Saturday, 19 September 2015
Today I launched my new residency at Glastonbury's Library of Avalon.
I am grateful to Dearbhaile Bradley and all of the volunteers and trustees involved at the Library for organising the event and for reading some choice texts from the shelves by way of an introduction.
I read a few poems that I felt were at home in that space ('Catwoman', 'Dunstan' and 'The Annual Visitor'), and afterwards ran a taster workshop for those present who chose to stay for it.
For the workshop, I invited the 5 writers in the room (plus me) to find a book on the shelves that got their attention. We straight away had a real mix - a book of folklore about Merlin, a pulp science fiction novel, Nichelle Nichols' memoirs, one on prehistoric London... you already start to get a picture of the breadth and the particular nature of Avalon's bookshelves.
The writing exercise I led involved choosing a word from a random page in each book, and inviting each writers to turn one thing chosen into the next, using only words. So in the first book I found the word 'mountain' - the second the word 'blanket' - and I asked Patrick to turn a mountain into a blanket. And so on...
Would you like to see what we came up with? I thought you would. I think you'll be able to spot which of these was found in Nichelle Nichols' memoirs...
Blanket by Patrick
Mountain. Risen from stone, carved from earth, crumpled by tectonics.
His hard surface, his sudden drops and sheer face. Torment, a grasping of rocks and falling of matter. The birds pecked, and eyes were absent. Yet he was seen, cut down, carried and laid to rest. Shaken, stirred, thrown, rolling and finally he settled, a blanket.
Leonard Nimoy by Senga Skylark
A blanket was flat on the ground.
'EARS' said a voice.
Two corners of the blanket stood upright, as though on command. "NOT SPOCK, NIMOY!" shouted the voice.
The corners went flat again.
It was always the ears, always the bloody ears, mused the blanket. Strange - the blanket had never mused before. It rather liked the sensation. It liked standing up as well. So its whole self got up.
Still blind, feeling the breeze ripple among its folds and hearing nothing apart from the voice. the blanket began to take on the form of a man. As it did, its senses started to awaken. Now it could hear the sounds of trees rustling and the flapping sounds began to fade as its texture changed.
It had legs, arms, a head, a fully functioning body with broad shoulders, a chest that rose and fell, a penis and an arse. It had its own arse! The blanket had had so many sitting on it over time and now it had one of its very own. A firm, two melons in a sack divided by a crack at the base, a double cusp that seemed to smile. His own tush. He had an urge to stick his head up it but that passed. Now he was him. An actor. Classically trained, but known only for one part. No, not that part. His acting role as a po-faced alien.
The High Priest by Jennifer Kreamer
He heard these words from afar:
They meant nothing to him.
Repeated in sonorous tones, they echoed in the cave of his skull.
He groped in the dark velvet folds of his mind for familiar sound shapes.
LEO - lion-like - August - heat - strength - dominion - kingship and mantles of mane
NEE, born - born anew perhaps as he could not remember where what who when he last was
MOI; a self, a me-ness
Why, why the hiatus, why the darkness, the newness? Was this an opportunity to be... what?
Mindless - open - empty - a shell - a vessel - waiting to be filled.
"I INVITE", he said aloud,
A Sheep by Wes White
"Forever and ever...
No, it was no good. They'd definitely noticed, that time. He coughed and gave it one more go.
The priest looked out at his disciples. The curse had finally come to pass.
LOOK AT THEM, AND WHAT YOU SEE
THAT IS WHAT YOU NOW SHALL BE, his demonic adversary had told him. He'd had a few sips of holy water after that, to be sure. But what was the big deal about that, anyway? He would become a disciple. So what? He'd been a disciple before. It would be nice, even, not to have to lead, for a change.
'WHAT YOU SEE'
'WHAT YOU SEE
He looked at the rows of faces again.
He put his hands to his face in horror.
They were not hands any more.
They felt the wool of his cheeks.
The priest had become... one of his flock.
A sheep - honest, that is how it started out - and sheep - as this sheep was - are usually a mixture of black and white - or a sort of grubby off-white if we're going to be specific. I've no idea what colour it'd be called in those colour cards you can get, where there a million different shades of white, that are indistinguishable but for the name - almond white, apple white, apricot white (and you can't eat any of them).
So this sheep - and I accept this is pretty odd by any stretch of the imagination - turned fuchsia pink. Now I don't mean some eejit dyed it pink - that would have been weird enough. Nope, what I mean is that as I was looking the sheep sort of melted, lost definition, became bloblike and slipped onto the ground to become the patch of glorious fuchsia pink - like a bridesmaid dress but without identifiable shape, or, and this is even more curious, Substance.
To this day I can't say what that amazing fuchsia pink colour was of. Because it was neither sheep nor any other identifiable thing - it was simply fuchsia pink. The colour.
A colour held his eyes, from horizon to horizon. He'd woken, stiff and hungry, to a burnished copper colour. Slowly he realised the sun was rising through thinning mists. Gradually the mist turned milky, then greyish patches coalesced into trees and bushes. Further away, strangely, the copper intensified eventually revealing the autumnal leaves on the mountain.
My first scheduled afternoon as resident in the Library will be from 1.30 to 4.30 on Wednesday, 23rd September - after that I'll be in on the first Wednesday of every month from November 2015. All are welcome to come and play a part in my writing journey with me.