Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Monday, 29 November 2010
Monday, 13 September 2010
Thursday, 26 August 2010
Tuesday, 5 January 2010
Monday, 4 January 2010
Paul is unique in many ways: for a start he is between 28 and 37 feet tall, is over 100 years old and uses pine trees as disposable hair brushes. Oh, and he also has more than one birthplace. One legend has it that he was born on the East Coast, in Maine, and that when he was given a double-sided axe as an 18th birthday present, he was off, cutting his way across the country. Others claim he was raised in Minnesota, brought to life by the tales of the woodsmen and lumberjacks, some of who allegedly tied whole sides of bacon to the bottom of their boots and used them as skates to grease his pancake griddle. Those who know him as a resident of Westwood, CA would say that was his true home, and they may have a point. In the early 20th century, a man called T.B. Walker built a town on the back of an enormous wealth made with the Red River Logging Company. He envisaged Westwood as the lumber capitol of America, and for many years it was, owning both the world's largest pine timber mill and consequent pile of sawdust. Paul Bunyan appeared in his trade-mark plaid shirt and jeans combo in advertisements devised by William Laughead, ex-logger and author of The Round River Drive, a book of tales about the logging camps, in which the giant lumberjack made his first appearances. Now Westwood is a shadow of its former self, its population reduced to a tenth of is original size, it relies mainly on tourism, and owes much to Laughead and Bunyan. Much like T.B. Walker and the Red River Lumber Company, Paul Bunyan always went 'where there's lots of trees and plenty of room', which was most of the North West of the country. In American Folklore, Bunyan stands for strength, progress and determination. He is the epitome the pioneering spirit that has seen all the boom industries come, provide for a period of time, and go, leaving behind the husks of towns, and weather-battered monuments. This image (above) of a talking, moving, winking Bunyan, the tallest replication in the world, stands in front of the entrance to the Trees of Mystery, a roadside attraction in northern California. The park features a short, sign-posted nature trail, a restaurant, gift shop and museum that are all Bunyan-themed. It is perhaps the most suitable place for a Statue of the folk hero, a figure as "mysterious" as the several malformed redwoods that give the attraction its name.
Sunday, 3 January 2010
-William Carlos Williams
Chicago: Pt. I
This young man is not a city; he’s a dash of seeds in the wind,
a swaggerer, a gambler, a pearl-diver.
He is a boy brimming with promise,
he is in many ways his parent’s child still.
There are older men in the east
who sneer at the way he holds his hand out for rain.
They can smell it coming;
they are wise now, they have developed systems,
they have pulled hard to get where they are
-it’s not something every man can achieve,
and don’t you forget it.
They talk amongst themselves of the day they arrived,
how they discovered that green tussock, that willing field,
or the way some stumbled into a valley,
and how it was on fire with sunlight and willow dust
and crimson leaves and birdsong-
they had no clue it was there!
They dug fingers deep into the soil
to test its richness,
and drank the river water to taste if it was sweet and clean.
Then they spread out on the grass,
and eventually grew roots and broad shoulders,
and beards of smoke, which tumbled into the sky.
They take a long draw on their own history
and glance across the dazzling prairies at the boy,
plunging his bare feet into Lake Michigan,
where herons drag their eyes
over the black water for bream
that flash like arrows of mercury off into the reeds.
They see him a extend a bony arm out west,
it looks like a rail road,
but they can’t hear what he’s saying.
They strain an ear,
but are deafened by their own cacophony;
jets of steam scream from pipes,
an iron hammer finds its home,
a hundred times over.
Now a wind rushes through Illinois with the cold on its tail,
it rattles the red barns,
slashes at hay stacks,
chases fat clouds across the sky.
And perhaps it’s some cock-assuredness
of youth, or just plain naïvety,
but he doesn’t seem to notice
how the sails of ships flap in the docks like panicked gills,
or how the trees huddle in copses
their leaves are nearly all stripped away now,
look how they litter the forest floor,
and the apples! The acorns!
Still, and despite themselves, the older cities are anxious
of how the boy handles his business.
News crosses the country in gossiping droves,
follows the geese honking
into the harbours of Boston,
the damp parks of New York, knee-deep
He has stockyards now, bristling acres of hogs,
he has trams, he has ice trains.
He is a scientist, he is an entrepreneur.
But he is still a young man, some mutter, he has not been tested.
Not like New York, when Cholera spread to the Five Points,
and infants turned cold in their cots.
No, nor like what happened in Boston, remember,
the year of no summer,
when crops were lost, and the farmers rolled out west?
But the boy grows every day,
his houses are mushrooms, his people land like spores
amongst the weeds and the communities of wildflowers,
and they are strong and muddy and red-faced and happy
because Chicago is becoming a man.
His heart is a thick nut of industry now-
fertilizer factories muck in for the fruit, for the good of the fields,
the snaking veins of canals pull in the barges
up from the south, barrels
full to busting with grain, and liquor, and Mississippi quarrel.
The ice trains grind through Iowa, slow as hearses
on their way to California,
and the Hog Butcher of the World wrings his bloody hands,
and ushers in the next squealing mob.
And there is a steady rhythm to the growth,
like the beat of Native drums.
It is in the soil, a dull pulse,
it is in the pounding routine of feet on the sidewalks,
and the clapping hands at christenings,
it vibrates through the rusty frames of ploughs at night,
embodying Black Hawk War skeletons in the grass,
propped up on their elbows to see the stars
one last time.
On nights like this the boy is exhausted from the month’s labours,
from the drought of summer and the cold
that digs its claws into October.
Men are up in their towers on the look-out for fires,
for their suppers and for their wives.
But from their posts they cannot see how keen the straw is,
or how that persisting wind has found a way in
through a hole a field mouse might have made
in a shed.
Only Chicago feels the spark, like a fleabite on his belly,
and he chokes at the thought of the bone-dry timbers,
of the people asleep in their beds.
He hears the chants of his parents, the Potawatomis
as if for the first time,
as they float out of the land and affect the moon
behind its pale cataract of cloud, so it looks eerily upon the graveyards,
and pools in the eyes of night animals.
They stir up the silt of prophesy and they scare him
when he has feared nothing before.
The elders said he would be tested,
said he would have to gather himself again from ash
before he can be called a man.
He will have to find a pith of resilience at his core,
before he can boast of his history,
establish his economy,
before he can be known in his country as Chicago, the city.