Saturday, 18 June 2016

Week 24 and 25

Photo: Manchester Museum on flickr
"Follow the poems. They have the answer." Well of course they do, but it took my friend Christine, writing from her hospital bed to show me the way out of my quandary - even though it perhaps was not her job to fix my problems just at that moment.

And she was right. Six of the poems fit immediately together - they are the voices of objects talking about different kinds of journeys - the Benin tusk, the Meteorite, The Death's Head Hawk Moth, Worsley Man, Hermes and the Golden Mantella Frog. Dominic also suggested that we use "Who are these souls at my breakfast table" - a poem that looks at all the people involved in making the food that we eat - as an opener.

It occured to me that all these poems answer the question "Where do you come from?" as well as "How did you get here?" Thats a good unifying principle for starters.

I have a couple more jobs, as well as a little more editing work. One is to do a mapping exercise looking at the connection between the poems. I like this sort of thing - paper, post-its and coloured pens, maybe even fancy tape, spread all over the floor.

The second job is to look for other things in the museum which haven't got poems but still have connections and form part of the narrative. Dominic suggested that the quilt with all the quotes from immigrants might have this role. The found pantoum I wrote may well be a little grown up and, as the phrases repeat with the strange claustrophobia of the pantoum, too difficult to hear.

There's also another poem on the way. On Friday I spent some time talking about buckles with Bryan Sitch the archeology curator, which was fascinating. One of the things we talked about was how ornamental and bejewelled brooches marked out people's status. He told me about sumptuary laws preventing people of lower status from wearing certain things even though they might have made the money. Here's one: "no knight under the estate of a lord, esquire or gentleman , nor any other person, shall wear any shoes or boots having spikes or points which exceed the length of two inches, under the forfeiture of forty pence." Anyone who's ever been stopped for driving too nice a car will know what that's about!

What's really nice about this is that it's almost the anti-migration poem, in that all the other poems have been looking at the journeys of things - but this one's about one of the forces that stops flow and movement - in this case social mobility. This is how people are pinned in their place.

So we didn't quite manage Buckles and Butterflies. But we have got Brooches and Moths. And then no more poems!

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