Finding Blake creator and filmmaker James Murray-White joins fellow contributors to the latest issue of the Blake journal VALA in exploring Blake’s connection with nature.
VALA — the free online publication celebrating William Blake’s art and legacy in exciting new ways — is published by our friends at the Blake Society and co-edited by Finding Blake contributor Jason Whittaker. The magazine-style publication includes articles that showcase art and artists influenced by Blake, it spotlights particular works by Blake, examines politics, arts, literature, religions, music and the environment and shares responses to art, life and teaching inspired by Blake.
Issue 3 is dedicated to exploring Blake and nature, with 36 essays and other contributions, and many artworks. Included is an essay by Finding Blake’s very own James Murray-White. In Alive and Dead in the Vegetable Underworld, he talks about Blake’s role as a poet/painter/prophet of the imagination, compared with poets such as John Clare, Wordsworth and others as ‘grounded nature artists per se’ — but how William and Catherine’s three years in Felpham provided a “transformative sojourn [that] connected them both to earthy elements.”
James talks about the process of making the Finding Blake film and the insights. “My feeling then … is that Blake saw the natural world and the ‘more than human’ as background to the human predicament, that nature is the place into and out of which we might emerge and must ascend or descend: the wilderness, the wild sea, the forest, the wild creature. For Blake, we belong within the human experience of mortality, and less to a place or an anthropological tradition of the human tribe interacting with other species and becoming dominant within the original garden of Eden.”
The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a Green thing that stands in the way. Some See Nature all Ridicule & Deformity […] & Some Scarce see Nature at all But to the Eyes of the Man of Imagination Nature is Imagination itself.
— Blake’s Letter to Revd Dr John Trusler, 23 August 1799
You can read the full essay and enjoy all the other creative and insightful content of VALA III here on the Blake Society site. And you can watch the online launch event here, with a number of the issue’s contributors talking about their pieces.
Other Finding Blake contributors have written on their own connectedness with nature and Blake’s relevance to our relationships with the natural world: for example, in Seeing the Wood Through the Trees reconciliation ecologist Pete Yeo celebrates Blake’s testimony to nature as ‘imagination itself’ with an exploration of how our ‘plant blindness’ is perhaps giving way to a ‘probiotic turn’ and the vegetal realm’s role in our need to more fully engage our individual and collective imaginations with the challenges of our times.