A What?

To find out more about the collaborations class and project by Chris McCabe, look here.


In Praise of the Moleskine

a renshi by Valerie Josephs and Vera Chok 



It’s the middle of February in Soho,

there’s a coal fire in the Georgian house

in Dean Street. The chill is relieved

with absinthe to remind us of Rimbaud

and Verlaine, though we are there to hear

the poems of Victor Hugo and songs

by French composers who had set his words.

I’ll add this day to my Moleskine notebook,

with its brown cover, that I’m never without.








Bruce Chatwin wanted to live inside an egg.

Yellow around runny self

My skin.


I have a Moleskine

I don’t have the pen to right –

I’m hungry for

perfect conditions

Maybe potato print my insides, heart and brain

I think too quickly – I trip – to write

Deep down words as solemn anchor?








Everything goes in my notebook: to-do lists

rub shoulders with more lofty thoughts or lines

of poetry I might develop, books I should read.

Exhibitions I ought to see, sketches once there

and notes on how to mix paints, how red, blue

and yellow make brown. How Picasso loved

mixed media, hence the cracks. That gouache

is between water colour and acrylic paint.

Mix Burnt Umber and Prussian Blue for black.








I don’t revisit scribbled faded landscapes.

Everything changes form.

I fight with accurate time and place no grid will help:

What was then, is now, and when?


Now, if dreams, tales, fables and fantasy –

Now, if lines with the right pen

feel pure, pleasure pressed in palm and hand –


What is correct, true and blue,

Is nothing more than point of view.


The rainforest hides a tree, I’m told.

It screams when it’s cut

paper and wood melt in heat and wet

through time words written and unwritten come and go

while ink runs my mind acts the role of a landing strip in the DMZ.

There’s that bird that has no feet

There, old letters alight

Shine light on some sort of cracked mirror.


I was, still am, and ever will be

Reflected, reflective, described, and distorted

In so many words.








Chatwin left eighty five notebooks, the black moleskines

he ordered from Paris. Before he set off on a journey

he would pick up whichever notebook was to hand.

In a single book would be a gallimaufry:

journeys in different countries, doodles and maps.

Who he’d met or had lunch with and snatches

of conversation and his wife would sometimes write

shopping lists, recipes or make a note of her chores.

That’s what I like about a notebook, you’re not restricted

by a certain space for a day, so that you feel you have

to fill the space. In a notebook you are free to write

notes to yourself, make sketches or record something said.







No pencil, stained water left mistakes on paper.

History of precious marks showing through.

Light coming off the page, the white of the paper

gives luminosity. Paper ‘breathing’.

Use a limited range of colours.

One coat enough for sky. Slight haze for distance.

Brodsky: The real biographies of poets are like those of birds.




Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s