Dictated by the Ghost of William Blake transcribed by S. Yarberry
Dictated by the Ghost of William Blake transcribed by S. Yarberry
WHAT TREES DO YOU PREFER IN THE CENTRE OF BOULEVARDS?
I much prefer flowers to trees, but a willow tree is nice. Especially when alarming in size. The willow tree opens its limbs out and covers those who want some solace from the world around them–this is an admirable quality. Please, stop driving, go curl up in the nook of a willow.
WHAT TYPE OF READING DO YOU DO ON TRAINS (OR AEROPLANES)?
This is a fascinating question since I, of course, have never been on a train or an aeroplane albeit they seem like bumby places to read. I read on clouds which are smooth like lounging in a small boat in a small quiet lake on a very pleasant day. That said, I have read much of the literature of the current moment including “Robert Browning, Transported by Meter” by Yopie Prins (S. Yarberry tells me, I’m very well read!). It taught me what it might be like to read poetry on a train—one needs something with a bumpy meter.
WHAT BUTTERFLIES DO YOU THINK GIVE THE MOST SATISFACTORY PERFORMANCES?
In a dream I once saw a large butterfly—larger than the corporeal ones on earth—and on its wings were the most bewitching of designs: moons, stars, planets that I had never seen before. The butterfly rose up into the sky and spoke, in a deep (and suprisingly flirtatious) voice, “Kill not the Moth nor Butterfly!” Silence fell around us as the echoes of what had been said drifted and settled at my feet (I had very nice boots on, in the dream). The butterfly winked at me and flew off with an elegant twirl. It was nearly Shakespearean, the performance; I’ve yet to see it matched.
WHAT MOVIE DO YOU WATCH IN SECRET?
I watch movies over other people’s shoulders. I’ve seen many films this way. Most recently, when S. Yarberry was deeply enthralled by the television, I sat on the window sill as they watched Super Bad. It was embarrasing (for them) as well as an embarrasment of riches (for me).
WHAT LITERARY WORKS DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST UNDER-RATED?
People have forgotten how meaningful the love poem can be—it can transform everything. Exuberant love! Silly love! Laughing love! Once, years before I met Catherine, I played a game with a woman I was courting—we were to find a happy love poem for one another. It was very difficult to do. She brought Paradise Lost by John Milton and I brought “Batter my heart, three-person’d God” by John Donne. We decided we both had failed. We tried once more: she brought Shakespeare’s sonnet 53 and I brought her a flower. She said, “this is not a poem, this is a flower.” I couldn’t argue with her! It was a flower. She dumped me on the spot for not meeting her with as much intellectual gusto as she had previously hoped. Alas— Happy love poems. Go find them. Go write them.
WHAT COLOURS DO MOST FOR YOU AFTER SIX P.M.?
The sky must be pink after 6:00pm.
WHAT ANIMALS DO YOU PREFER TO HUMAN BEINGS?
I do like animals (tygers, lambs, flies, horses, fish, the list goes on) but I’ve always been one for angels. Angels are not animals but they are also not humans which maybe is the heart of the question (or how I’m interpreting the question: what outside of yourself gives you comfort, gives you curiosity?). The angels are what have comforted me when I’ve needed it the most and also what have stoked my curiosity when I was floundering for sprititual, that is creative, fire.
WHAT IS THE PRINCIPAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOUR STATE OF MIND (MOOD) WHEN READING FICTION AND YOUR MIND WHEN READING HISTORY?
I’ll quote myself on the matter: “...some Historians pretend, who being weakly organized themselves, cannot see either miracle or prodigy; all is to them a dull round of probabilities and possibilities; but the history of all times and places, is nothing else but improbabilities and impossibilities…” Where fiction and history meet is in the realm of impossibility. This question seems to pose that there is a fundamental difference between the two genres and I don’t believe that is the case. That said, my state of mind is always open, ready to be challenged, to deploy radical critical methods, find joys where I can, and find sparks of fire as they fly. This is always my “state” (states) of mind!
CAN YOU HEAR ANYTHING IN A SEASHELL OTHER THAN THE ROAR OF THE OCEAN?
Oh I hear all sorts of things in sea shells. Actually for a number of years my brother, Robert, contacted me exclusively through shell—he had a preference for whelks. While in Felpham, you could see me walking along the beach picking up whelks (they are very common, many call them “the common whelk”) saying “Hello? Robert?” “ Robert, hello?” until finally—often after many failed lines—I could hear him rattling on about his adventures through “space” and “time,” I wish there were better terms for what I am trying to get at, or sometimes singing a ballad he had picked up from a local infernal theatre. Robert has always been a supporter of local theatre.
Once a little devil spoke to me through a common cockle. He giggled everytime I said “cockle” which is how I knew he was a little devil. This is who actually first said “Drive your plow over the bones of the dead” which inspired my “Proverbs of Hell.”
All knowledge, one might say, comes to pass through sea shells at some time or another.
WOULD WINGS BE AN IMPROVEMENT FOR THE HUMAN BODY?
Flying is very fun although it’s not bad to save some fun things for the afterlife.
WHAT MUSIC DO YOU LISTEN TO MOST FREQUENTLY?
I have been listening to Julian Talamantez Brolaski’s album It’s Okay Honey since the editor of this journal has me listening to whatever it is they put on. I’ve always had a penchant for country music, and this album truly is phenomenal.
WHAT TWO HISTORICAL CHARACTERS WOULD YOU LIKE TO BRING TOGETHER?
God is a funny historical character and not one I’ve always liked. If everyone who believes in God (“God,“ of course, can and should be interpreted broadly, creatively) could meet God (which to me means to meet themselves more truly, more ardently), they might have a new outlook on the way things could be. That might be nice.
WHAT ARTICLE OF CLOTHING DO YOU WISH TO BRING BACK FROM HISTORICAL OBSCURITY?
I was known for wearing a slightly thought-provoking wide brimmed hat (oh to be the son of a haberdasher). John Linnell sketched me wearing a top hat which is somewhat drastic but fashion does occassionally allow for the joys of drastic measures.
WHAT BUILDING DO YOU CONSIDER THE MOST BEAUTIFUL IN THE WORLD?
The Felpham cottage. I had wished to live there all my life. It was small with a thatched roof and just a stone’s throw from the edge of the ocean. I could have done without being in William Hayley’s backyard, but other than that there are few structures I’ve found myself with such an affinity for—one must go to Felpham to know its magic.
WHAT SIZE CITY DO YOU THINK THE MOST DESIRABLE?
I am known for my complicated adoration for London. Felpham fit my spirit better but I am a Londoner through and through. What can I say? I love the cosmos of the cosmopolitan.
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE ESSENCE OF FEMININITY?
“Blake and femininity” has been a hot topic of debate since people started reading my work. Let me take this as an opportunity to expand a bit since scholarship is still struggling with me. I struggled to express myself appropriately on the matter during my own life (1757-1827 for those who I have yet to meet). I attempted to formulate the threefold self in which there is a core form (a zoa) that is mediated by a spectre (masculine) and an emanation (feminine). I was trying to impart that each person’s gender is not a stagnant trope defined by any one set of expectations but, instead, more of a tumultuous, moving, aspect of being—the gendered body as a nexus for creative revolution; however, I did end up redeploying a gender binary based on some essentializing aspects of femininity and masculinity in my work even as I attempted to deconstruct it. That was one of my failures of imagination. For me, femininity in my poetry always symbolized intellectual and spiritual power, perhaps now, I’ll just say “power” in any and all iterations of the term. The question is oddly phrased and, of course, it is from a mid-century magazine that could probably be updated. Alas, I, William Blake, don’t think femininity is anything to dismiss—I have always been curious about what it means to be feminine, to be masculine, to be both, neither, either, and/or, as S. Yarberry likes to emphasize, beyond. Let us always be thinking further.
WHAT WORK FROM A PREVIOUS CENTURY WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO HAVE WRITTEN?
Paradise Lost but with some major philisophical and theological corrections. Milton and I have discussed these overhauls and although we do not see eye to eye on all, he has become more receptive in his eternal formation. It’s nice to know people change.
WHAT FORM OF AFTER LIFE — IF ANY — DO YOU ANTICIPATE?
I’m here to tell you it is delightful.
WHAT ANIMAL WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE USED AS A MEANS OF TRANSPORTATION IN OUR DOWNTOWN STREETS?
I have always said, we can only ride animals if we are willing to offer them a ride in return.
WHAT ARE THE MOST OVER-RATED LUXURIES?
Money, money, and more money.
WHAT QUESTIONS DO YOU THINK SHOULD BE ADDED TO THIS INTERVIEW?
How do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way, Is an immense world of delight, clos'd by your senses five?
William Blake is so old! William Blake dreams of stars, lakes, and killer whales. William Blake wrote many other poems outside of The Songs of Innocence and Experience like The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, The Book of Urizen, The Book of Ahania, The Visions of the Daughters of Albion, Milton, and Jerusalem. William Blake loves the work of Mary Jo Bang, Marty Cain, Dorothy Chan, Aditi Machado, Alicia Mountain, Serena Solin, Marty Riker, Francesca Kritikos, Luther Hughes, and Toby Altman and hopes you will go read all of it with passion, with fervor, with open hearts. Most importanly: William Blake loves you and is happy you’re reading this—look up to the sky and say hello!