cleggcarr

As a method of meeting someone, writing a poem towards them seems like as good a start as any.  We pointed at where we were (Stapleton Road in Bristol, I pointed, and Coton Orchard in Cambridge, John Clegg pointed) and set about working out where we had any common ground.  Somewhere in Oxfordshire?  Surely.  Is it an interest in site?  Is it something to do with assonance?  Oh is it Swindon?  Is it big hair?  No, we didn’t know about that yet, having not yet met face-to-face.

So John measured the screen with a ruler, which showed where we might meet in the middle.  I liked the idea of tracing out an as-the-crow-flies line over the landscape over the internet – but I wanted to know the exact spot, door-to-door, because I am a lazy stickler and I didn’t want to range around Google maps without knowing which hedge or glitchy speeding car was the marker that would let me know where balanced and proper collaboration should start.  The answer came from the extraordinary Geographic Midpoint Calculator, which can, if you wish, put you in your place according to your own personal centre of gravity.  We asked for the exact dividing line between Clegg and Carr was and it showed us this:

doubleloop

Where were we?  Crossing over in the corner of an Oxfordshire infinity loop.  A hellish bypass.  An egg timer.  A double cone.  A double-headed axe.  And what’s that?  To the left?  A little pinched lake silting over and echoing the same shape.  I was nervous to scroll out the scale in case there was a third hour glass just to the right, just a bit bigger, and then another and another and John and I became too terrified to start writing.

So we got cracking and turned the egg timer over.

We moved through John’s storm-damaged orchard, the B4207’s rainblatted branches and towards the shifting territories of Fox Park in Bristol.  We wrote through the roots of our poems, sharing what we had in common, pinching things in towards the middle and moving outwards into those cones to sound out the differences.  Which were also sort of the similarities.  Echoes rang out: storms, trees, territories, damage, claims on language, claims on loss, turning up after the show is all over to pick through the leaves and soil(ed remains).

And took this to London for SJ Fowler‘s incredible Camaradefest ii at Rich Mix, where 100 poets in 50 pairs read whatever their interests and intersects had taken them towards.  There was this exercise in intimacy from Ross Sutherland and Thomas Bunstead and this incised extimacy with Eley Willams and Prudence Chamberlain and more things than I can try to cleverly word from more poets than I can fit in my car and drive around the Carr-Clegg coniunctio.  There was everything I could want: flip-charts, trip ups, rip-roaring laughter and pillows in swimsuits and sexy poems and power steeples and that was only the first hour.  It was wonderful and a bit messy and a lot good.

As John and I started the day, rolling up onto a cold stage, it was difficult to feel all that energy that would later roll from pairing to pairing.  But it was an honour to kick off such a day with this quiet tripped-up triptych:

I met John for the first time a few minutes before this was recorded and we had quickly arranged ourselves according to the compass: me on the west, John on the east.  It was a strange idea to be hurrying into London (another intersection, another neutral ground, another (0,0) on the axis I guess) to read this ‘from’ Bristol.  In truth, I had just arrived from, if not John’s orchard then from John’s city.  Two weeks ago I crossed back over with myself and went back to Cambridge to start a PhD in poetry and sculpture at Newnham College. There I am, overwriting, overdoing it:

grass

I am still committed to my projects in Bristol (my residency at the Bristol Poetry Institute, my teaching at RWA in the new year, a seminar for AWWA, amongst them) and I am excited to see how research and practice might also intersect and be another kind of axis.  The egg timer turns over again and as I am driving endlessly back between Bristol and Cambridge (surely driving through this midpoint we have visited online?) I feel like I’m stuck on that infinity loop, meeting myself in the middle.  And it was great to have so much (and such great!) company at the midpoint this time.

Thanks to John and Steven and to all the poets on Saturday, and if you missed out, all the videos are here.

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The incredible Stephanie Elizabeth Third dug down with me in the Bristol Biennial week of to document the performances of MINE in Goldney Grotto.  For all those of you who missed out on tickets, here are the playing cards, the Bristol Diamonds, the poison ring, the poem learnt by (Ox)heart, the time trapped in pebbles, the squat, clammy stalagmite I poured from a bottle.

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I am so grateful to see the other side of my face during the reading, because if anything, MINE taught me that people’s listening-to-poetry faces are identical to their cross faces.  There were gorgeous moments when the furrowed brows gave way to laughter and a few sudden tears, but mostly, my brave audience seemed to be squinting at the cave walls, endlessly searching for the Oxheart clam or perhaps waiting for a rare rhyme.  Thanks to Steph for gathering all these different faces, all six faces of the crystal.

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I am also so pleased and so intrigued by the realisation that Steph took these photographs on an old film camera.  The unforgiving gloom of the grotto is translated into a speckled kind of haze in the pictures and knowing that, at a chemical level at least, what is left of the performance was caught in a bit of light and silver-halide crystals is just right.

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And what is left of the poem exists in this glittering pamphlet, published by Spike Island and beautifully produced by City Edition Studio.  There are only around 60 copies left at this point so email me at hccwriting@gmail.com if you would like to know more, if you would like to buy one – or if you would like to be a reviewer.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

MINE was commissioned by Bristol Biennial and researched and developed at Spike Island, during a residency in 2013, supported by Arts Council England.  The site-specific performance at the University of Bristol was written with the support of mentor Clare Pollard through the Jerwood / Arvon Mentoring Scheme 2014/5.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is the eve of National Poetry Day, when taken aback words must eat themselves up and poets put on their best hats just to doff them at each other.  As the door to the grotto has now been locked and I am blinking at the surface, it is time to move onto the next project with my Jerwood / Arvon Mentoring Scheme team.

Pushing off from National Poetry Day with the incredible Deborah ‘Debris’ Stevenson and Ian Dudley, we are spending the month writing a collapsible tanka correspondence.  Today, Deborah makes the first twist of the Rubik’s Cube, writing the opening lines of a tanka sequence that Ian will continue tomorrow and I will join on Friday:

tanka1The completed sequence will consist of both this linear conversation over thirty days AND each of our voices which can be heard in isolation as three parallel ten-line poems.  For instance, my poem will appear amongst the noise from @hollycorfield.  Deborah and Ian’s poems can be found at @debrisstevenson and @dudlian, respectively.  To manage the construction of this and to have the conversation in public, we will be talking to each other on Twitter, using #OCTANKA where the whole collaborative work will grow just to make sure everyone knows this is a digital engagement, you know.

Once the month closes and the poem stiffens up, I will post parts of it up here and we will see what sort of kraken we have awoken from the Octanka.  Until then, Happy Poetry Day!  And see you here.

bristol biennialThe Bristol Biennial launches this Friday at the Folk House and with just a week to go before the first performance of MINE at Goldney Grotto, I am busily polishing all the Bristol Diamonds and light bulbs I can get my hands on.

In the meantime, there will be an interview with me bright and early on Saturday morning for the The Martin Evans Show on BBC Radio Bristol and Somerset and you can catch sight of me reading part of MINE in the grotto as part of a new series on BBC Inside Out West next week.  Plus a miniature mention in this week’s Guardian Guide (and online here).  Oh me oh mine.

guardianguide

So I thought it might be a good time to sneak a quick peek at the poem.  And as time is tight and time is up and there is still so much to do, I’ve piled it all up into a rushed sort of stalagmite. There’s about two million years here.  I hope that makes us even.

Looking forward to meeting so many of you in the grotto next week to talk amongst the cockles and cowries and Oxheart clams.  If you haven’t already bought tickets, there’s a few left but be quick! And while you’re there, have a wander around the rest of the programme and perhaps I’ll see you again and again at Hug? Or Chimera or Grass Men? Was that a yes?

MINE.

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Since the beginning of the year I have been busy with two major projects.  The first has been writing and preparing a long poem for performance in a glittering subterranean grotto in central Bristol.  The other has been fielding questions from puzzled Bristolians who had no idea there was a cave full of crystals under their feet.  It’s a secret and I’m very excited to be sharing it.

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This September, you can join me amongst Bristol’s dirt and second best diamonds.  Over twelve short performances, I will be guiding six guests at a time into the extraordinary underworld of Goldney Grotto, an 18th-century, Grade-1 listed cave blistered with crystals taken from the Avon Gorge and coral collected from slavers’ ports.  It is one of Bristol’s finest – and darkest – hidden treasures.

crystalsThe grotto is only very rarely open to the public so come along for the crystals alone.  But maybe stay to explore the underworld, play cards with the poet, trade voices and dig up a murder mystery, a disastrous meeting, a comedy, a spiralling inferno.

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Commissioned by Bristol Biennial, MINE. has been written and developed with support the Jerwood Charitable Foundation and Arvon, and I am especially grateful to my very wise and very wonderful mentor Clare Pollard who has edited the manuscript and tackled the difficulties of performing both on the move and underground.  And at twilight.  With a bag of rocks.  In a hole.  With a lion.

lion

shellsI must also give thanks to the University of Bristol who have allowed me to perform in the space and undertake multiple site visits as I continue my hunt for the rare Oxheart clam that researchers with keener eyes have spotted amongst the raucous stucco of over two hundred species of shell.

Finally, in terrifyingly exciting news, MINE. will also be available as a limited edition pamphlet printed by City Edition Studio with support from Spike Island and Arts Council England in September 2014.  More information on this very shortly.

In the meantime, let’s all dash wild-eyed at this Facebook page and if you think you’d like to journey into the grotto with me this September click here to book tickets!

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September 16th, 17th and 18th 2014
Performances: 5pm, 6pm, 7pm, 8pm
Running time: 45 minutes
Tickets: £5 / £4 Early Birds at 5pm
Location: Goldney Hall, Lower Clifton Hill, Bristol, City of Bristol BS8 1BH

Suitable footwear recommended.
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Bristol Biennial is an international artist-led festival that celebrates exciting and engaging projects by talented emerging artists. In 2014, the festival takes ‘Crossing the Line’ as its theme, exploring artistic boundaries and encouraging collaboration across the city. Bristol Biennial 2014 is supported by Arts Council England. See here for the full programme.

dylan-homerThis autumn (oh hey autumn! You’re looking pretty lovely from where I’m sitting in July’s sweaty palms) I take up a new residency at the Bristol Poetry Institute.  The BPI is hosted by the University of Bristol and run by Danny Karlin, Winterstoke Professor of English, with Rachael Boast, whose works include Sidereal, winner of a Forward Prize and Pilgrim’s Flower which was shortlisted for the Griffin Prize and I am dancing at the opportunity to be a part of this vital project for poetry in the city.

I am grateful to the BPI for inviting me to lead a series of workshops on site-specific poetry for students at the University of Bristol, and I will also be holding consultation hours for students to receive one-to-one support with their own writing.  The residency will end with a public reading on the 13th December 2014 and I’ll post more details nearer the time.

poetryschoolIf you’re a student at Bristol or you’re interested in booking a place on the workshop series, get in touch or check this page for further details.

If you’re not a student or if you don’t live in Bristol or if you’re not planning on going outside or away from your computer or into some trousers any time soon, then I can still come to you!  In (hopefully) a less (but probably more) terrifying shape than is pictured in the CAMPUS cover (left), I will also be teaching online this autumn.

The Poetry School have invited me to teach as part of their 5 Easy Pieces course on CAMPUS, their online teaching forum.  Alongside the awesome Harry Man, Kim Moore, J T Welsch and Jen Campbell, I’ll be leading a session on something strange and, for now, secret.  When I can, I will let you know more and I will appear, pleased pink and looming behind your screen.

While I whittle my new projects (including one big splintery one soon to be announced!), I have started woodworking.  Actually.  Truly.  On my tenon saw and sliding bevel, no word of a lie.

It’s so familiar a strategy it should probably be considered part of writing, part of an artist’s practice.  Emily Dickinson baked.  Gabriel Orozco throws boomerangs.  I’ve been given a rusty plane and I’ve got no patience.

Perfect. I’m three weeks into my course at Bristol Women’s Workshop and I’ve been allowed to bring home my first foul thing.  I would be too embarrassed but I want to document the start: a book stand.

Or, more accurately, a book limiter.  Since the panicky book-swallowing days of university, I’ve developed a bad habit of reading too many books at the same time and amongst the complicated expansion of overlaps, there are always some books that never get finished before they are lent to a friend or eaten up in a house move.

So now, my unfinished, unvarnished book limiter stands on my desk, operating a one-in-one-out service for my fidgety reading pattern.

And for my fidgety hands, I am now onto dovetails and chisels and tricky, slow patience.

bookstand