You can now view an extract of Gertrude, Mabel May on Love Reading
And an extract from The Step is the Foot, also on Love Reading.
6.30 pm – 9.30 pm Friday 20th September 2019 – Free event
Upper Vestry Hall,
St George’s Bloomsbury
6-7 Little Russell St Bloomsbury WC1A 2HR
Do come and join us to celebrate the launching of our books: Special offer only at this event – buy both books for the price of one!
Entrance round the back of the Church. Refreshments.
This inquiry into the relationship between the “step” in dance and the “foot” in verse invites the reader into a tapestry woven by its crossed paths. A duel career as a dancer and as a poet allows the author to follow his interest in the dance origins of scansion and link it to how the foot connects lyric writing to an “exiled sense” through the felt tread of its rhythm. This is to rediscover the physical feeling of poetry; the fulcrum of a relationship that goes back to the Greek chorus, when every phrase was danced. The author shows how verse and the dance emerged together, as we initially developed bipedalism and speech.
Written is a discursive style which allows the author to wander whenever digression seems appropriate, the book offers the reader an entertaining compendium of anecdotes, notions and quotes concerning the relation between our words and our movements. Walking in itself may have ushered in predication – syntax – putting one word in front of another as one put one foot in front of another. Did song emerge separately from language and stimulate ritual dance among women who linked their steps to sounds? The link of speech with movement is explored in ancient art, in theatre and in military drill and psychoanalysis. From the ballet to performance art, the author traces the evolution of recent creativity – free verse finding a parallel in Mick Jagger dancing freely on his own in the ‘60s while performance artists used the freedom of conceptual art to explore “action phrases” linking task-orientated movement with verbal articulation.
A former dancer with the Royal Ballet, Anthony Howell’s first collection, Inside the Castle, came out in 1969. In 1971 he was invited to participate in the Iowa International Writers Program. In 1997 he was short-listed for a Paul Hamlyn Award. His versions of the poems of Statius were well received and those of Fawzi Karim were a Poetry Book Society Recommendation for 2011. He was the founder of The Theatre of Mistakes and editor of Grey Suit: Video for Art and Literature. His most recent book of poems is From Inside, The High Window Press 2017.
Gertrude Stein’s first novel, one that was never published during her lifetime, was called Q.E.D. She wrote it to exorcise the experience of her first passionate love affair with the New Yorker May Bookstaver, the friend and lover of the Bostonian Mabel Haynes, a fellow student of Gertrude Stein’s at Johns Hopkins Medical School between 1898 and 1902. The impact of the complicated affair on Stein’s writing has attracted considerable attention but the subsequent lives of her two intimate friends have not been covered so far in any detailed way.
Gwendolyn Leick is the granddaughter of Mabel Haynes, who moved to Austria-Hungary in 1905. She began writing this book, after the chance discovery of her grandmother’s part in Gertrude Stein’s life some six years ago, in order to do justice to these remarkable women. The method of writing lays out the things, the notions and ideas, the people (friends, relatives, lovers, husbands), in the form of associative ‘entries’, woven around Gertrude Stein’s texts, as much as on private letters, photographs and other found objects. It is an encyclopaedic enterprise, rather than a chronologically ordered biographical account. The character and the lives of the three protagonists and the times they lived in emerge through the kaleidoscope of the accumulated vignettes.
GWENDOLYN LEICK (1951) studied Assyriology in Graz, Austria. She is the author of many historical works on Mesopotamia published by Routledge, and of Mesopotamia — The Invention of the City (Penguin). She taught Anthropology in Wales and History of Architecture in London. Her lastest book, Tombs of Great Leaders, was published by Reaktion Books in 2013.
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Dance and its relationship to poetry
Very nice review at LOVEREADING
Love Reading’s review of THE STEP IS THE FOOT: DANCE AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO POETRY
This consummately fascinating study into the relationship between dance and poetry – the “step” of dance, and the “foot” of verse – presents a complex, intricate interlacing of disciplines. Dappled with personal anecdotes alongside probing evolutionary questions, historical depth and contemporary insights, it is at once thought-provoking and engaging.
The author’s experience as both a dancer and poet inform his unique investigation. He ascribes his long-held passion for both to a deep-rooted childhood awareness of rhythm: “Rhythm is common to both pursuits. Increasingly I have come to feel that dance is a language and that language is a dance.” I found the “Which Came First?” chapter especially compelling. The author’s exploration of humankind’s transition to bipedalism and language takes in fascinating linguistic and archaeological theories, and links the shift to bipedalism to the development of reflective thought, and to walking as an expressive activity.
Suffused in spirited intellectualism and a global perspective, this is a must-read for anyone interested in poetry, dance and exploring the history of humanity through the lens of the arts.
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My initial enthusiasm was not misplaced. Your book falls into my ideal category of the “unpublishable”. (I have one such in my bottom drawer). What I’m saying is that there is not a single commercial publisher that would touch this book and for this alone it is commendable. I don’t always share your viewpoints, and sometimes not your enthusiasms either. I remember going to see an exhibition of ice age objects at the British Museum and feeling troubled by some of the descriptions saying this or that object was probably used for purposes of performance art. I don’t think one can convincingly apply that label. It is just too modern a notion and carries too much baggage for it to ever feel true for me. Ritual, yes, certainly and of course ritual has its aesthetic. Also I’m afraid I have virtually no sympathy for Freud who falsified so much in order to demonstrate his various theories. Years ago, I began to write about this but found the subject too depressing to be able to continue. The essays on art and literature are absolutely riddled with untruths and I don’t think they were innocently applied.
This said … this said … I think The Step is the Foot is an incredible achievement, full of insight and never less than fascinating; it is also a window into your creative world. Beautifully written, it is revelatory in so many ways that I felt myself continually pushed in one direction and then another. It is provocative in the best sense of the word while at the same time generous in its inclusiveness. I simply loved the section on the threshing floor dance, which can be so easily translated to the tammurriata as performed at the religious festas on the slopes of Vesuvius and which has it origins in Dionysian rites. And your words on the tango are beautifully expressed. A couple of years ago I read an academic book on the history of the tango which, although informative, doesn’t come close to what you manage to say in a few paragraphs. It is, and will remain, one of my “secret” books, and certainly one of the best I’ve read in ages. Once again, thank you for this wonderful and important gift.
There is also an interesting article on Nietzche’s interest in dance
This touches on some of the same notions that engage The Step is the Foot.