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The last portrait made me stop to take a second look. Unlike the other monks, this one was gazing directly out at the viewer. His face was painted in the standard Yamato-e style, just lines for the eyes and a hook for the nose, but there was something strangely expressive about the minimalist painting: a slight tension in the angle of his eyes, one hand holding a brush in midair, as if hesitating.
The bald little monk stared up at me out of his portrait, as if he were trying to speak to me. The plaque beneath the painting read:
Monk Anchin (1244-1316)
Collection of Seitokuji, 14th century, artist unknown
There was no background or architectural detail in the plain portrait, but there was a lit candle-stand beside him, a common pictorial convention for depicting nighttime. Why would the artist take pains to portray Anchin, unlike the other poets, writing by candlelight?
The Dream Diary of Monk Anchin – Felicity Drake
The Forest of New People – Thom Connors
Time’s Arrow – C. Heidmann
The Stars Don’t Lie – R.W.W. Greene
Q: What is your favorite fairy tale and why?
A: I don’t have a favourite as such when it comes to fairy tales but the one that definitely rises to the surface whenever I think back to stories that influenced me at a young age; is the story of ‘Tailypo.’ The actual story itself is more of legend that found its way into the fairy tale simply by it being repeatedly told until it became commonly told to children and used as a cautionary tale. I remember it being one of the first instances realising that what I was enjoying, and what I really wanted out of the story, was an unhappy ending, I quite enjoyed the fact that the ending was left more or less open to your imagination and you yourself were able to fill in the details as to what becomes of the lead character as well as the story having the guts to give us a dose of realism. The idea of that sort of brutal honesty in a story, when everything else in fairy tales seemed (at the time) dressed up to shield the young reader from realism, had me quite enamoured.
The fact that Tailypo started as a legend, with no author claiming ownership, also gave it a root in reality and a certain mystique that something like Goldilocks and The Three Bears just didn’t have straight off the bat – and the fact that there were so many variations on it also made it seem like it needed investigating. Subsequently; everyone I would tell it to would have a different version to trade and I would trade stories, gladly, until I built up my own personal mythos about the legend and it’s very dark message. In some ways, on a very basic level, it is a perfect story and is still a story I ‘check in on’ from time to time to see if anyone else has added a new version to the mix.
Q: Do you make art other than prose? What kind, and how is it different?
A: Unfortunately, I am not gifted in any art other than prose. I can’t draw, can’t sing, and never took my childhood piano lessons seriously. I am grateful, however, for the existence of those who are gifted in the visual and musical arts!
Luke Spooner currently lives and works in the South of England. Having graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a first class degree he is now a full-time illustrator working under two aliases; ‘Carrion House’ for his darker work and ‘Hoodwink House’ for his work aimed at a younger audience. He believes that the job of putting someone else’s words into a visual form, to accompany and support their text, is a massive responsibility as well as being something he truly treasures.
Luke Spooner’s image “Leaves and Butterflies” is the cover art for our June 2016 stories.
Q: Can beautiful things be funny?
A: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So too is humour. I can’t think of any reason why those eyes shouldn’t cross.