Here’s a video of last night’s reading. Sorry it’s on its side, didn’t realise how difficult rotating an MP4 would be. Thanks to Jennie for filming it and to Elke for reading also – and everyone for the word-contributions.
And here’s the text, with the crowdsourced words highlighted
There’s a party in the scriptorium
bright lights in the cloister, bright lights on the night stair, outside
a murmuration of starlings around the
phone tower’s dark skeleton,
a party around the writing desks and everyone’s
invited: guests are instructed to bring
good words, but the words
keep leaking away slipping
from the devices with keys, the devices with screens:
the grey networked air.
(I never thought I would work in
a typing pool but
here I am
texting in the rain
Barberpapa gents hairdressers
near Boundary Road:
droplets plash on the status
It’s a long commute from then to now, Southern
Cross to crossroad garage forecourts;
along the way I tried to appear
insouciant amongst the poets,
tried to say what wouldn’t sink and fail:
wanted to buy a sentence
like a harpoon hard
in its target, definite –
but by the time I got there
all that was for sale were:
badges on a walking stick
(the names all places nonexistent)
tankards personalised in a high-street cobbler’s
(identities altered so that no-one came to collect them)
an array of organ stops
(renamed with false sounds and forbidden intervals)
an Airfix kit adorned with a curse in broken transfer letters
(incomplete and inaccurate for its period)
sketchy penis-shape graffiti on a substation
(paternity impossible to establish)
the word sorry
spelled out in used-gold
letters on an ankle chain
(at least I think
that’s what it said but
she was already
A false book from an ill mansion pollutes
all those around it; some osmosis-effect serves
to transmogrify grand embracing statements
into exquisite piffle.
I laboured to release
tremulous phrases, thought I’d own the territory of
my own pages like some lexical baron, benignly manipulative –
but it was more a leasehold
arrangement really; I was a peasant on someone else’s strip
lynchet and never
quite overcame the disappointment.
So I walked it off on a quarter-century hike,
200 miles to a viewpoint by the M1: MK postcode
Amazon warehouse, miraculously empty of all
text. Inside, just Rossetti’s celebrated pet
wombat roaming aisles
like those of impossibly large cathedrals.
I gathered up what I could, combing the delivery-slip-road ditches
for some last scattering:
clustered the broken phrases of the outwash into a party offering.
All too late and leastlike but along the way
I named some things I saw
and felt the last leaf quiver.
If I thought this was a ‘keeper’ I would cut it down, probably use a lot of the 10-dollar words, but by no means all of the contributed ones. It was fun being bowled unexpected words and having to make something of them.
I didn’t actually walk to the Amazon warehouse, but Rossetti’s wombat was real.