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Landscape

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 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, the 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 film.  The unforgiving gloom of the grotto is translated into a speckly 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.

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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.

archipelagoSince September, I have been running weekly walking and writing workshops around Spike Island, a real/unreal island in the middle of Bristol.  Mapping walk over walk and working in collaboration with each participant, this project has been gathering itself under the name Spike Archipelago.

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The project culminates today at Spike Island, the gallery, with a special and free workshop for writers and artists who work with text.  After a final exploration of this strange slip of land, participants will work together and with the project’s archive to compose new work which can then be turned into miniature viewfinders, little guides for looking, for sharing our point of view.

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This project also marks the beginning of the end of my residency at Spike Island and is supported by Arts Council England.

Come sightseeing with me, one last time.

Spike Island
133 Cumberland Road, Bristol, BS1 6UX
For how to get there, click here.

Sunday 1 December,
2–5pm
FREE

map

stoc at the British Ceramics Biennial
Stoke-on-Trent, ST4 1BU
28th September – 10th November 2013
10am – 5pm: Tuesday to Saturday
12pm – 5pm: Sunday
Closed: Monday

stoc factory

stoc is a poetic sequence and reader-responsive soundwork exploring  post-industrial interruptive gardens in Stoke-on-Trent. It is now installed in the original Spode factory site as part of the British Ceramics Biennial‘s EXPLORE programme.

cratesPart of the installation is formed of squat towers of crates carrying thousands of biscuit bone china leaves.

Every last one is handmade.

The BCB Launch Party saw hundreds of guests walk by the small dark mirrors hidden on work benches, on shelves, under a vent.

A cautious few caught sight of a flicker underneath the surface.

Those that stood and read long enough heard the voices, the percussive chatter of a hundred hands at work.

stoc unit 1

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voice

 

loss bench

Last week, I was back in Stoke-on-Trent, roaming amongst the pigeons, smashed plates, ghosts and artists that now occupy the vast complex that is the original Spode Factory and, come autumn, site of the 2013 British Ceramics Biennial.  It’s a fascinating, impressive wasteland, populated by migratory mountains of discarded knife handles or teapot lids; with each artist passing through and with each fox making its bed, Spode is still on the move.  It was good to return after last year’s pop-up show in the China Hall just to keep an eye on the place.

plates

various formsceilingsignkilnI liked this portrait of Stoke as a faded blank, but I like even more the remains of the kiln firing up shoots of fern.  

I was in Stoke to research the site for my Explore commission, awarded earlier this year by the British Ceramics Biennial.  It turned into an excellent, distressing dream of a day as I set about destroying my initial plans for my project, collecting tiny, shattered treasures and talking to ceramic artist Monika Patuszyńska, another of the Explore artists who was looking at water damage in the mould stores.

I also got to hear a little about the programme of this year’s festival.  I’ve only got a hurried list of names and events scribbled into my notebook, but even in this format it’s clear that it’s going to be a staggering show in Stoke this autumn.  Very excited to be a part of it.

PyramidLawrence Lek recently curated a one-night show in partnership with The White Review, sculpting texts into a projected cityscape in Hackney Wick, London.

I was one of 48 writers and artists whose texts were used in the show, each exploring an imagined architecture in under 100 words.  It’s an intriguing, impressive list of names…

Pyramid_auldDarran Anderson ▲ David Bainbridge ▲ Anna Blair ▲ Jorge Luis Borges ▲ Martin Byrne ▲ Jen Calleja ▲ Steven Chodoriwsky ▲ S.J. Christmass ▲ Calvin Chua ▲ Holly Corfield-Carr ▲ Rishi Dastidar ▲ Adrian Dannatt ▲ Alexandre Dumas et al. ▲ Rachel Falconer ▲ Jon Ferguson ▲ Adam Nathaniel Furman ▲ Niall Gallacher ▲ Patrick Goddard ▲ Oliver Griffin ▲ Evan Harris ▲ Rye Dag Holmboe ▲ John Holten ▲ Matt Hutchinson ▲ Miranda Iossifidis ▲ Daniel Ivec ▲ Claire Jamieson ▲ Verity-Jane Keefe ▲ Clare Kirwan ▲ Miles Klee ▲ Alana Kushnir ▲ Léopold Lambert ▲ Patrick Langley ▲ Lawrence Lek ▲ Bella Marrin ▲ Dorrell Merritt ▲ Thomas More ▲ Amanda Oosthuizen ▲ Daniel Rourke ▲ Andi Schmied ▲ Jack Self ▲ Camila Sotomayor ▲ St. Augustine ▲ Viktor Timofeev ▲ Karen Whiteson ▲ Eley Williams ▲ Nathan Witt ▲ Alan Worn

The texts have also been collected in an artist’s book, with fold-out pages that might be a landscape of texts or a more permanent recording of Lek’s fleeting fictional city.

Pyramid_bookPyramid Schemes is published in a handmade edition of 88, printed on 100gsm cartridge paper and bound in 300gsm white card.  It’s currently stocked in X Marks le Bokship in Bethnal Green & Ti Pi Tin in Stoke Newington.  It is also available from the artist for £5.00.

If you’re not near London but you are near the internet, then you can roam the city on the Pyramid Scheme site.  Just scroll along like it’s a breezy summer’s day, taking in the horizon, the detail, the crisp packet folded between the railings, the spire (see No.13see it!) – and just in case you need directions, my text (which is linked to my commission for Artist Meets Curator) is the first in the book.

sightseeingguideSpike Island is a strange island.

Most visitors might not even notice they have stepped off the mainland.  The long slip of land is pinned in place with swing bridges, flyovers and locks which keep the island anchored between two ribbons of water: one is the gleaming harbourside, the other is the gluey mud of the New Cut.

These bridges feel like quick stitches, built over ferry crossings and train lines, at points crossing over each other so that it’s only until you revisit the island on Google Maps that you draw out its shape.

In preparation for Spike Open Weekend I’m making sightseeing poems, in the same format as my viewfinder poems for Cushendall, to guide visitors around the lost island in the middle of their city.

These plastic sightseeing guides come with coordinates that can be punched into Google to direct the reader to the exact bridge.* Five points of contact – Gaol Ferry Bridge, Vauxhall Bridge, the Old Railway Bridge, Brunel Way Footbridge and Prince Street Bridge – take you on a perimeter walk around the Island, or catch you as you alight onto the land.

sightseeing bunch

*(What is this?  Some sort of lo-tech app?  More tactile?  Did you just say techtile?  Is it, as someone just asked, a keyring?  Are those little screens?  No?)

As with my poems in Cushendall, the poems also come with viewfinders – hand cut, hand sized.  And inexcusably small text.  But, you know, I want us to look closely.  Or maybe I don’t want you to look at all.  That’s something for me to talk sternly with myself about.  Meanwhile, here’s the poem for Vauxhall Bridge over the Cut and that green, sour mud that appears at low tide.

sightseeing vauxhall bridge

The poems are printed onto plastic which I shrink in my studio at Spike Island, the gallery at the centre of the Island itself.  I’m using a slightly different, less translucent plastic than I used in Northern Ireland and with new materials come new disasters.  There were a few sad moments this morning spent trying to rescue the front cover (and map, shown above) which melted completely.meltingThere’s something I like about this folded up map.  The little ruptures just where the harbour opens out.  Still, hey – I should aim for some of my tiny poems to be, at the very least, legible.  So I’ll start again and set the right temperatures and with the right words and the right luck, by the time Spike Island opens its doors to visitors, artists and islanders next Friday, I should have my completed, complete Sightseer’s Guides to Spike Island available for you to take away (over any bridge of your choosing).