Monday, January 26, 2009

Shaker Visual Poetry

Sacred roll [untitled booklet], 1840-43. Anonymous. Ink and watercolor on paper

UBUWEB - Shaker Visual Poetry (Gift Drawings & Gift Songs):

The United Society of Believers in Christ's Second Appearing — called "Shakers" — originated in England in the mid-eighteenth century and soon centered around the person of Ann Lee (Mother Ann, or Mother Wisdom, or simply Mother), who became "the reincarnation of the Christ Spirit … Ann the Word … Bride of the Lamb." The group practiced communal living and equality of the sexes, along with a reputedly complete abstention from sexual intercourse. After persecutions and jailings in England, Ann brought them to America in 1774, where for many years they thrived on conversions, reaching a maximum size of 6,000 before their demise in the twentieth century.

Between 1837 and 1850 ("known as the Era of Manifestations") the Shakers composed (or were the recipients of) "hundreds of … visionary drawings … really [spiritual] messages in pictorial form," writes Edward Deming Andrews (The Gift To Be Simple, 1940). "The designers of these symbolic documents felt their work was controlled by supernatural agencies … — gifts bestowed on some individual in the order (usually not the one who made the drawing." The same is true of the "gift songs" and other verbal works, and the invention of forms in both the songs and drawings is extraordinary, as is their resemblance to the practice of later poets and artists.

thanks to On An Overgrown Path for the reminder


Alan Evil said...

Shakertown Kentucky is a preserved Shaker settlement. The last Shaker died back in the 70's I think but the community has been made into a museum and they still make various crafts. If you ever come visit KY we'll have to visit it.

Hillbilly said...

I visited to Shakertown near Louisville when I was very young. I cannot remember much of it and need to go back. Fascinating, gifted, and bizarre religious cult.
Syd post from a while back:
tx 4 this.

John M. said...

Hey dudes,

I didn't know there were Shakers in Ky.

There's another Shaker settlement in upstate New York, not too far from my father's house. I believe there were still a few of them around in the '80s.

Interesting people. Apparently very inventive folk.