes an obsession of the sex scene which, when it is finally filmed, is unforgettable, the camera held steadily on Roxane Mesquida, and we see her vulnerability, anger, shame, pain and defiance in her success as an actress as 'the act' is performed. Though it occurs under the sheets, and we see no nudity, we are watching a real scene; this is not make-believe.

None of Breillat's actors or actresses have turned against the performances they achieved under her brilliant eye as far as I know, but seeing the breakthrough of life in a scene, a moment clearly not acted, made me aware of moments in other films where I've seen actors cross the line from acting to revealing themselves on screen.

It is an intimacy that can be shocking to the performer. There is no gloss, nothing to hide under. Naked and revealed. As Maria Scheider was in the infamous 'soap scene' in Last Tango, of which she later said she had no idea was about to happen, there was nothing in the script, nothing was explained to her, and when it happened, and it was, of course, simulated, her response was real. She carried her anger over that scene all her life, apparently.

I remember it as a memorable scene, sudden, with a threatened violence, it was a moment when we left cinema, sitting in our seats in the dark, and witnessed a kind of rape of a 20 year old woman, albiet one who was willingly having an anonymous affair with the mad, grief-stricken character Brando plays.

Why it contained the hue of reality is because Schneider wasn't acting in that moment.

Is that what frightened and infuriated her later on? The jokes about that performance afterwards too close for comfort?

When actors who give superlative performances turn against their directors, the film they have starred in---is it because there are moments when they weren't acting in the performances elicited from them?

Does it disturb an actor not to act?

After Basquiat (1996), directed by Julian Schnabel:
...was released, the actor Jeffrey Wright said that "I think my performance was appropriated, literally, and the way I was edited was appropriated in the same way his [Basquiat's] story has been appropriated and that he was appropriated when he was alive. [...] Julian made him out to be too docile and too much of a victim and too passive and not as dangerous as he really was. It's about containing Basquiat. It's about aggrandizing himself through Basquiat's memory.

Yet Schnabel's film opened Basquiat to me. Jeffrey Wright's performance, superlative. I fell in love not with Schnabel, but Basquiat. How can this be appropriation? Schnabel includes himself in Basquiat's story. It is his lived experience, his truth. How could it be otherwise?

When I saw Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child, a documentary by Basquiat's friend, Tamra Davis, with real footage of the artist, and his actual art, my love deepened (the Basquiat family declined to allow Schnabel to use Basquiat's real work in his film and so he had to create facsimiles, which certainly decreased the power of the film).


Burt Reynolds in Boogie Nights (1997), starred as a porn director named Jack Horner, for which he received an Oscar nomination. Reynold's sacked his agent, divorced himself from the film, said no to a sequel.

Not talking about actors responses to bad movies they've been in, of which every actor has a story.

Talking about actors denigrating films in which they gave realistic performances that are recognized as great performances.

Lady of Green Fire

'Lady of Green Fire,' 20.5cm x 29cm, 8" x 11.5", India inks, Waterman sepia ink, acrylic inks, gel pens, oil paint, oil pastels, watercolour pencils, Moleskine sketchbook.

[Above, scanned; below, sketchbook snapped with a camera on my marble coffee table.]

A Venus arising from a sea of leaves. A green garden goddess. Perhaps she is Spring welcoming the sun. Not fully clothed yet. Or the Woman Clothed with the Sun. Yes, I like that.

You can't tell in this scan, but the gold and the blue are iridescent colours. A very different style for me, but then I continue to explore, always open to the new.

2 Lady of Green Fire [in process]

'Lady of Green Fire,' 20.5cm x 29cm, 8" x 11.5", India inks, Waterman sepia ink, acrylic ink, gel pens, oil pastels, oil paint, watercolour pencils, Mokeskine sketchbook.

A Venus arising from a sea of leaves. A green garden goddess. Perhaps she is Spring welcoming the sun. Not fully clothed yet. Yes, I like that. This is as far as I got tonight; I'm needing some iridescent blue ink to make leaf motifs in the sky, and of course, it's late and the art store is closed.

Lady of Green Fire [in-process]

'Lady of Green Fire/Greet the Sun,' 20.5cm x 29cm, 8" x 11.5", India inks, Waterman sepia ink, gel pens, oil pastels, watercolour pencils, Mokeskine sketchbook. [Detail]

What I did tonight... it's not finished, I don't think. I may want to create a mesh of leaves in the background in gold ink but don't have any.

This, and the last poem painting, Wing of Chrysalides, are, yes, mystical drawings.

[full size]


Wing of Chrysalides

[Above, taken indoors; below, scan before it was quite dry, or sprayed with an archival fixative. The colours in the one above are more accurate, but I like the softness of the scan. Click for larger size.]

'Wing of Chrysalides,' 2011, 20cm x 27cm, 8" x 10.5", India inks, oil paint, oil pastel, watercolour pencils, Moleskine sketchbook.

He stands between two worlds; he is about to leap. His wing, of chrysalises. In his hand, a green butterfly. He is nearly undifferentiated in the green as he straddles the blue where he is clear.

On him, glued, a piece of a shopping bill: 'Please retain receipt for purpose of completing the online survey.'

Another piece of the receipt, which hangs like a white fish, or perhaps only a rhythm.

Earlier version (scanned). You can see that I re-drew the figure who was sketched in here.




I wrote this prose poem in July 2007. Today I recorded it on my iPhone, a quiet reading, and added a track from the Music Text Composition Generator that I had entered this poem into. The poem is its own music, yes. I'm thinking to go back to the way I was recording before I got freaked out by, oh I don't know. A feeling that I was over-reaching prescribed bounds with layering voices, readings, allowing passion in my voice, that sort of thing.


In a moment words will appear from which everything unravels.

Or begin with an explosion of lace.

Lace that is white, or whitened with the sun's steaming. Looped, twisted, braided threads, sewn with sharp needles, shaped like a cutwork of leaf veins in the sky. Finely-woven stitches, not broken or lost. Florals in white; sun-rises in white; waves in white. Spider webs of lace floating, an organic garden of cotton and linen and silk.

How many fine stitches I see everywhere.

Seams of perfect clothing, backs, shoulders, arms, waists, hips, the tight stitching of form-fitting shoes, the interlapping folds of purses. Fabric. Like skin. Woven tightly or loosely. Draped, tucked, formed, fitted. The soft velvet of the armchair in the cafe in which I sit, rounded, plush.

Colours in swathes, patterned. Different attire for different scenarios. Layers of warmth or mere covering if it's cold or hot. Whether a garment can open or close or covers in one swoop. Pieces of cloth fitted to hold the shape of the wearer. Clothes that adhere, drape, flow for sitting, walking, sleeping, dancing.

Looms and sewing machines and bobbins. Billions of miles of thread around the world. Stitching, this way of composing, holding together, covering ourselves, these metaphors, textual narratives.

What if I don't want to take a stance? What if I don't want to weave a garment out of these threads? A story out of all the stories filling my mind? If "Narratives, or more precisely plots, synthesize reality," (Snaevarr) can I exist without telling a tale of myself to you, or even to myself?

The flow of language like clothing, fashions that encase shaping how we present ourselves. Can we be naked without the speaking that stitches the world together, seam by seam, reams of bolts of cloth, patternings?

What was lost in the scrap lace pile, discarded, worn-out, old, the remnants, unraveled in the tears and rips, bleached out by wear?

How do I hem these words so they don't fray?

Shawls of Shetland lace are knitted first in the middle and then out to the edges and is so fine it can be pulled through a wedding ring. Can we marry ourselves to words that knit us to ourselves, each other, the world?

Social customs inform the attire of any given era and shape the body, but does the weave of worsted wool or soft cotton follow the curves and hollows of the skin and shape the wearer?

Or are the words we clothe ourselves with what we hide under?

Presentation and fashion. The way I compose myself every day; every piece of writing. Gathering myself in this historical time, a product of my age.

All the stitches of the world held in syntactical rhythms of meaning, social fabrics.

Is that why we want words to unfold in comfort from us? Wave-white words wedded. Words that aren't performative; that are dream-like, real.

Unraveling, I came to this, and I can't obscure it, truth, death, the words of the lover, and she who knits, knots, tapes, crochets, sews the world into being with her openwork, the lace maker.

Testing Video Lightbox to showcase a few pieces of the new album

I am testing Video Lightbox, a freeware application for home users. I have to add some code to my blog site html for the embeds to work as their site shows, but, if what I have done here works for you the way it does on my computer, I'm quite happy.

I've created two poetry albums so far. The first, Dance of the Solar Wind, was a collection of different pieces that had music accompaniment. The second, Starfire, was thematic, and I culled all my love poems and recorded them with music of musicians who share their work on Jamendo. For my next album, I thought to create a longer poem and find an album in the 40-60 min range to work with.

When José Travieso released his album, No More Faith, I thought, wow, this album travels all over the place musically, from neo-classical to minimalism to an anti-music bordering on noise in the last piece. The range of styles in this album appealed to me. I wrote to him asking his permission, and he said yes. Then I thought, it is a long album, what shall I write, it might be too much work to try to fit my poetry into the format of the tracks on the album, and I'll remain open to finding other music. But this album, No More Faith, has made a deep impact in my imagining psyche. Already two videos, with a third planned, and a voice recording.

The Video Lightbox test is to see if I can display the collection that is growing in little thumbnails that open into videos.

I've linked the images to the videos. The videos open on my computer in a new tab of full-screen browser size, which I prefer to YouTube's full screen option. They are set at 720px HD resolution, but you can change this once the player opens.

I hope this works! Click on the images.

(direct YouTube link): dance/ ...indigo folio leaves (3:04min);
music, the first track, 'Monster,' on José Travieso's album, "No More Faith."

A reading of my poem, Wear White Paint for the Moon (2:53min);
music, the ninth track, 'Shinigami's Dream, No. 6,' on José Travieso's album, "No More Faith."
José has kindly created an 11:24min version of this track for a video poem I am planning.

(direct YouTube link): The Dancer's Backskin (1:30min);
music, the final track, 'Shinigami's Dream, No. 1,' on José Travieso's album, "No More Faith."

The Dancer's Backskin

direct link: The Dancer's Backskin

An accidental drawing - in a new Moleskine notebook, I brushed water over watercolour pencil. The paper shredded badly and cracked like an eggshell when dry. Intrigued with the effect, and having seen Natalie Portman's incredible performance in Aronofsky's 'Black Swan,' the desire for pure art, its passion and self-effacement, and the self-mutilation, hallucinations, madnesses, I thought of the underside of the dancer's life. Or her backskin.

I am working with the album that the music comes from (see also dance/ ...indigo folio leaves), with the musician's knowledge and tacit permission. No More Faith is an album of such variety I felt it could work for a longer project - literally, from neo-classical to this strange fingernail-on-the-blackboard minute and a half of scratchings. The strangeness that I might have felt on first listen has worn off and the sound seems less grating and more intriguing- perhaps, and who's to know for sure, that's the musician making anti-music for his possessive slave-driving muse who doesn't seem to realize he has a day job as a teacher. The tension is in this piece. His work has such energy. It was the perfect choice for my video.

Jose wrote back to me today:

Hello Brenda!

I've had opportunity to watch your video just right now. Your wrote:

"that's the musician making anti-music for his possessive slave-driving muse who doesn't seem to realize he has a day job as a teacher."

Hahaha! Very poetic, but of course everything is o.k. with me. There is no problem with everything you wrote. Just the contrary, thanks for writing so well about my music and album.

What about Shinigami's Dream, No. 1, it was just -as you wrote- an experiment creating something like "anti-music". With the Shinigami's Dream pieces I wanted always to create oniric impressions, unpleasant and disturbing feelings, always exploring the extreme points in the music and noises. #1 was the most extreme work and I was near not to add it to the album, but finally I decided to have it as last piece, just after the softness of A Tale for our Wasted Years, as an exercise of thesis (the search for the perfection and the balance in music) and anti-thesis. I like the effect in the album, it's so disturbing... :-)

Thanks for everything and, by the way, nice videopoem, as it's usual in you.

Best wishes,

Brenda Clews, art, poetry, voice, video; music, José Travieso's track, 'Shinigami's Dream, No. 1,' on his album, "No More Faith."

The Dancer's Backskin (album of photos)

I posted the painting, The Dancer's Backskin in February.

Abhishek Sengupta: 'You're Still Awake?'

You're Still Awake?

by Abhishek Sengupta

One morning, as I woke up, I found my palms were empty. The lines had detached themselves from my palms. They were floating around in the different corners of the mid-air in my bedroom. Like strings lighter than the air. Like destiny trapped in a helium filled balloon, covering the distance between the heaven and the hand.

That evening I told my father -

"Dad, you know what happened when I woke up this morning?"

My father smiled.

"Son, you're insomniac. You haven't woken up for centuries."


A young Indian man, I've come to know Abhishek's writing through Facebook. This piece struck me particularly for its tight construction. Not a word is wasted here.

A Borgesian, Surrealist, dreamtime philosophical poem. I especially like the lines of the hand detaching and floating... very painterly, I think Magritte or Dali would have been inspired. Then I like how he expands time. That transition in the piece is deft, sudden, from strings to destiny, from strange dream realities to a koan of impossibilities, an insomniac who hasn't woken up for centuries, and then we realize that the entire piece could be a dream. Oh Abhishek is a mind-bender!

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