(Not) illustrating Travelogues

While filing art recently, I found early printouts of some of the threads that would become Travelogues.

Pencil sketch of foxgloves, over cut-off text.

These were made before I knew what on earth these records of journeys should become, and I was trying to work out whether they could (or ought) to be illustrated.

Pencil sketch of cow, tractor, and boat, over cut-off text.

I sketched my way through, and eventually realised they should not. The words that make up Travelogues were already very visual; those images needed to stand alone.

Pencil sketch of violin, sack, tree in pot, over cut-off text.

But there are metaphors and sounds in there, too, and graspings after meaning that I realise now might have been flattened into a single dimension, if I’d illustrated them.

Pencil sketch of passenger looking out a train window, over cut-off text.

It’s a peculiar chemistry, working in words and images. Illustrating Flyaway, I realised that I often use illustrations to annotate, and that the academic work I was doing parallel to Flyaway had drawn that away (more on that here: Illustrating Flyaway).

Pencil sketch of abandoned vehicles, a window with leaves against it, ruined jetty, tanker, over cut-off text.

On the other hand, this loose, light, pencilled style suited Margo Lanagan’s Stray Bats very well — perhaps because it was a way of linking minds and teasing out thoughts (as, indeed, the text itself was — it’s a delightful chapbook of vignettes and I highly recommend it).

Pencil sketch of workman, over cut-off text.

Travelogues, however, already contained all the snapshots I was trying to capture, and the rhythm of the railroad, and its sounds, and the strange tunnels of the mind.

Pencil sketch of waterbird, over cut-off text.

Travelogues: Vignettes from Trains in Motion is available from Brain Jar Press, and through good bookstores and the usual online suspects.

Travelogues!

Travelogues: Vignettes from Trains in Motion is officially published today (and pre-orders are arriving in Munich and Adelaide and New York and…)

It’s available from Brain Jar Press and (listed on the Brain Jar page) most of the usual online suspects.

“Travelogues: Vignettes From Trains in Motion is a poet’s plunge into an oil-slickered, shadow-hung, ivy-clung alternate reality. Jennings’ world is deeply familiar and ultimately alien: a world minutely observed, in fast forward, warped by fairy lenses. Her reflections are relentless, ecstatic, declamatory, are illuminated motion. This whole metaphorical journey-by-rails is a fantasia, a phantasm, at times wistful, at others muscular and machine-like, with the occasional wry aside about the terribleness of the coffee. “Hello, book!” I want to shout. “I know you! And yet, I have never met your like.” Let’s never get to Salisbury. Let this train ride never end.”
– C. S. E. Cooney, World Fantasy Award-winning author of Bone Swans: Stories

Each section is a journey, a description of what I saw, and a working-through of the best words with which to describe it.

Travelogues: Vignettes From Trains in Motion tracks between fairytale forest and human industry, refiguring the railway through the tender wildness of the everyday. Delightfully unexpected in their metaphors, as wrought in sound as in image, these poems embody our attention and our daydreams—casting new light, new shadows. Jennings makes magic of the detail and colour of the quotidian world, where a cluster of rust-wrecked cars are kindred with autumn leaves, where a bare tree twins curves of concrete, where a train is a knife slicing through butter-and-honey light. Nearly there, nearly there. A world at work, remade through window and motion. And further.”
– Shastra Deo, Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize winning author of The Agonist

And in addition, the very wonderful C. S. E. Cooney is hosting an online release event at the end of this week. I’m extremely excited about this — good people! trains! words! travel! poetry-or-things-like-it!.

It will be on Zoom, and in American (NY) time it will be at 7pm EST on Friday October 16 while in Australian (Brisbane) time it will be 9am AEST on Saturday October 17.

You can book through Eventbrite, here: Travelogues Readathon.

Travelogues Online Reading Event!

The very wonderful C. S. E. Cooney is hosting an online release event for my soon-to-launch Travelogues: vignettes from trains in motion. I’m extremely excited about this — good people! trains! words! travel! poetry-or-things-like-it!.

It will be on Zoom, and in American (NY) time it will be at 7pm EST on Friday October 16 while in Australian (Brisbane) time it will be 9am AEST on Saturday October 17.

You can book through Eventbrite, here: Travelogues Readathon.

The book comes out on 12 October 2020: Travelogues on the Brain Jar Press website.

(There’s something really rather wonderful about having people take things away and make new things with them — taking the views from windows and turning them into sentences, threading those together, having an editor arrange and tighten those and turn it into a book-shaped idea, and a truck drive around Brisbane right now en route to delivering advance copies, and friends to read it out loud into the world again…)

Travelogues, world domination, coffee

Cover design by Brain Jar Press, image by Vertyr

First: Travelogues has received a beautifully thoughtful new cover quote from Shastra Deo (in addition to that wonderfully joyous one from CSE Cooney):

“Travelogues: Vignettes From Trains in Motion tracks between fairytale forest and human industry, refiguring the railway through the tender wildness of the everyday. Delightfully unexpected in their metaphors, as wrought in sound as in image, these poems embody our attention and our daydreams—casting new light, new shadows. Jennings makes magic of the detail and colour of the quotidian world, where a cluster of rust-wrecked cars are kindred with autumn leaves, where a bare tree twins curves of concrete, where a train is a knife slicing through butter-and-honey light. Nearly there, nearly there. A world at work, remade through window and motion. And further.”
– Shastra Deo, Thomas Shapcott Poetry Prize winning author of The Agonist

Shastra very much picked up on some of the ideas I was working through in the book.

Second: I’ve been friends with Peter M Ball for a while now — although it was a few years before I realised he lived in the same city as me (I assume many of my friends and acquaintances primarily inhabit the halls of convention hotels). Peter is one of the people whose minds I admire — the way he thinks through making things and putting them into world (which is something we’re both fascinated by, in various ways). I’ve followed his blog and his writing, we’ve overlapped at uni together and met up with Angela Slatter to write and scheme (technically I crashed their scheming club), he gave me a panel to chair at a GenreCon that confirmed my love of moderating, and we’ve introduced each other to (and occasionally disagreed over) a lot of books.

And I’ve watched, fascinated, as he’s worked through all the practical and theoretical considerations involved in starting Brain Jar Press — initially experimenting with his own projects, and then bringing out Angela’s Red New Day chapbook, and now my Travelogues, and next… well, stay tuned, there are interesting projects in the works and Brain Jar Press is very much worth keeping an eye on.

In the current issue of his newsletter, Notes from the Brain Jar, Peter has set out some of how my Travelogues became a Brain Jar project (and, to a degree, vice versa!), and what his thoughts on the book are — gratifying to the author of course, but really interesting for the technical side of things (I appreciate watching how people think through their work).

Here’s a little bit:

Many, many years ago—long before I started writing SF—I wrote an honours thesis on poetics and place and how poetry uses line length, punctuation, and white space to generate its effects. I hadn’t thought about those things much for twenty years, but reading Kathleen’s tweets I could see the patterns there, the little callbacks to my favourite poetic style and an ear for rhythm that only comes from reading a metric ton of poetry out loud. 

Friends, I gotta tell you, during the weird early days of the Pandemic it was all chaos and gloom and what comes next, it was extraordinarily comforting to sit down with the edits for this book and immerse myself in the language. 

More importantly, it was a pleasure to see the world differently, because Kathleen just plain looks at things in ways other people don’t. The whole book is a reminder that even in the most ordinary things, there is a little touch of magic. We’re marketing this one as poetry, because it is in so many ways, but really its little slices of hope and wonder and a chance to see the world in a slightly different way.

You can read more in the newsletter — scroll down to the heading Travelogues.

But this issue of the newsletter also contains a quite lengthy and in-depth section on Brain Jar itself (look for the heading Paperclips) and why he would start a micropress, and what the pleasures and challenges of it are. So if you are curious — professionally or otherwise — about those aspects, I highly recommend checking it out (and you can subscribe to the newsletter here).

New Book Day — Notes from the Brain Jar — 10 September 2020

Travelogues: vignettes from trains in motion is available for preorder in print and as an ebook.

And to occupy you while you wait — my debut Australian Gothic novel(la) Flyway is very much out in the world and available to buy, borrow, listen to, etc, and people have been saying lovely things about it.

“The treasure islands were his desired landfall”

A little sketch for a little project of mine I hope will be coming out later this year (in the end, not illustrated).

2020-04-29-KJennings-ShoppingCart

It is in several ways (more than are visible here) an example of the overlap between sketching and writing. But it’s also illustrative of the dangers of reading poetry (in this case, Judith Wright’s “The Idler”), which tends to then seep back out into everything else.

Bat Time, Bat Channel

2020-02-13-bats

Claire just reminded me of this today: Back in 2018, I sent some fashionable bat sketches to C.S.E. Cooney and Carlos Hernandez, and people wrote poems about them, which was delightful and hilarious.

Bat-Folk: A Virtual Anthology Based on the Art of Kathleen Jennings

Bats are delightful to draw, and the more bats one draws, the simpler it is to classify people one meets by the variety of bats they would be.

You know you’ve met them.

Here’s a little piece I did a year or two ago for those patrons who get monthly stories. (They are also up on various things in black-and-white on tanaudel.redbubble.com: Bats and stars).

Bats&Stars

And of course not forgetting all the bats drawn for Stray Bats by Margo Lanagan:

9781618731753_big

This was another project which at least began fairly spontaneously, although it ended with me spending three days running around London in a heatwave looking for a suitable scanner.

(Also, if you’re in Western Massachusetts, a lot of the original art and sketches for Stray Bats is at Book Moon Books).

Second-hand and Antiquarian

(Being a small Twitter diversion for October – the first title incorporates several Angela Slatter stories which prompted the exercise)

Second-hand and Antiquarian

The Book of Spells and Skin and Words
A Catalogue of Sins of Birds
The Compleat Changer’s Almanack
A Monograph on Rare Sea-Wrack

A Treatise on the White Blood Moon
A Guide to Whales (with Whaling Runes)
The History of a Hearthside Ghost
(Inscribed: To She Who Haunts Me Most)

Of the books you requested, these
Are currently in stock, so please
Find them enclosed. We will retain
Your list on the offchance we gain

– A first ed. Necronomicon
A Tour Guide On the Rubicon
(Please write, if others spring to mind).
Sincerely, yours, the undersigned.

Illustration Friday: Sea

Illustration Friday: Sea

 

A small gouache painting for this week’s Illustration Friday topic. It is for practice with actual paint, because I need it. I do love the effects that can be got with gouache, and am gradually working out how to do the getting. I’ve also put it up as a print on Redbubble, to test the paper stock.

I chose the image off a tangent from Frost’s poem “Neither out far nor in deep” (which I love, although I imagine it in much softer grey tones, and the poem is by daylight, and this may be a deliberate misinterpretation – but then, it’s poetry, and there’s scope for that).

Neither Out Far Nor In Deep – Robert Frost

The people along the sand
All turn and look one way.
They turn their back on the land.
They look at the sea all day.

As long as it takes to pass
A ship keeps raising its hull;
The wetter ground like glass
Reflects a standing gull.

The land may vary more;
But wherever the truth may be-
The water comes ashore,
And the people look at the sea.

They cannot look out far.
They cannot look in deep.
But when was that ever a bar
To any watch they keep?

 

And on a slightly different note, here are some bonus mermaids, to use up the paint (mermaids don’t shave).

Mermaid 1
Mermaid 2

Print is Dead

Today, on Twitter, Text Publishing was (facetiously?) harking back to the gentler days before the great YA/Adult Lit debate, and wishing for some new pieces on the death of print publishing. I think they wanted links to articles, but I wrote a poem instead.

Print is Dead

Ink stains the sheets.
The newswires said
Behind a locked door
Print lies dead.

TV detectives
Trace white lines
Where the books fell
With broken spines.

(The culprit words
In bright neon
Through dirty windows
Flicker on,

Then flicker off.)
Print lies there, still
Ignoring all the ink
We spill.

Illustration Friday: Beginning

Illustration Friday: Beginning

Some initial capitals, in scratchboard with digital colour, for this week’s Illustration Friday topic, “Beginning“. They are, as usual, test pieces for another larger project, but I chose the letters based on what I thought were the first letters of some recent poems. I managed to get one completely wrong.

Last week, Terri Windling held a winter poetry challenge on her blog. Below are three of my contributions. The first, on bears, I posted with the last Illustration Friday picture. One other is not here because it turns out it did not start with the letter “I”. So I have a spare capital and a poem to post later. If you are a fan of poetry, illustration, myths, fables or fairytales, I recommend checking out the posts – there are many more poems in the comments.

BAVARIA

(Theme: Snow White, and a memory of first encountering a landscape out of fairytales)

hen apple trees scrabbled to view,
Above a wall, boughs half-unleaved,
Heavy with portent and truth,
All bronze and pewter, I believed.
When garnet, pomegranate fruit,
Struck at my heart, I almost grieved.
(The castles only ever were
Sprung from some wild dream-aquifer).
Snow falling from the mirrored sky,
Softened the blow. But then when I
Saw winter forests spider-grey
All webbed and knotted out of view,
(So little space to struggle through),
I knew the stories all were true.

CUSTOM

(Theme: Deer in Fairy Tales, Folklore and Myth, which fit with recent research on legends of white deer for another project)

BeginningWDeer

e do not say we saw a deer. We saw
The starlight slanting through rain-silvered leaves
The mist lift off the lake, owls through the trees
Glide white and silent. This, and nothing more.

We do not say we saw a figure pale
Among the rushes, long-limbed, loitering.
We saw the rushes only, rustling,
The thin frost freezing to a glassy veil.

We do not speak of tracks that, seen too near,
Appear to change from hooves to naked feet.
We do not speak of strangers whom we meet –
Such questions only ever cost too dear.

We keep an older law:
These two have always been
Separate: What you have seen
And what you say you saw.

ROBIN’S FLIGHT

(Theme: The Wild in Myth, Folklore and Fantasy)

ut of rumour and night,
Blood and bone,
Something knotted and gnarled
Had sprouted and grown.

A tree climbed out of a heart.
It may have been
Oak or ash or elder,
Or else from a dream –
Not evergreen.

When the crown of gold and scarlet
Tarnished to grey
The branches clutched at sky.
Something had flown away.