How to catch a Griffin

Sculptural papiermache Griffin by Susan Lee Kerr

Newspaper, wire, cardboard, flour, water, acrylic — and inspiration. That’s how I made the Griffin. He’s on show this weekend at the Harpenden Arts Club Exhibition. Along with Lady Cat, Wading Bird and Big Howl. I’m settling in to my new hometown, and found this wonderful art club that meets weekly to learn and do art — watercolour, acrylic, life drawing, collage, more. I’m tickled to introduce this style of sculptural papiermache to Harpenden and the county of Hertfordshire. Secret smile — the inspiration for the griffin was the Fullers Brewery branding at the Hogarth roundabout in my old hometown, Chiswick.


Me and my bookend sister

When people compliment the cover of my haiku collection I’m extra-specially happy — because it’s praise of my bookend sister. I’m the oldest of six siblings, the writer at the top. She’s the youngest , the art one, Meg Kaczyk  I made my career with words — copywriting, feature writing, teaching writing, books. She made her career with graphic arts, and now with her own paintings, and teaching art.

So of course when I was bringing out The Extraordinary Dr Epstein, I asked Meg to do the cover. Besides being an art director she is of course a greatgranddaughter of Ephraim Epstein! Then, five years later, I asked her for cover art for The Walk Home

Meg’s own style is free, exuberant, with strong colour, strong movement (like her! She dances too.) She took up my request and a literal idea I gave her and offered me several choices, including several brand new works.  Though I loved them, they felt too strong for haiku. Oh dear! — the internal battle in me between loyalty to my book and loyalty to my sister. Could I say no? I’m glad we are both professionals. I looked on her website (click here), and there I found the softer visual sound of haiku.

She now has a copy of ‘her’ book/my book. I own two of her works and now I’m saying to everyone including the Chiswick Book Festival, happening now online, here’s the art of my big little sister Meg. As well as creative bookends we are geographic bookends too — me in London, she in Discovery Bay near Seattle. Just all of the Atlantic Ocean and the USA (and our four siblings) in between us.


Senses peeled

‘Look around, look around you,’ Eliza Hamilton’s song to her husband Alexander Hamilton is one of my current earworms — along with many others from Hamilton, the energetic, intelligent, amazing musical. Look around. Some of us are emerging from corona virus lockdown, our senses newly raw to the wider world. So you might think today’s tweeted haiku is current, what with so many cafes still sadly closed.

closed café
emerald grass grows
in the awning gutter

But, honest guv, I wrote it in 2008. I don’t know how others do it, but when I scrawl a possible haiku, I write the date. And when I get to typing it, I make a brief note of the circumstance when the haiku occurred. In this case: 6/9/08, Kew Road en route to Richmond.

After one rejection (though actually in haiku-world it’s not really rejection; more like non-acceptance), I got round to sending it out again four years later. The British Haiku Society journal Blithe Spirit published it in summer 2012, bless! And I chose to put it in my 2020 retrospective haiku book The Walk Home

So, a bit raw, newly tuned to the strangeness of things, use this time. Look around.

The photo was taken along Chiswick Mall in October 2016. This turns out to be a time travel blogpost.