Shakespeare and Earth Day

Windmills @Firstindigo&Lifestyle

Earth Day and Shakespeare’s Birthday both take place in April, a month known for its showers and blossoms. The poetry month of April resonates with the nature’s big events, and surely that of playwright and poet William Shakespeare’s imagination. Earth Day is celebrated on the 22nd, and Shakespeare gets his day on the 23rd.

Earth Day wishes to bring us back to thinking of hope in the days of chaos, and optimism for our futures during crisis. Each of us has a voice in creating our ideas for, what the future might hold, and what kind of world would we rather imagine. Perhaps a look back in the history will show us, how not to live in the future. From the point of view of conservation, Shakespeare’s times weren’t necessarily better than our more recent past.

The Shakespearean Forest” is a book written by Anne Barton (Cambridge University Press, 2017). The book handles woodland in early modern drama. “The Shakespearean Forest” puts the playwright’s work within a historical, social and literary world of forests. It also questions, how the forests might have been staged in the early theater. Forests as surroundings were also “stages” for leisure hunting, and preparation for warfare. 

Shakespeare’s birthplace, the town of Stratford-upon-Avon, was surrounded by the Forest of Arden. This forest was already in decline in his time. It is believed that during his lifetime, trees were more of a commodity, used as timber for building houses and ships, and functioning as fuel for cooking and heating. 

earthday @Firstindigo&Lifestyle
earthday @Firstindigo&Lifestyle

To see nature in a positive light in Shakespeare’s work is not hard though. Nature acts as a metaphor in his writings numerous times. One of the greatest is from “King Henry“: Let heaven kiss earth! now let not Nature’s hand Keep the wild flood-confin’d! let order die! And let this world no longer be a stage To feed contention in a lingering act.(Henry IV, Part 2).

There are so many beautiful and accurate comparisons between seasons and our life cycles, seeing weather as a backdrop for actions, and setting its moods for our own. Not to mention how romantic sentiments are created within nature. Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 98” is an appraisal for the month of April, a song of Spring. 

From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight
Drawn after you, – you pattern of all those.
    Yet seem’d it winter still, and, you away,
    As with your shadow I with these did play.
meadow @Firstindigo&Lifestyle
meadow @Firstindigo&Lifestyle

The Folger Shakespeare Library,  in Washington D.C., opened in 1932 being an independent research library devoted to advanced study of the Renaissance and the early modern period in the Western hemisphere. It is a world-class research center with an outstanding collection of editions of Shakespeare’s plays. The Library has one of the world’s finest collections of 15th- through 18th-century rare books and manuscripts from Great Britain and Europe.

Olena Jennings: THE MEMORY PROJECT

In 2018, a New York City poet Olena Jennings created poetry based on her family’s stories, attempting to visualise photography with words. The poems that resemble photography, carry them as frameworks of memory. In Olena Jenning’s THE MEMORY PROJECT: The memory comes before the poem. The poem comes before the art.

“I chose ink and paper for the poems. I chose fabric for the art. The poems are a small slice of time in which I experienced memories, many based on photographs in my grandparents’ photo album. I experienced the memories in 2018 and they were embellished by memories I was creating as I lived.” 

The project was presented in various incarnations at Queens Farm, the Red Barn, and Bliss on Bliss Studio.

POPPIES        Olena Jennings 

Red and blue on the dresser,
dust in the folds,
stretching towards the dim lamp.
Click of lipstick cap,
spritz of perfume,
snap of purse,
and she will turn the light off.
The flowers will wither
into their dreams
and I will put my lips
into their centers,
ready to blow away pollen.
The yellow dust caught in my eyes,
when I see for a moment
from her perspective, I look out
onto the yard. I see myself
throwing a rubber ball into the flowers,
crushing their petals,
the place where I convinced
my little brother there was a snake,
there was something to fear.
To make up for my deception,
I gave him one of the plastic flowers,
deceiving him again, pretending
I bought it at the corner gas station
from which we had collected all
of our dishes with the points we got
from pumping gas. I want to make up
more than that now—absences
when I would become like that yellow dust,
a quiet star.

Olena Jennings, Map Dress, installation view. Photo: Elvis Krajnak.

PAPER MAPS        Olena Jennings

Even flat maps have texture.
They carry with them
someone’s memory of the streets.
I will walk near the water
to draw the places off the map
on the palm of my hand.

We used to make paper
out of recycled letters,
rough, imperfect,
for a moment – wet,
on our knees
ripping

We mark our way to the castle
with the handle of a shovel.
We could live inside
our fairytale, find our way
despite the sand
in our eyes.

Poems and dresses by Olena Jennings. Photos of the dresses by Elvis Krajnak.

https://www.olenajennings.com/

Olena Jennings: Correspondence

Olena Jennings’s recent poetry narrates travel to Georgia in the summer of 2017. Her lyric lingers between urbanness and coupling, remembering moments, and capturing an essence of absurdity.

September 2, 2017, NYC

Stray cats begged at our table, as our faces
grew moist, looking up at the sun.
Enclosures followed: the tight
space on the plane and then the cubicle. 
I ignored the eclipse, the way the shadows
on the pavement repeated themselves
like the words that fall in steady drops, 
overpowering the notations on calendars
and to-do lists. We wake beneath
the blanket from the market 
near the dry bridge. Once we drove 
towards the light, the tires against
cobblestones, the shape of the moon
calling us to the rows of jewelry, 
the repetition of desire for translucent beads
around your neck.

September 13, 2017, NYC

You gave me the key. There is a trick
you didn’t teach me, though there were often lessons:
the way to peel a carrot, to cut an onion without 
crying, and to buy carnations instead of roses. 
You spun daily life like the plot
of one of your romance novels. Your dress is always
caught in the wind even when there is only the breeze
from the window. You invite the men over who leave
their newspapers on the table, so that you are subject
to the nightly violence. Sometimes
there is even a hand against your cheek emphasizing
the glow. The street signs shine green, creating a map
of our memories. Together we lived in this house 
until you started filling the walls with other peoples’ 
portraits.
Olena Jennings, Georgia Kitten.
Olena Jennings, Georgia Kitten, 2017.

GHOSTS OF CATS

They prance down
 the hall to the studio
 where scent
 is outlawed.
 Making it even easier
 to forget
 the view of the lake
 from my window.
 I’m always working
 on the same translation,
 anarchy in my head
 and cancelled European
 adventures, my body
 already halfway there.
 He is shocked by
 the connection with his
 words, as if they are mine:
 the moment he looked up
 at the hall light
 on his way to borrow stamps
 and saw the world. I wake up
 early to caress his heart,
 but I know in this studio
 when we finally meet
 everything is too real to exist
 the way we dreamed it. There
 is the blue door, the water boiling for
 the French press, and my bare feet
 against the soft rug.

Olena Jennings’s collection of poetry “Songs from an Apartment” was released in 2017 by Underground Books. Her translations of poetry from Ukrainian can be found in Chelsea, Poetry International, and Wolf. She has published fiction in Joyland, Pioneertown, and Projecttile. Her novel Shut Mouth will be published in 2018. She completed her MFA in writing at Columbia and her MA focusing in Ukrainian literature at the University of Alberta.

Artist website: olenajennings.com