Saturday, 31 December 2016

A Year of Reading - not so dangerously

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.

Emily Dickinson

About a year ago I came to realise that it had been months since I had  last read a complete book. This was shocking to me. I consider myself a life-long reader. As a child I went to the library once a week, if not more, and always took out and read the full quota of books allowed. I think I had two buff coloured tickets for fiction and a green one for non-fiction. One Saturday I waited outside for the librarian to open up my local library in Porth. I chose three books, went home and read them and returned to the library ready to borrow more. When the librarian saw the date for return stamped in them, she presumed I had changed my mind about them and she told me off for being a time-waster. I don't know why I didn't speak up for myself then, but gratefully accepted her forgiveness that manifested itself in allowing me to borrow more books. I am forever grateful to librarians and for libraries.

This is a poem by Nikki Giovanni -

My First  Memory (Of Librarians)

This is my first memory:
A big room with heavy wooden tables that sat on a creaky
    wood floor
A line of green shades—bankers’ lights—down the center
Heavy oak chairs that were too low or maybe I was simply
    too short
         For me to sit in and read
So my first book was always big

In the foyer up four steps a semi-circle desk presided
To the left side the card catalogue
On the right newspapers draped over what looked like
    a quilt rack
Magazines face out from the wall

The welcoming smile of my librarian
The anticipation in my heart
All those books — another world — just waiting
At my fingertips.

I felt it was important to reconnect with a regular reading practice - to feel a book in my hand, to smell the print and paper and to experience that satisfying feeling as the pages mount up on the left. So I made a plan to read four books a month. I gave myself four categories:

1. Fiction
2. Non-Fiction
3. Work related
4. Pure entertainment

Throughout 2016 I have read forty four books. (I did allow myself to include a couple of audible books and one or two as kindle versions). It has been strangely satisfying to see the list grow, and I enjoyed working out which books to read for each category.  I intend to continue with the practice again next year and am alread  planning my four for January 2017.

My Reading List for 2016

1. Non-fiction
2. Fiction
3. Work-related
4. Pure entertainment

2. The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton
3. On Elizabeth Bishop - Colm Toibin
4. W is for Wasted - Sue Grafton
1. The Narrow Door - Paul Lisicky

2. Room - Emma Donaghue
1. A Year of Reading Dangerously - Andy Miller
3. Reasons to Stay Alive - Matt Haig
4. Career of Evil - Robert Galbraith

1. Keeping An Eye Open - Julian Barnes
3. 30 Second Philosophies - Law and Baggini
4. Cross and Burn - Val McDermid
2. Blue Diary - Alice Hoffman

2. The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey
3. We Learn Nothing - Tim Kreider
1. 25 Lessons I Learned about Photography - Dominguez and Staal
4. The Forsytes Continues - John Galsworthy

2. The Snow Queen - Michael Cunningham
1. Kindling the Native Spirit - Denise Linn
3. NVC - A Language of Life - Marshall Rosenberg
4. Beside Myself - Anne Morgan

2. The Answer and Other Love Stories - Rebbecca Ray
1. Footnotes - How Running Makes Us Human - Vybarr Cregan-Reid
3. Boredom - a lively history - Peter Toohey
4. The Bat - Jo Nesbo

3. The Skeleton Cupboard - Tanya Byron
4. The Spider Truces - Tom Connolly
2. The Language of Dying - Sarah Pinborough
1. Quicksand - Henning Mankell

2. Analyzing Sylvia Plath - Alice Walsh
1. All at Sea - Decca Aitkenhead
4. Taking Pity - David Mark
3. Dog Medicine - Julie Barton

1. Steig Larsson, My Friend - Kurdo Baksi
3. Stuffocation - James Wallman
4. The Blackhouse - Peter May
2. The Unwitting - Ellen Feldman

1. Baggage - Victoria Field
2. Manhattan 62 - Reggie Nadelson
4. Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng
3. Into The Magic Shop - James Doty

4. Magpie Murders - Anthony Horowitz
2. Precious Thing - Colette McBeth
3. How To Age - Anne Karpf
1. Fast Asleep, Wide Awake - Nerina Ramlakhan

2. The Swimming Pool - Louise Candlish
4. Caught - Harlan Coben
3. Me After You - Lucie Brownlee
1. How Did We Get Into This Mess? - George Monbiot

In Anthony Horowitz's "Magpie Murders" one narrator says, "Fiction allows us a glimpse at the alternative". This, and so much more, is what reading continues to allow.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Gun and a Leather Sole

"Digging Down II - A Curiously Collaborative Museum of Lost, Found and Broken"
with Lindsey Colbourne and Marged Pendrell.

This was an exploration of a new type of museum where the traditional model of collection and display was abandoned and replaced with a more interactive  method of exhibiting objects that had been found. In this way, "participatory collections’ of objects were created, allowing for exchange and handling, and an invitation to respond to the objects creatively.

So what gives an object special significance? Where and why do I keep certain objects? When and how, if ever, do I return or give away objects I have collected?

This poem by Rebecca Lindenberg explores some of these questions.

 In the Museum of Lost Objects

"What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee;
What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage."  
          Ezra Pound

You’ll find labels describing what is gone:
an empress’s bones, a stolen painting

of a man in a feathered helmet
holding a flag-draped spear.

A vellum gospel, hidden somewhere long ago
forgotten, would have sat on that pedestal;

this glass cabinet could have kept the first
salts carried back from the Levant.

To help us comprehend the magnitude
of absence, huge rooms

lie empty of their wonders—the Colossus,
Babylon’s Hanging Gardens and

in this gallery, empty shelves enough to hold
all the scrolls of Alexandria.

My love, I’ve petitioned the curator
who has acquired an empty chest

representing all the poems you will
now never write. It will be kept with others

in the poet’s gallery. Next door,
a vacant room echoes with the spill

of jewels buried by a pirate who died
before disclosing their whereabouts.

I hope you don’t mind, but I have kept
a few of your pieces

for my private collection. I think
you know the ones I mean.

From the lost, found and broken objects I chose a small rusted gun and a partial shoe sole to write about.

Lost and Found

Rough notes at the museum

Gun and a Leather Sole

At odds yet strangely suited, one heavy, one weightless in my hand. A real gun rusted beyond use, taking me back to the toy pistols with snapping, smoking caps. To cowboy hats, plastic swords and forts. To holding my parents' hands down miles of urban streets, looking at toys in shops. Who chose what and when? Their leather soles outworn. My father cobbling on an iron last. Leather pared and dropped like fingernails. Mending my mother's shoes. (So much he could not mend for us. All that is broken now, regardless). Our triad unlaced.  Yet we are threaded each through each with rust and dirt and un-forgetfulness.