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Shadow Roots w Text

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Spem In Alium Nunquam Habui

There was unexpected time today for a visit to Tate, and I felt I received sustenance, artistic, spiritual, emotional, from seeing both familiar favourites and new discoveries.

The familiar always includes a visit to the Rothko room – and it is this painting in particular that transfixes me there:

Red on Maroon 1959 by Mark Rothko 1903-1970

Red on Maroon (1959), Mark Rothko, from The Seagram Murals

It always is prayer to see it, today no less than all the times I looked at it before. 

“There is a way to God”, it whispers to me.

And I pray, “Show me”.

From there, the pilgrimage goes on to Richter, and from Richter to Kapoor. These are my sacred spaces…

Ishi’s Light, Anish Kapoor

Losing myself in “Ishi’s Light”, in the dark unknowable universe of this ‘God-egg’…that womb space with its light beam leading to the maker of all things, artist of artists. Safe and protected but open, unconfined. If you focus on the dark red glaze within, you can forget you are standing on solid ground, you lose yourself, swimming in this warm darkness. I feel lifted out of myself, giving myself up to this sphere.

Then there are The Tanks with unknown adventures waiting, and this time I discovered Otobong Nkanga’s “In Wetin You Go Do?” (2015, more info here). I actually felt like taking my shoes off and walking around it barefoot, as if joining in, or to honour the space… I did not have the courage – I’m not sure what Tate’s policy on barefoot visitors is… This piece has impact. And the arrangement feels like a Richter painting does to me – she stopped just when it felt perfect

And finally, I stepped into Janet Cardiff’s “Forty Part Motet” (more info here).

“Spem in alium nunquam habui…”

“I never had hope in another…”

One of the most breathtaking artistic experiences I’ve had in a long time. I stayed with this piece for a considerable while, listening, wandering, taking in the individual voices as well as the piece as a whole. Contemplative, intense, art as a bridge to the sacred in a secular space. People are praying in that room who have never set foot in a church. I wrote a prayer too before I left.


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How To Be A Poet (to remind myself)


Make a place to sit down. 
Sit down. Be quiet. 
You must depend upon 
affection, reading, knowledge, 
skill—more of each 
than you have—inspiration, 
work, growing older, patience, 
for patience joins time 
to eternity. Any readers 
who like your poems, 
doubt their judgment.


Breathe with unconditional breath 
the unconditioned air. 
Shun electric wire. 
Communicate slowly. Live 
a three-dimensioned life; 
stay away from screens. 
Stay away from anything 
that obscures the place it is in. 
There are no unsacred places; 
there are only sacred places 
and desecrated places.


Accept what comes from silence. 
Make the best you can of it. 
Of the little words that come 
out of the silence, like prayers 
prayed back to the one who prays, 
make a poem that does not disturb 
the silence from which it came.


Wendell Berry

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100 Questions/ 91-100

91. What is stopping you?

Fear of losing what I have instead of gaining something new.

92. What’s a secret you have?

I’ve told everyone in no uncertain terms that I don’t want children myself. I’m not sure that’s entirely true. Perhaps I just have trouble believing that I could ever be in a relationship in which this would be a happy possibility.

93. How do you secretly manipulate people to get your way?

Sometimes it works to kill them with kindness… 

94. When was the last time you apologised?

Made a small mistake at work, apologised to a colleague. Last week, I think.

95. What is the biggest lie you tell yourself?

“I’m fine”. Especially when I feel too much and there’s things I have to do that will make it worse. Just pretend I’m alright to get through it, and deal with the consequences later.

96. What’s the moment you left childhood behind?

Well, there is an obvious answer to that, if you’ve read the previous questions. But I stopped feeling safe around my parents quite early on, long before then. I felt I had to be quiet and as invisible as possible because they couldn’t have dealt with anything else. If there ever was a wild and carefree me, it was for a very short time that I can’t remember.

97. What’s missing from your life?


98. Do you believe in a higher power?


99. What are you ready to let go of?


100. What are you not saying right now?

How I feel about leaving all these answers open for you to read.



(The questions are taken from this source.)

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100 Questions/ 81-90

81. What type of person angers you the most?


82. What is your greatest strength?


83. What is your worst weakness?


84. How do you show your love for others?

I pay attention.

85. Why are you here in this room right now?

Because I haven’t found anything better yet.

86. When is a time you forgave someone or were forgiven for something?

I forgave a friend for lying to my face about something. It hurt a lot when I found out she had been lying. But we did talk, quite a bit later, and she was honest then about her reasons, and I could understand and feel for her, and let it go.

87. What’s the biggest mistake you ever made?

Thinking that I can’t be loved as I am.

88. What are you hiding?


89. What’s your unanswerable question–the question you seem to always be asking yourself?

Will I find love?

90. What are you ashamed of?

Sometimes, my body. Learned that from my mother. It’s getting much better, though. I’ve started learning from others too.



(The questions are taken from this source.)

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100 Questions/ 71-80

71. If you could be someone else for a day who would it be and why?

Carol Ann Duffy, to know what it feels like to be a full-time poet.

72. What makes you feel powerful?

Writing a story. My world. My choices.

73. What’s the meanest thing you’ve ever said?

I once told my brother that a girl I (and he) knew fancied him, in retaliation for her telling something that mattered to me to someone else. Didn’t make me feel better to do that, I discovered… Our parents had decided that we should be friends – we didn’t really think so. Hence the wonderful dynamics.

74. What’s the meanest thing someone has ever said to you?

That was my mother telling me that I “shouldn’t take my parents’ love for granted”, or, for that matter, the love of God. A follow up of her request that I be “a good Christian” and tell my father everything’s forgiven. She says she doesn’t remember saying (actually, writing) it.

75. What three words would you have on your grave stone?

Beloved and free.

76. What’s your first thought when you wake up?

On a work days it’s probably a heavy sigh.

77. What’s one thing you wake up to in the middle of the night worrying about?


78. If you could tell someone something anonymously, what would it be?

I’d like to tell someone who will believe me and who has influence on my family that I’m afraid the kids aren’t safe. 

79. Whom would you like to forgive and forget?

The person I dated last. He doesn’t agree.

80. If you could get rid of one of your responsibilities today, what would it be?

Getting a pay check? Alternatively, going to see the dentist.



(The questions are taken from this source.)

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100 Questions/ 61-70

61. When were you most afraid?

The night my father abused me.

62. What are you terrible at but love to do anyway?

Playing billiards.

63. What weapon would you carry during the Zombie Apocalypse?

A remote control to switch off the TV.

64. Which of your five senses would you keep if you could only keep one?


65. What’s something you love to make?

 …things better. Alternatively, poetry.

66. What do you cook better than anyone?

My goulash is pretty good.

67. What do you wish you’d invented?

Written language.

68. What would you like to invent?

Something that gives people peace.

69. Out of 100 random people, where would you rank yourself in terms of your intelligence?

Somewhere around 25th.

70. Where do you want to be right now?

Some wild island north of Scotland.



(The questions are taken from this source.)

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