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.’

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