Wednesday, 30 May 2012

New Publication: Doverodde

Twenty short prose pieces about the harbour village of  Doverodde in Denmark, 
illustrated with photographs.
Bird Editions, Oxford, 2012.
Softcover: £12.95
Available to preview and purchase here.

* * * 

Doverodde shelters in an oxbow on the Limfjord, a glacial channel separating North Jutland from mainland Denmark. Nancy Campbell was Writer-in-Residence in Doverodde during the month leading up to the Doverodde Book Arts Festival in May 2012. The location lay behind the choice of theme for the Festival: On The Margins (or 'Udkant' in Danish).
'Despite the relative isolation of Doverodde, there was always something happening to justify walking away from my studio for a few moments – a boat launch, a flower market, a disagreement between dogs. Alongside work on poems about the region's geology and waterways, I began to collect notes about my everyday experiences in the village. These sketches developed into short prose pieces, published daily on my website for the entertainment of Doverodde’s residents and more distant friends. This selection from those writings provides a dose of life on the margins of Denmark.'

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Limfjord Lines

During April and May 2012 I was writer-in-residence at the Book Arts Center at the Limfjordscentret, located in a historic merchant’s building by the Limfjord in North Jutland, Denmark. This month-long residency culminated in the Doverodde Book Arts Festival IV and Symposium.

Limfjord Lines, an exhibition of my work about the region, will run in the Doverodde Købmandsgård Gallery from 22 May until 24 June 2012. Doverodde, a new publication containing writing from the residency, is also available.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Farewell to Doverodde

 Mors seen from Doverodde at dusk

This month in Doverodde has been rich in experiences and highly productive. I intend to return to the Limfjord in years to come, both in order to continue work on themes suggested by this residency, and also to initiate new projects. 

I've found daily posting a rewarding challenge. The posts are scribbled down in the time around work on Limfjord Lines, the poetry installation I am preparing for exhibition in the Limfjordcenter. Sometimes the posts are not finished to my satisfaction, and I know that sitting on them for a day or two would improve them, but I have to click 'publish' if I'm to keep to my promise. The blog is a great platform for sifting ideas. Sometimes I start writing the day's post - on the creature in the tower for example, or the seagull and the iron age barrow, or the sick child's island - to find it grows longer and longer, and those writings have developed in other directions. (Of course, then I need to find something else to slot into the day's diary.) Some experiences  I sought out hoping they would make interesting posts, such as the trip to Mors on the ferry, but they have become poems instead.
This week my solitude was exchanged for conviviality when a congress of artists arrived in Doverodde for the Book Arts Festival. I'm sure fragments of this landscape will reappear in their work too.

Limfjord Lines will run in the Doverodde Købmandsgård Gallery from 22 May until 24 June 2012.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Doverodde Diary: Day 22 (Sunday Special) - Black Sheep

This week Doverodde DiaryWorld of Exteriors Sunday Special brings you an art world exclusive. Never before have works by anonymous guerrilla artist ‘Black Sheep’ been seen in the press.

Black Sheep was nowhere to be seen

There are many sheep in the gently rolling hills around Doverodde, but one is a prodigy. ‘Black Sheep’ (whose true identity remains a mystery even to our intrepid reporter) visits the village by night, leaving intricate crocheted works on drainpipes, handrails and even around the trees.

We believe Black Sheep be a native of the Thy region, for each work responds with subtlety to the colours and textures of its surroundings. 

These works bring flowers where there were none, and cover rude metal in woolen moss and bare bark with cotton lichen. 

A fringe of ivy leaves blows from a hydrant

Some works (below) have been spotted within buildings, indicating that as well as possessing a far from sheepish stealth, Black Sheep may have leanings towards cat-burglary.

Our resident art critic suggests that this may be a self-portrait. It is certainly far from unlikely that it displays an element of the sympathy felt by one four-legged creature for another.

Let us hope that Black Sheep will be a bellweather for textile arts in Doverodde, and maybe even further afield.

Editor's Note: We are pleased to report that last week's feature on Woodpiles has inspired our colleagues in Wales to file a related feature. We look forward to further updates from our loyal readers on marginal woodpiles worldwide.

Doverodde Diary: Day 21 - For The Dogs

Friday, 18 May 2012

Doverodde Diary: Day 20 - To The End

There’s a local idiom for strolling to the end of the jetty and turning round, returning: al vende bro, literally, to turn the bridge. Over the years, as more and more boats have sought moorings here, the jetty has grown longer, and there are new bridges to turn. The timber extensions crook across the fjord, pinching vessels within their planks.

It takes four and a half minutes to walk from my desk to the very end of the jetty. I make the short journey several times a day - it is easy to spend as long looking into the water as writing about the water. And after all, the bridge has two ends at which to turn.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Doverodde Diary: Day 19 - Education

How many sea urchins in the wheelbarrow? The adults can no longer remember, but the children keep on guessing.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Doverodde Diary: Day 17 - Flat Stars

I spot a new starfish nearly every day in Doverodde. They are usually dried to the jetty, and sometimes they have been flattened by vehicles. The funny thing about starfish is that they never look unhappy, even when they’re dead.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Doverodde Diary: Day 16 - Blue China

The breakfast china is decorated with English ruins. The blue pattern on the cups and saucers matches, but the shallows of the saucers do not fit the base of every cup. Two sets have been mixed up.

I drink my tea, thinking of the chart that shows the depth of the fjord: deep blue by the shore, then rings of lighter blue, then white. There’s a tideline in the cup: a film of tannin clings to the glaze. Why are the depth contours on the chart so definite when water levels rise and fall every day? Why do we decorate the insides of cups? There is not enough time over breakfast to answer these questions.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Doverodde Diary: Day 15 (Sunday Special) - On Woodpiles

Welcome to World of Exteriors, the Doverodde Diary’s Sunday Lifestyle Feature.

Never mind books – woodpiles are the medium of the moment in Doverodde. But books and woodpiles are not so far removed from each other. After all, some books are made from paper, and some paper is made from trees.

Not only do the two objects share a common physical origin, but their kinship is reflected in their etymology (the word for ‘beech tree’ is the root of the word ‘book’ in many European languages) [Enough intellectual stuff for a Sunday – Ed.]. Therefore it seems appropriate to dedicate this World of Exteriors Sunday Special to the not-so-humble Danish woodpile. 

The working woodpile often lurks in shady garage corners.

A modest woodpile decorates a simple hilltop home.

The woodpile may move beyond mere functionality to encompass land art.

The same residence boasts a colour-coordinated seasonal log display.

A rough urban look can be achieved even in this rural backwater 
with the aid of a garbage bin, plastic sheeting and forsythia.

For some, the woodpile is just part of a wider engagement 
with the plein air lifestyle.

Is this a woodpile – or just a pile of wood? 

Frank Lloyd Wright's legacy informs this organic woodpile,
which seamlessly reflects the lines of the architecture around it.

And finally, the images above and below prove that - in Doverodde, at least - 
artists' books dare to aspire to the status of the woodpile.

Doverodde Diary: Day 14 - The Amateur Geologist

Looking for fossils, she found flowers.

Or rather, looking for thunderstones, she found lilies. Is it any better to be precise?

Friday, 11 May 2012

Doverodde Diary: Day 13 - Red Arrows

A single sheet of paper is large enough to hold a whole country, as well as the water around it. This chart shows Denmark and the tip of Sweden as blank, sand-coloured landmasses surrounded by a white sea. It can be used by sailors travelling home around Denmark’s coast and along its waterways. Red arrows indicate ‘retninger for indgående’ – ways to enter. They sweep over the top of Jutland, into each harbour and around the islands. (Bornholm, the island everyone forgets, is ringed with red.)

Cities dot the east coast, round and regular as floats on an eel net: Aalborg; Hobro; Randers; Aarhus; Horsens; Vejle; Kolding. On the west coast Esbjerg stands alone.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Doverodde Diary: Day 12 - Closed On Account Of Happiness

“Closed on account of happiness”
Two Danish resistance fighters guarding a shop 
while the owner celebrates the British liberation of Denmark. 
(With thanks to Wikipedia) 

On 5 May 1945 the German occupation of Denmark ended. People took down their blackout blinds and burned them in the streets. Today, we mark Liberation Day more quietly with candles placed on our windowsills. 

As I strike a long match and hold the flame to the wick of a tea light, I notice the moon rising. Tomorrow evening brings the moon to its perigee: full and curious, it will pass closer to Earth than at any time in its orbit. It looks very large and very bright, as if reflecting the light of all Denmark’s candles.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Doverodde Diary: Day 10 - The Wild Swans

Swans make a wheezing sound as they fly, and for years I thought this came from their beaks, because with their necks stretched out ahead of them they seem to be straining to breathe. Now I realise it is the sound of their wings beating against the air.

There’s a Hans Christian Andersen tale in which a wicked queen turns her eleven stepsons into swans. To restore them to human form, their sister must knit shirts of nettles to throw over their backs. While she knits she cannot speak a word. When the time comes to rescue them, she has still to finish the sleeve of the final shirt, so the youngest prince keeps his swan’s wing. There are at least eleven swans on the lake at Doverkil but I can’t find any nettles. And I have no desire to silence the swans' wings.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Doverodde Diary: Day 9 - Returning to Sand

You can see the beach from the brick factory, where pallets of new bricks wait in a warehouse without any walls. The shore glows iron red with bits of brick. These are the rejects, flung aside after firing and sucked into the sea. The bricks are perforated during manufacture with rows of wire-cut holes, but in these rejects the pattern of squares and slits is often twisted. However worn the outer edges of the brick, these channels are still sharply defined. People collect these folorn objects, which become far more desirable in their destruction than any perfect thing.

Some have been polished to slim shards by the sea, and if the waves weren’t so furious I’d try a round of ducks and drakes. All the bricks will come to this in time, but for the moment some are still recognisable, although it’s a strange house you would build with them.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Doverodde Diary: Day 8 - The Ants

Twice a week I cycle to the grocery in Ydby, a thirty-minute ride through the woods. My bike is a gold model with the word ‘MOSQUITO’ on its frame. The brand name acts as a reminder that my ant problem remains unsolved.

I am reading the collected essays of Orhan Pamuk, who writes: ‘words [...] are like ants. Nothing can penetrate into the cracks, holes, and invisible gaps of life as fast as words can.’ I can tell that Orhan Pamuk has some experience of ants. I hope he will go on to say something useful about them, but to my disappointment the remainder of the essay is mostly about words.

Anna emails me a link: How To Kill Indoor Ants Naturally. The site recommends leaving white vinegar, bay leaves, garlic cloves, peppermint teabags or cucumber slices in places the ants frequent. Sprinkling lines of cayenne pepper, cinnamon and lemon juice under doors and windows has also been known to help. Or I could try piles of crushed dried mint leaves and freshly ground cloves in my store cupboards.

Since my cupboard contains little more than teabags, porridge oats and salt I’m concerned that I will have to make a special trip to the grocery just for the ants. But something must be done – if I continue to exterminate them using my notebook, there will be no room for any words.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Doverodde Diary: Day 7 - Liberation

He plans to sail to St Petersburg.

– When will you leave? I ask.

– When I’m ready, he says, winding a rope in his hand.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Doverodde Diary: Day 6 - Moored From The Air

On the last Saturday in April, the boats that have rested in gardens and garages all winter are wheeled out to the jetty. The hulls have been repainted, red or black, up to the waterline. One by one, Adriane, Anni, Elfrida, Louié, Malajka, Falsang, Silver, Ballerina, Kleopatra, Laribé, Out Skerries, Inge-Marie and Emilca are chained to the hook of the hired crane, which hoists them high and winches them out over the water. The dark hulls swing through the air a little uncertainly, but guided by ropes, they touch down safely on the water.

Borrowed Bookshelves: 8

Books and dolls in the home of 
the artist Liz Hempel-Jørgensen
in Doverodde, Denmark

Doverodde Diary: Day 5 - Gold Boat and Mountain Man

Bronze Age, Stone Age: who knows? Our ancestors often reused burial mounds – they were a practical, plundering people. Now, we’re a little more respectful, or perhaps – profligate.


When King Skjold died, his body was sent to sea in a boat filled with gold. But the boat was so heavily laden that it stranded on the Limfjord and to avoid embarrassment Skjold was buried, as had been the custom in ancient times, under a barrow of earth. You can see the sea from its summit.


No one dares to steal the gold from this tomb because an evil troll is guarding it. However, the troll (who is not above stealing) helps himself to wives and children from the farms nearby. The troll will release the gold when Denmark is in its hour of need. Meanwhile the locals must put up with the troll’s evil ways.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Doverodde Diary: Day 4 - Which Bird?

They say that birdsong is a sure sign of spring. Well, this week every bird is in song, so I’m not sure why that bird, or rather that song, arrested me. I’m afraid I can’t quite describe how it went, being no expert in the curious phonetics of birdsong. I stared into the branches for some time before I saw a small dull thing perched on what looked like a dead twig at the very tip of the tree. I was able to match the peculiar sound to the wobble of its throat, so I knew I’d got the right one. But what was it?

Liz peered where I was pointing and said she thought it might be the Fuglekonge.

The Fuglekonge, or crested wren, is Europe’s smallest bird, and rather rare, according to the bird book. I was impressed that we’d found a Fuglekonge without even trying, but the bird book also suggested that what we’d seen was actually a Stillids, or common goldfinch. Now Liz says it’s a goldfinch for sure, but I’m sticking to my small bird story.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Doverodde Diary: Day 3 - His Last Journey

The loyal assistant has tears in his voice. The princess is filmed from behind; we glimpse her hair knotted demurely beneath her hat. We do not see the funeral. The news cuts from the disappearing hearse to recent footage of shipping containers, each branded with a white star. We are informed that they will continue to circle the seas.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Doverodde Diary: Day 2 - The Gardener

An empty bucket is a bad omen. But when I encounter Liz, she is carrying a bucket full to the brim with dandelions. As we talk she squashes the yellow heads down into the bucket with her hoe and a bitter smell rises; at least, she says, she caught them before the seeds could blow all over the square. I look at the neat paving under our feet, where pink bricks have been set down among the grey.

- It’s a rose, Liz says.

Doverodde Diary: Day 1 - Watch out for otters

The poster has hung in the kitchen for so long that the otter is beginning to fade to the same colour as the water. Pas på odderen. It’s ambiguous. Are there otters in the kitchen, or only among the reeds? Should the otter be watching out for me, or should I be watching out for the otter? This faded otter looks too respectable to bite anyone. She holds out her paws as if she were about to begin playing a piano sonata.