Zoe Fothergill’s response to Subject Index

Really cool text response today from Zoe Fothergill, my artist pal and sometime collaborator. Was really excited to hear what she made of the Emily Dickinson readings and loved that she responded so creatively. She’s let me post the whole of her notes here. One of the things I love about her perception of Subject Index is how visual she is, picking up lots of the environment and context of the piece, as well as the parts of the Dickinson text which struck her.

More notes from me about Day 3 will follow, but now over to Zoe:

 

Emily Dickinson and Iain Morrison

‘like a thief that fled gasping from the house’

spider is male?

formal bureaucratic context
brutal boundary
and yet love the listening slats

‘it would have starved a gnat’

vastness of the undertaking
someone there to hear a poem falling

‘still little girl’

proximity shifts
yet all safely
behind the barrier

‘falling timbers flying’

‘many things are fruitless’

lace cuff
ruffle of skirt
jump down from desk
numerical noting

‘a fork in being’s road’

spermatozoa wall paper
streaking dirty fingermarks

an upturned screw sitting on the counter

‘and sinew from within’

skirt skirts paper’s edge

from a height
‘tucks of dainty interspersion’

Interview Room 12
sky blue board
white text
on cream door

12
paper white
text black
bold
sticky fixer fixed behind
wire gridded safety glass

‘then a softness suffused the story’

rubber door stop
on blue herring bone flecked carpet
a nodding head for emphasis
behind waving branches
sun dappled
through window

‘the mighty merchant sneered’

expanded polly pockets veiling

2 smoke detectors
1 on my side
1 on the other side

‘just his sigh accented had been legible to me’

indistinct graffiti on silver metal frame

‘how hospitable the face’
in an inhospitable place

‘forever is composed of nows’

TIME POEM TO REVISIT

ken arrives iain stands up

duck egg colour on cover
orange highlighter arrow

from a distance
lit room
dark room
pairs

‘and decks to seat the skies’

beard lace collar and …

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Note on Subject Index from Luke Allan

We’re halfway through my attempt to read all of Emily Dickinson’s poems at Forest Centre Plus. Tomorrow, Monday 29th April,  there’s just one open session from 12-2pm. Hope some of you can make it.

I got this generous response from Luke Allan via facebook after last Monday’s reading. Am hoping he doesn’t mind my sharing it here.  Thank you Mr Allan.

‘Deeply impressed by Iain Morrison’s Subject Index, for which he’s reading the complete poems of Emily Dickinson in what looks like a cross between an abandoned trainstation ticketing office and a wartime interrogation booth (and in a sense the text’s being used in both ways) but which I’m told is in fact a defunct Job Centre office. I highly recommend going along for a half an hour or an hour – or more – and just sitting and listening, and indeed watching: catching glimpses of his sleeve or mouth or eye through the window which has been almost completely covered with (I believe) those translucent plastic wallets people in offices use for holding important documents, which actually gives the overall effect of watching someone through the frosted glass of their bathroom window, but from very close up, as if on a ladder. (The bathroom being another suitable correlative for the space – the idea of expulsion, yes, but also the idea of privacy, isolation.) When I got there I found Lila Matsumoto kind of hunched forward on a chair just outside the booth, in her own world, and as I sat down next to her it felt like sitting down next to someone in a hospital waiting area in the dead of night. When she looked up and saw me she said, ‘you can go closer,’ and pointed at the little stool right by the window of the booth, and then said, ‘you should’. It was excitingly awkward to have Ian reading right next to my face but with him unable to recognise me. He had this map on the wall, with words like ‘town’ and ‘woods’ written on in black marker, and then lots of numbers dotted apparently haphazardly around them. When he’d finished the current poem, he stood up and moved over to the wall with the map, and added a number next to one of the words, linking the poem to a location in Dickinson’s life, making his own Morrisonian-Dickinsonian ‘subject index’. The whole thing’s made me realise that my fondness for brief, glimpsey work is balanced by this kind of excitement for the intensely protracted; and Ian’s performance does both things at once, letting the two timescales near and spark. Hope I manage to catch some more of it before it ends on Mon 6th. I think he said he’s up to poem 510 (of c. 1700), so there’s plenty Dickinson left in him.’

Subject Index: Day 2

So, Day 2 of Subject Index was yesterday, and I covered poems 342 to 560 in the Johnson Edition. Fewer poems than last week, but I think that was about the performance finding a slower pace, and partly that we hit some of Emily Dickinson’s longest poems in this section, her most productive year, 1862.

There were more poems that gave me pause, and I took the pause, to work out, or try to work out. Some of the poems threw me partly because of a word use which I didn’t know. I’ve been able to look at them in a different light, now at home, thanks to the excellent Emily Dickinson Lexicon which lists definitions from the dictionary she owned and gives a great indication of what she understood by the words she used. The word ‘cypherer’ from poem 545 is now way clearer to me, for example. Other poems I still haven’t figured more for reasons of my own thickness, like 528.  I wonder if it’ll open up to me at some later date but at the moment I’m not sure what ‘Mine’ is! Unless it’s the delirious charter she mentions, though then what’s that? Ah, the joys of reading poetry are here exemplified.

One of my visitors yesterday, Lila Matsumoto, pointed out that lots of the poems being read in the session seemed to speak to the particular set-up of Subject Index. Poems about veils and seclusion, seperateness I think. I took it as confirmation of my instincts in setting the encounter with Dickinson’s poetry in this way. It made me happy to hear the connections being voiced back to me. An example of the poems that I think sparked in the space is the incomparable 365, Dare you see a soul at the white heat, where the poet invites the reader to crouch within the door, presumably hers.

There were other poems that piqued particular interest in various ways. 426 was a surprise with Dickinson appearing to adopt a vernacular voice. 452, using the word negro, struck me after having been at Arika’s excellent events at Tramway in Glasgow last weekend; Freedom is a Constant Struggle was focused on black radical arts and the legacy of black American history was picked back through the centuries. Interesting to think of Dickinson’s life alongside those stories.

I’ve put a couple of pictures from Day 2 down below, thanks Mirja Koponen and Richard Taylor. You’ll see I’ve been experimenting with positioning myself in the space a bit, and my wonderful parents are in a picture too.

And the poem I’ve picked to share in full after Day 2, Johnson number 421, is another that links with the form of my presentation. I enjoyed reading it behind my opaque screen and feeling its perfect fit. Hope to see some of you next week on 29th April. It’s just the 12-2pm session remember.

 
A Charm invests a face
Imperfectly beheld —
The Lady dare not lift her Veil
For fear it be dispelled —

But peers beyond her mesh —
And wishes — and denies —
Lest Interview — annul a want
That Image — satisfies —

 

2nd day web-6

Richard's pic

Day One of Emily Dickinson readings: Subject Index

I’m at the end of day 1 of my Emily Dickinson readings project, reading all the poems in order as they appear in Thomas H. Johnson’s complete edition. Mirja Koponen, of ForestCentre+, has helped me to a title. I’d used an image of the book’s Subject Index and Mirja took these words on the poster to be the title of the piece. I’m glad she solved this for me. The back-up option was the Emily Dick-a-thon….

Reviewing today’s progress, I think I will get through all the poems if I speed up a little or put more hours in. I’ve got to poem 341. As one of my favourites, it felt like a satisfying, if dark, end to the day’s reading. At the pace I went today, another 20 hours should get me to poem 1755, and that’s doable (gulp!).

It took me a little while to get set up this morning, which had some happy moments in itself, such as Mirja giving me a leftover roll of paper from Colin Herd’s TotalKunst installation where she and I had first met.  On my mind, though, was the feeling that I didn’t know, until the door was open and people started to appear on the other side of the glass, exactly how I was going to handle their presence. In the first session, I felt acutely conscious when there was someone on the other side, and although I wasn’t looking at their faces, it threw my action into relief, so that I was thinking about things like whether the way I was holding the pen was pretentious more than I would have liked. It took my reading voice a while to settle too.

The poems are more or less chronological in the Johnson edition, as they are in the more recent Franklin edition,  and I was pleased to be spending time with Dickinson’s earlier poems that I’ve had a tendency to skip over in some sense to ‘get to the good stuff’. Actually, quite early on in the book are poems that I love. 76 was the first appearance of a real old favourite – which appeared in The Rattlebag, popular when I was at school – but I really liked number 26 when I got to it. I noticed that there was plenty of interest in the really early ones. In number 1, dated to the poet’s twentieth year, I was very struck by her line: ‘thou art a human solo, a being cold, and lone’, which seemed to hint at an early awareness of her proclivity for separation.

After an afternoon rest between the lunchtime and evening sessions, and some encouraging feedback from ForestCentre+’s Mirja and Ana, I felt more relaxed. One visitor sat for about fifteen minutes on the other side of the glass, which felt comforting by that point.

My fear that I’d be initially flummoxed by many of the poems and not really get what they were about, hasn’t turned out to be so founded. Actually, once my ear was in, I wasn’t feeling caught out by Dickinson’s slippery language use. The map of the poems is coming together in a way which I find interesting. In the context of reading the poems more or less chronologically, I was spotting the development of several lines of thought, which was very satisfying.

I also discovered some poems I’d never read before and loved, which was definitely a key objective for me. I’m interested to look beyond Dickinson favourites I know already to find other poems which really strike me with fresh first-readings. It’s a total delight that there’s so much still to discover in one of my favourite poets.

Here are some of the day’s pictures. Thank you to my photographer stars, Mirja Koponen, Emily Goodwin and Ana González Chouciño.

IMG_2428

Map Day 1 IM

IMG_2434

Mirja iain res2

Complete poems IM

To conclude, I thought it’d be good to share a poem from the day’s reading. I felt like number 119 might have some advice for the current Tory party!

 

Talk with prudence to a beggar

Of “Potosi” and the mines!

Reverently to the hungry

Of your viands and your wines!

 

Cautious, hint to any captive

You have passed enfranchised feet!

Anecdotes of air in dungeons

Have sometimes proved deadly sweet!

 

 

 

 

Scree 6

Am very pleased to be among the poets featured in the latest issue of Lila Matsumoto’s Scree Magazine. Inspired by 60’s small press magazines like Hamilton Finlay’s Poor Old Tired Horse, Lila retypes all of the included poems on an actual old-school typewriter, which is a lovely thing to imagine happening to one of your poems.

There are some great things in this issue, including work by Calum Rodger and Gerry Loose.

Details of how to get hold of one are on this link. The theme of the issue is…SPACE!

Iain Morrison reading at David Faithfull’s exhibition

A busy week this. Just on the off-chance that any of you are near Haddington, or fancy travelling, I’m delighted to be reading at artist David Faithfull’s Earth, Wind & Fission exhibition. It’s happening in approximately 18 hours from posting at the event in the eflyer below. So that’s 7pm for the reading.

David Faithfull Earth Wind & Fission

Am really excited to be doing this. I’ve known David Faithfull and enjoyed his work for some time, and I’m flattered to get to share a bit of what I do in the context he’s creating here. I’ll be reading with Sam and Jow Walton. Sam and I have been writing a sequence of poems called ‘Four For Forth’ and it’s getting its first outing tomorrow. Think estuarine realism meets arch-emo in a filmed dream sequence.

Iain Morrison, Emily Dickinson readings. The poster.

Emily Dickinson, Iain Morrison readings

 

click the image to see the detail at a readable size.

Starting to work in the Emily Dickinson space @Forest

…with thanks to Mirja Koponen for helping me out tonight.

Have just realised that Mirja looks spookily like Emily Dickinson in the picture below. Maybe I can make use of this fact!

mirja ed

dickinson booth

mirja looking ed