We writers have a drug of choice: getting published. So you’ll understand the hit I got recently seeing my concrete poem, Copernicus, published in Crossways Literary Magazine (pictured). This one fell into a natural planetary shape not too long after the words had been written — a form of words I have uttered just about every time I present The Visual Time Traveller talk. The poem is related to the design for 1535 – 1540, a time when both Copernicus and Andreas Vesalius, an anatomist, published their seminal works.
I remember when I was explaining to the designers about the difference between the Heliocentric model and the Geocentric one which the church insisted was true (the Earth being at the centre of the universe); how Copernicus was a naked eye astronomer not using lenses. The powerful lenses Galileo built to observe the moons of Jupiter (disproving Geo-centrism) were not in use until the beginning of the seventeenth century.
The designers picked up on the fact that Vesalius had been performing dissections to understand human anatomy and thus they captured two concepts — planetary orbits and an anatomical cross section of the eye — in one illustration; perhaps not realising the powerful effect they had illustrated of the eye being at the centre of the planetary orbit — that is, not Geocentric but Egocentric — thus my thoughts of individuality and existentialism when I first saw it. We are all at the centre of our own universe. It feels as if the world revolves around us; as if the sun sets, leaves us rather than us rolling away from it; as if Helios, the sun god, rises the next morning rather than we had rolled on around to face him, once again.
This sort of intelligent design floods the book — a profound visual literacy. Not only did the design team realise the vision I had for a hundred designs representing 500 years of history, they elevated it to a far greater place, created a new art form. This is my fourth baby, born in an art gallery on the 6th December in 2013, now at the Jesuitical age of seven-and-a-half.
“Give me a child till he is seven years old” said St Ignatius Loyola, “and I will show you the man.” The Visual Time Traveller is coming of age, becoming a man. Or, perhaps I should say (keeping it in the twenty-first century) a woman.
Postscript: at the top of the pages for 1540 - 1545 in The Visual Time Traveller you can read that in 1540 The Society of Jesus (Jesuits) was approved by Pope Paul III, in his bull, Regimini Militantis Ecclesiae
The Visual Time Traveller 1535-1540 copyright Alison Hackett, 21st Century Renaissance
The poem "Copernicus" was first published in Crossways Literary Magazine issue 11
A new Visual Time Traveller YouTube channel has recently been launched: 12 short videos based on an extended interview I had with Aileen O'Meara.
The picture felt like a Caravaggio. Obsequiousness to the fore, one powerful man, and another accepting his gifts. The real politick was the banality of a prime minister giving an important position in government to a 'successful' businessman (with not a scintilla of public service on his record.) The role was to be the government's efficiency advisor, or 'waste tzar'.
The Waste Tzar
So rampant and so splendid that there seems to be a reason for fearing that men and women will be taught to feel that dishonesty, if it can become splendid, will cease to be abominable. — Anthony Trollope, "The Way We Live Now"
In the photograph he’s leaning in.
An act of fawning obeisance,
the upper part of his hand visible
at the bottom of the frame, his palm
held gently against David’s chest;
he’s saying something, or said something;
the shadow of David’s nose is cast on his
forehead, a soft apex of triangle; and
David’s eyes are cast down, maybe
uncomfortable with this man in so close,
their shirts and ties mirroring, muted
blue and bishop’s purple; Philip’s
steely grey Renaissance curls curling
in loose waves at the nape of his neck,
his balding pate counterpoint to David’s
groomed hair with a small bouffant
revealing the pink skin of his brow
containing his psyche, holding his higher
thoughts, thoughts about his waste tsar.
Perhaps he knows he has appointed
a greed tzar, a tzar of clever who has
a well-known model on speed dial,
a man who knows that dishonesty
(with the PM’s blessing) is becoming
splendid and ceasing to be abominable.
Posted 13 April 2021
This blank verse was written in response to an opinion piece in the Observer by Catherine Bennett, about David Cameron and Philip Green. The photograph I refer to in the poem was not published in the online article. I couldn't find it online elsewhere, and the paper has long since been recycled, so it remains a memory. Alison Hackett
The Telegraph and the Irish Examiner published a letter I had written to the editor on 12 May 2015. It said that David Cameron should hold an immediate referendum to decide the in-out EU question and I continued with this: “The breakdown of the vote in each constituency (Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England) would be interesting – and might give a lead as to what will happen to the union once the decision on Europe has been made.”
Now, with grief, I witness Brexit and the union splintering.
I witness, in Northern Ireland, violence. Tyres and bins set on fire near the interface gates which open in a wall that separates two communities. The PSNI closing the gates.
The worst of it isn’t the border down the Irish sea. It is the border between two communities marked by a wall and interface gates. Not the Berlin wall, not the Palestinian wall, a wall within the six counties of Northern Ireland reinforcing false divisions between people. Protestant. Catholic. Unionist. Republican.
The Good Friday agreement and membership of the EU was breaking down that divide. There was harmony in feeling a shared set of values across all identities in Northern Ireland. Hope and history had been rhyming.
Being Europeans with common purpose must have felt an awful lot more grown-up. Those accountable for this mess are currently in power in the UK. Shame on them. Thrice shame on their leader. His self-interest knows no bounds. He is an amoral danger, like his counterpart who recently departed (was forced off) the American stage.
Letter to the editor published in the Belfast Telegraph on 12 April 2021
A science correspondent in a UK newspaper Undermining the AstraZeneca jab is a dangerous act of political folly wonders why the AstraZeneca vaccine has been subject to 'constant undermining' and considers the vacillation by some countries (regarding the vaccine) to be 'absurd and harmful'. Rather an emotional response (not to mention unscientific!) to name-call other nations this way. He worries that the doubts have 'triggered fears' among public health officials in the UK that young women who have raised risks of developing these blood clots may shun the jab. Does foreign coverage on the AZ vaccine now need to include a trigger warning for UK health officials?
It isn’t AstraZeneca that is hurt (you can’t emotionally 'hurt' a company) it is the individuals, the scientists in Oxford University, whose feelings are hurt by the fall out of the vaccine they had initiated in their labs possibly not being as safe as the others on the market.
The elephant in the room is that you elect to take a vaccine; it is not medicine; it is an option to take preventative medicine. And if this preventative medicine, in a very very tiny number of cases, could kill you would you still take that risk? And if the tiny risk is a bit higher if you happen to be a younger woman, and a bit higher again if you are a younger woman on a certain contraceptive medicine that increases your risk of blood clots, would you still take that risk?
The risks of taking the AstraZeneca vaccine far outweigh the risks of not taking it because the chance of dying by blood clot from the disease are worse that the chance of dying by blood clot from the vaccine. Happy days for the W.H.O. et al who have to think in the aggregate and steer the geo-politics. But if there is a correlation, the people who were given the vaccine and died because of it, are collateral damage. Like an innocent bystander who dies when a cluster bomb is dropped.
Suppose there is a causality between the vaccine and blood clots (albeit rarely occurring) you could compare the risks of taking the AZ vaccine to the chances of your cluster of numbers winning the lottery. The government is asking millions of people to play the vaccine lottery while reassuring them they won’t win; except for in a very, very, very, very few, who will hit the jackpot (of death).
There is a chance to minimise the collateral damage and Germany has taken it by giving the AZ vaccine only to the over sixties and also, extraordinarily, by allowing their citizens a choice of vaccine.
I would love a choice if I was given one. And if it meant waiting anther few months or even a year, I’d take it.
This is a personal opinion written by Alison Hackett, posted 7 April 2021. Please acknowledge this source if quoting from the article.