Bufonite

Sweet are the uses of adversity; Which, like the toad, ugly and venomous, Wears yet a precious jewel in his head. William Shakespeare – “As You Like It” Toads have made their mark on culture by nestling in a curious space between medicine and magic. In the middle-ages the toad was thought to be as common a witches’ familiar as the cat. The French lawyer and demonologist Jean Bodin noted in his 1580 work De la démonomanie des sorciers (Of the Demon-mania of the Sorcerers) that while certainly incriminating, the presence of toads should not, in itself, be sufficient evidence …

reformations and malformations

‘Mooncalf’ is an old name for the malformed, abnormal offspring that livestock occasionally produce. Usually still-born or short-lived, mooncalves were thought to be a result of lunar influence and were sometimes considered to be magical creatures, or hybrids thereof.  Although the word is closely associated with cows, mooncalves from other animals are also recorded and it’s likely that the ‘calf’ element of this word comes from the Old Norse kálfi ‘swelling’, which is also the origin of the ‘calves’ of your leg. One particular mooncalf, born in Freiburg, Germany, on December 8th 1522, became an unlikely pawn in an escalating …

Post truths

The pets that were lost have either been found or mourned by now; the bake-sales and yard-sales have cashed up long ago; the evening classes and gigs have faded into the night leaving minds and ears abuzz. The flyers are gone but the staples remain, punctuating the telephone poles like empty quote marks – jumbles of silenced declarations, each a little monument to something wanted or something offered. The poles in this Montreal neighbourhood have been armoured by years of wanting and offering. The newer ones glint like chain-mail, the ancient ones are stained with rust and tar, they reward …

Deadheading

Flowers are turning to seeds in the garden. It looks like a death. Their petals crumple and stain in earth-browns and red ochres, they bow and fail and fall. Bees and florists seem to agree on the bloom’s moment of peak attraction: the opened bud, all invitation and sweet promise. However artful, the flower has an agenda, an ulterior motive to sell with a gloss of perfection. That moment passes but there is beauty in the fading flowers and it’s more subtle and complex. The hard-sell is over, here is a time of transformation and fulfillment, of real promise in …

Four haiku at the end of winter

Why don’t I switch off The television set and Go outside and breathe     Red dressmakers pins Hold hawthorn branches in place ‘Til spring stitches leaves     Shroud and bramble thorns Fight to be free from each other Edged on by cold winds     Some old winter storm Has cleft a trunk like kindling Bright streak of ash-blonde

water – memory – home

This work was originally published on Grasscut Music’s blog.   In the closing moments of Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 film ’Solaris’ we discover that the film’s protagonist, Kris, has decided not to return to earth from his mission to a distant space-station. He instead descends to the titular planet, where an ocean of consciousness has created an island from his memories. This island is a simulacrum of the place we meet Kris at the beginning of the film: a dacha beside a lake, where all is familiar and peaceful. But Solaris’ recreation is imperfect and incomplete. It’s raining inside the house, …

Map Reader’s Companion for Upland England

I’ve had a lot of terms sent in over the last year or so. Hundreds of people have been generous with their knowledge, sharing words from their local areas, from their memories of childhood and from their professional expertise. Each submission is a treasure and I’m very grateful for them all whether they arrive alone or in a cluster. Several people have offered whole troves of words but this week I was sent a truly magnificent haul from Bryan Miller, who 20 years ago started a similar project to mine but focusing on the English uplands. Bryan has collected hundreds …

Uncommon Ground promo

Uncommon Ground Promo from Dominick Tyler on Vimeo. I shot some video whilst I was photographing for the book and I’ve put together a couple of short promos with the footage. Here’s the first. The beautiful music is by Sam Hooper.

Leaving home

The line was offered like a revelation, a promise of salvation and an absolution: “We’re not meant to save the world. We’re meant to leave it.” Intoned by Michael Caine’s character 20 minutes into the space epic Interstellar, I found it more unnerving than any of the plot-twists or time paradoxes to come.  Our destiny, it suggests, is not on this ball of dirt, it’s up there in the heavens. Earth is a cocoon from which humanity might emerge, winged by rocket boosters, to soar amongst the stars in our true celestial form. And what of the husk left behind? Who …

The poem that took the place of a mountain

The Poem That Took The Place Of A Mountain: Reflections On The Language of Place On April 13 we once again join with our friends at Caught By The River to present The Poem That Took The Place Of A Mountain: Reflections On The Language of Place. Richard King, author of the acclaimed How Soon is Now (2012) which was named Sunday Times Music Book of the Year, joins us to read from his new book Original Rockers (April 2nd). Philip Hoare has said of it: ‘A telling evocation of a lost past, so recent as to still be echoing …