Three readings, one in Reading, and a private view

Many thanks for birthday greetings, etc.We have weathered another one, and there was a post I was going to put up and never had a chance – for reasons that may be clearer once you have read the following. All greetings and messages were highly appreciated, however! It was a bit Alzheimeresque, but some very nice things have happened too…

So a few days ago, all mixed up in the birthday, I received an email from an artist called Rosie Farrell, asking me if I’d like to collaborate on an artwork for an exhibition that opens – er – this coming Wednesday, the 18th. Her piece is a turntable that plays an LP recorded with the sound of itself being made. It was originally shown in this exhibition (click picture for info):

… and will now be repurposed for this one – with a much more ‘analogue’ visual presentation, apparently, on a trestle, surrounded by amps and speakers, etc.What she’s asked me to do is to write a poem in response to the recording. I don’t have to like it. It’ can be tangential. All the usual. But the recording is a really remarkable thing, and when I listened to it I found it unutterably poignant. And the poem is going to be the same length as the record, i.e., nine minutes.

Nine minutes of poetry in a few days! Everyone said, ‘You can’t do it’. But as someone wisely pointed out the other day, every three-month deadline is really a three-day deadline.

And frankly I think the project has ‘Ms Baroque’ written all over it. Having not been writing much at all, I’m glad to have a catalyst – especially one that doesn’t give me much time to start angsting. So I got to work, jotting notes on the bus and in the tube, and typing them up in the evening, and doing quick revisions in the morning before flying out of the house… and by yesterday morning, that is, after about 36 hours, I began to have something that looked very much like a long poem in relatively coherent sections, with some clever structural devices, written in the correct sort of rhythm to accompany this record.

By a fantastic coincidence, as I walked out of Betterton Street yesterday I ran smack into one of the poets I’d most trust to look at this kind of work, walking up Drury Lane. (I’m never sure if people want naming or not.) And he liked it! So phew, I mopped the Baroque brow with my hanky, and have kept going. But it’s been a very busy week with other things, too. I’m up to seven and a half minutes, as read aloud to the mp3 file (I know) of the record. It sounds great. It’s the last two minutes that’s going to get me, but I know what I want to do.

As to the exhibition itself, I can’t wait to see the installation. There’s talk of cutting an LP of me reading my poem, and also of putting it on the gallery wall in cutout vinyl letters – on its own, enough to get me to write something. You want to know my price? Lettering.

The private view is on Wednesday, in Wimbledon of all places, and that is the first day I’ll have a chance to go see the installation, meet Rosie, and do some read-throughs (& record). Exciting! You don’t really think you’re ever going to be in an art exhibition if you’re a poet, but I love that Rosie’s concept is of the poem as an integral ‘3D’ part of the installation.

Also, long long ago I lived in the road that you walk down to get to Wimbledon Art College, and the students trouped past my window every day, making me feel I was wasting my life. So it’s nice to go back there and not waste my life on their turf.

This serendipitous bit of ‘abstract’ subject matter also makes me think once more about the idea my cousin Nadja and I had of making a collaboration. I think it foundered a bit on the lack of a concrete idea, and I love her work inordinately.

Meanwhile, I’m on deadline for the second of my features on digital life for MsLexia, the women’s writing magazine. This one: having a website. (The current issue has my piece on using Facebook to raise your profile as a writer, which will make anyone who knows me laugh. Maybe hollowly. Or maybe in moral triumph.) So that’s due on Tuesday, and I’m doing a reading with a splendid all-women line-up of Rack and Arc poets on Tuesday:

And on Friday I’m doing a reading in Reading, organised by the wonderful AF Harrold – looking forward to that.

So there we are. Two readings and a reading in Reading, writing and pictures and working and – well, I’ll sleep at some point. (‘Working’ at the moment delightfully includes press work on an exhibition shortly to feature in the Poetry Society’s Poetry Café, in world-famous Betterton Street, WC2, called ‘Happy Birthday Edward Lear’. It is his bicentenary this year – not just Dickens’, you know. We are very fond of Mr Lear in Baroque Mansions. Mlle B in particular is devoted to him.)

Plus, this is the last week before term starts at the Poetry School. There are spaces free in my class, Making Poetry, so if you’re in London and fancy some lively discussions and learning all about prosody… This term, imagery, narrative, line breaks, etc. We read a wide selection of poems to demonstrate how differently techniques can be used. It’s a great group, too.

So come along!

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