Revisiting Emily Dickinson for Summerhall, Halloween 2016

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I was cautious at first when I was asked to revisit my Emily Dickinson Subject Index performance for a Halloween themed night. After my last round of reading her poems, and in some ways echoing a possible physical presence of her, I was asked to take part in a Dead Poets Slam as Emily Dickinson. I said no to that. I didn’t want my service to her work to slip into campy take-offs.

But on looking into it, The Golden Hour’s Bone Digger event was a different case. Although there were definitely going to be some campy elements to this Halloween night, each participant’s piece was being given the space to find its own tone, and the curation by Ryan van Winkle was generous, but pretty focused. The first part of the night was a pretty meaty set of poetry installations involving a clutch of poets I very much admire (Nicky Melville, Colin Herd, Tessa Berring & Katherine Sowerby), which then was going to segue into a gig and wild stuff later on. 6pm to 1am; room for different energies!
So anyway, I said yes, but I’ve been pretty busy until now, the night before, with other writing and work. Today was the first day it clicked for me that I was really looking forward to this chance to reinhabit Emily Dickinson’s poems. There was a moment, when I was in the space by myself, when I worked out that there was a new train of feeling and thought going to come out of this particular installation situation, compared to the previous presentations of this piece in 2013 and 2014. On the last occasion, in an exposed cage environment in a Berlin subway I picked up some strength at dealing with hostile elements within a public performance environment, learning to filter out what wasn’t useful to the performance and to find a personal space within a public space, if you see what I mean.

But today, in the new setting of a tightly torqued ironwork spiral staircase, where I could really only move up or down in front of a dropped curtain of paper, I started to have a new feeling, about how Emily Dickinson might have been trying to escape from a physical entrapment through language. And there was something about being effecively squeezed in the tube of space, that made the words seem like a genuine dimensional adjunct that I might pop into. Am now, consequently, *ridiculously* excited about the experience I’m going to have in only a few hours time, between 6–8pm on Sunday 30 October, 2016. I think I will be really pressed up against the language, and I hope those moving around the staircase might get a shiver, and a sense of that themselves.

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(Also, I hear Chris Scott, my photographer chum is going to be working the event, so am hoping there might be some great images to share afterwards.)