This Friday, 28 November is William Blake’s birthday and we’re organising a surprise present.
To say Happy Birthday to Mr Blake, please ask everyone you know to donate £1 by texting FEET111 to 70070 from a mobile phone (or you can make a more generous donation by selecting any number between 1 and 9 for the last digit, eg FEET117 donates £7 pounds).
The funds will be used to buy Blake’s Cottage on the Sussex coast where he wrote the words for our national anthem Jerusalem : And Did Those Feet …
Blake’s Cottage will become a home for artists, authors, thinkers, and anyone who shares with Blakea belief that Imagination is Britain’s gift and duty to the world.
Blake is our genius whose influence on the arts, poetry and creativity reverberates around the globe today. Yet 257 years after his birth, he still does not have a home in this ‘green and pleasant land’.
We will change that, creating a home for Blake, for visitors young & old, for everyone in the world who believes in the primacy of the Imagination – The Only Nation Is The Imagination!
So what better way to celebrate Blake’s birthday than to push ajar the door to his Cottage? We have already raised £92,000, so kick open the door a little more with your FEET111 The phone operators generously give on the whole amount of your gift to our registered charity without deduction.
So on Blake’s birthday help us open a Visionary Home where we can look forward to the pitter patter of feet and the fire of chariots for generations to come.
This weekend, the Golgonooza Festival will be taking place in Felpham, running from 18-20 September. The aim of the festival is to celebrate our cultural heritage, old and new, in the village where Blake lived from 1800-1803. It was during this time that he began work on his epic poem, Milton, and he described the village as a place where “Heaven opens here on all sides her golden gates”.
The Festival is part of the Big Blake Project, an umbrella project that brings together the Big Blake trail, Big Blake arts, Blake’s Cottage and the Golgonooza Festival itself. Set up by Rachel Searle, the project celebrates Blake’s life and work, regenerating culture and arts with a particular focus on public spaces around Felpham and Bognor Regis.
Among those participating in the Festival are the punk poet Attila the Stockbroker, the children’s writer K.M. Lockwood, and the storyteller Abbie Palanche. You can find out more details about the event at http://thebigblakeproject.org.uk/golgoonoza/.
As part of its efforts to emphasise Blake’s connections to the village, the Big Blake Project is also involved with the Blake Society in a plan to raise £520,000 via crowdfunding to purchase the cottage where Blake lived with his wife Catherine. The cottage came onto the market last year, the first time it has been available since 1928.
The Blake Society has until October 31st to raise the money needed and, if successful, will place the cottage in a charitable trust to be held in perpetuity for the benefit of the nation. The campaign is endorsed by Sir Andrew Motion, Philip Pullman, Stephen Fry, Tracy Chevalier, Russell Brand, Alan Moore, Cosmo Sheldrake and Jeremy Reed. You can find more details, as well as how to donate, at http://www.blakesociety.org/blakecottage/.
It’s not often that a writer on Blake gets an excuse to link to the biggest technology event of the year. In case you haven’t heard, Apple yesterday announced the launch of the new iPhone 6 (“bigger than bigger” according to their site) and Apple Watch. And the connection to William Blake, who died a couple of centuries before he could get his hands on either device? The release of U2’s new album, Songs of Innocence, free to iTunes users.
The link to Blake is not entirely out of the blue. Steve Jobs was once described as having an “inexhaustible interest” in the works of Blake, while U2 have more than a passing interest in the Romantic poet: the lyrics of “Beautiful Ghost” from the album are Blake’s “Introduction” to Songs of Experience. Obviously that link has remained engrained somewhere, leading to the latest album being made available exclusively via Apple this week.
Not everyone has been impressed by U2’s invocation of Blake, however (and John Doran’s opinion piece at http://thequietus.com/articles/16217-bono-u2-songs-of-experience is particularly worth reading).
As the equivalent of a graphic designer of his day, it’s pretty clear to me that Blake would have been a Mac user today (for all that I secretly desire him to have been a Linux hacker) – at least when he could have afforded any kind of computer. I’ll follow with a review on the U2 album shortly, but in the meantime you can listen to it at https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/songs-of-innocence/id915794155.
The schedule has now been set and registration is open for William Blake’s Manuscripts: A One-Day Symposium. This symposium will be held at the Huntington Library on June 7th, 2013, and the list of Blake luminaries speaking include (in alphabetical order) Luisa Calé, Mark Crosby, Morris Eaves, Alexander Gourlay, Steve Hindle, Rachel Lee, Joseph Viscomi, Angus Whitehead, and John Windle. Attendance costs $31.50 and includes lunch, introductory remarks, two plenary sessions, two panels, and closing remarks by Mark Crosby (lunch is optional: conference registration alone is $15.00 and free for students). I would encourage anyone interested in Blake and able to travel to San Marino, California in June to take advantage of this opportunity.
John H. Jones. Blake on Language, Power, and Self-Annihilation. $90.00. Palgrave MacMillan, 2010. pp. xii+250.
John H. Jones’s Blake on Language, Power, and Self-Annihilation argues that dialogic self-annihilation in Blake’s oeuvre is a means of resistance to all forms of “philosophical and political monologism” that dictatorially impose a single vision upon readers and listeners. Where monologism establishes the author as an authority and the reader as a passive recipient, Blake’s dialogism invites both readers and listeners to the process of creating textual meaning through authorial acts of self-annihilation, acts that are opposed to the assertion of Blakean “selfhood.” Jones asserts that Blake’s “inspired discourse” anticipates Bahktin’s concept of dialogue, drawing upon Bahktin in each chapter to comment upon Blake’s use of discourse. Bakhtin’s The Dialogic Imagination and Makdisi’s William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s provide Jones with his theoretical orientation as he explores his thesis in chapters devoted to The Songs of Innocence and of Experience, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, The [First] Book of Urizen, Milton, and Jerusalem. This monograph’s strength lies in its detailed examination of a subject that has attained a high profile in Blake studies in the years preceding its publication. Jones’s examination spans key works across Blake’s entire career and is supported by careful readings of select texts. Its weaknesses are that its appropriation of Bakhtin is sparse enough to be able to be cut entirely with no loss, and it at times presents a Blake so committed to non-authoritarian dialogism that he cannot say anything at all. Its greatest fault, ironically given the book’s thesis, is that its thesis is applied without development or modification in chapter after chapter. This monograph on Blake’s dialogism, therefore, does not sufficiently recognize the strength of assertions offered by a dialog, Blake’s greater proximity to some points of view than others, and seems unable to assimilate Blake’s insistence on definite form.
Sarah Haggarty’s engaging and original study, Blake’s Gifts: Poetry and the Politics of Exchange, examines the theme of the gift in William Blake’s poetry and personal letters. Blake’s notion of the gift is considered in five areas from which each chapter takes its title: economy, patronage, charity, inspiration, and salvation. Because relatively little Blake scholarship is focused upon this topic, she theorizes her study by comparing Blake’s notion of the gift to either Derrida’s The Gift of Death or Given Time: 1. Counterfeit Money, Marcel Mauss’s The Gift: The Form and Reasons for Exchange in Archaic Societies, and Bourdieu’s titles on practice and cultural production. Most often siding with Mauss contra Derrida, Haggarty affirms that Blake’s notion of the gift maintains the idea of the gift as freely given in dialectic with the gift as the inauguration and sign of a relationship, seeking to contextualize Blake’s works within “the transactions of the world those works exist in” (p. 12). “Politics” in Haggarty’s title may be therefore slightly misleading unless construed in a very broad sense: Blake’s notion of the gift, according to Haggarty, often serves the purpose of elevating his works and his relationship with his patrons and readers above economics and politics in their narrower senses, or transforming and redeeming politics and economics as they are normally practiced. Rather than emphasizing the language of price, debt, and experience in his notion of the gift, Haggarty argues, Blake preferred the language of “treasures, rewards, gold, talents, and riches” (p. 12), extending his readers‘ conception of economics beyond the acquisition of material wealth. Haggarty’s well-written monograph isolates one of Blake’s less-regarded golden threads and rolls it up into a substantial, complex study that sheds valuable light on a number of themes important to Blake scholarship.