Revisiting Emily Dickinson for Summerhall, Halloween 2016

main-info-poster

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.

poster-with-me
(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.)

 

 

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documentation from Another Athens exhibition, Interview Room 11

Now that Interview Room 11 is no longer in its gloriously brutal concrete former location at Argyle House in Edinburgh’s West Port, it’s nice to look back and see documentation of what was achieved during its stay.

One of the exhibitions I was invited to be part of, in this case by Nicky Melville, was the 2014 Another Athens exhibition. This film on Vimeo from Suzanne van der Lingen interviews its curators: Nicky Melville, Mirja Koponen and Gerry Smith, and shows visual material from the exhibition.

The ambitious project was pretty global in its reach and included a one day symposium. There was an official pairing with the SNEHTA art space in Athens.

 

My involvement was to provide text pieces, two in collaboration with Colin Herd, two on my own, for display in the space. We were asked to provide an original piece and to respond to a text from one of the Athens writers who were paired with us on the project. The texts were displayed beautifully with pins on two opposite gallery walls. They were unidentified by author, so it was left to the view to play with attributions to Athens or to Edinburgh authors, and they were a variety of sizes, so looked great.

The request for our original pieces was framed in the set of instructions below:

Edinburgh is The Athens of the North. This project will show Another Athens, a composite city constructed from depictions of both Athens and Edinburgh. The composite city will be based upon the memories and personal experiences of its inhabitants.

You should write about an event or situation which says something about your own “Athens”.

The text should fit on one side of A4 paper.

The city should be referred to as Another Athens.

Aside from that, the style and content is up to the writer.

I loved thinking about composite cities, cities of possibility. And in my piece I was also thinking about cities in their different historical moments, with memory and trace as important cues for how we navigate and negotiate them. The project was happening at the time of the Scottish Independence Referendum, so had resonance with large scale imaginings of that sort. I was very engaged with Emily Dickinson’s work at the time, so my piece of writing quotes her only poem to explicitly name Athens. I also went to Greek poet Cavafy for material to work with. I loved his homoerotic poems when I was younger, and I enjoyed mapping personal past erotic experience into this flickering virtual city the project was allowing me to conjure while mapping Cavafy’s geographical concerns about his identity as an Alexandrian Greek onto Edinburgh’s very present politics.

Here’s the piece I compiled in its entirety.

Lad of Athens Iain Morrison

More information can be found about the exhibition here.

 

‘is 5’: last reading of the year, Sunday 14th December 2014

I’m part of nick-e melville’s line-up of 12 poets reading tomorrow at Main Point Books in Edinburgh’s thrilly West Port area. The West Port Book Festival may have closed its run, but the many bookshops remain open to the good event idea, and this is one of those.

Come and enjoy 5 minutes of me, and of 11 other people for free. 7pm, 77 Bread Street EH3 9AH. Sunday 14 December 2014.

 

is 5 poster

 

Auld Enemies: Colin Herd and Iain Morrison –– Friday 11th July 2014, 7pm @ Summerhall, Edinburgh

Just a heads up that in the midst of life we are in the midst of a smashing Scottish poetry tour: Auld Enemies. It’s organised by the magisterial S.J. Fowler from his London eyrie and is now unleashing fun, debate, collaborative writing and merry mayhem around our rebellious lands. A core coterie of poets are whirling round Dundee, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Shetland, and Orkney before storming London at the end. They are: Ross Sutherland, Billy Letford, Colin Herd, Nick-e Melville, Ryan van Winkle and S.J. himself. The core is being added to at each destination by poetry players from the local locale. Tonight they took Dundee, tomorrow Glasgow, and I’m joining in with mission Edinburgh on Friday.

Colin Herd and I have worked on a new piece, building on some of the spirit of our Hidden Door collaboration, but cycling around a bit more for content. I’ll say not a jot more but leave you with the teaser trailer and the details (free! unticketed!) on this link here. Hope to see some of you at Summerhall on Friday evening.

Pic from Forest Centre+ reading last week

Just sharing my favourite photo taken by Ana González Chouciño of my reading on 24th Nov. It was a sort of closing event for the Warm Up exhibition at Forest Centre+’s new gallery space, Interview Room 11. I was happy to have the chance to read alongside my installation of the This Is Not The Place collaborative text I made with Leiza McLeod, not least because it let me put the spoken voice back into the work. I read along with the film of Leiza and I stating the text in the same space back in April before it was turned into a gallery. You can’t see it really, but on the little DVD screen there are mini-versions of me and Leiza. I even wore the same cardigan! #continuity

Before the reading, I unfurled the ribbons of text, attached to the pamphlet of the whole text, so that they stretched the length of the gallery. This felt like a release of the pent up energy in their coiled bundles (how they’ve been presented in the exhibition for its duration) and I liked the sort of flare, sort of outburst that this seemed to let them stage. Once I’d done that, I waited silently for the DVD to reach the point in mine and Leiza’s reading where the text located to Edinburgh, reading in my head along with the Bristol section. I liked the element of reading in my head alongside the recording of my voice reading out loud. I want to think about that more. Also, I enjoyed then reading out loud with my own recorded voice and playing with the possibilities of phasing/echoing/falling into step.

Anyway, Ana’s picture. Thanks to those who came.

Iain Morrison performing This Is Not The Place. Thanks to Ana González Chouciño for photo

Loved Stephen Paterson’s wire installation too, by the way. He was manipulating this invisibly from the wings all night so that bundles of hanging electrical cables jerked like puppetless strings and gradually withdrew back into the ceiling.

Looking forward to the next Interview Room 11 exhibition, which I think is by Nick-e Melville.

This Is Not The Place: Reading at Forest Centre+ 24/10/13

or this one

 

I’m part of a trio of performers helping to bring the Forest Centre+’s inaugural exhibition to a close this coming Thursday. The new Interview Room 11 gallery space has hosted its ‘Warm Up’ for more than 3 weeks and the building has been enlivened by surges and trickles and drops of visitors to the exhibition, moving the Forest project ever forwards and upwards. I’ve loved being part of it.

Here’s the poster for its closing event…

TINTP Closing poster

…at which I’ll be reading at about 7pm. The event starts at 5.30pm, so I’m hoping to get there for then, work allowing, to enjoy the other things going on. nick-e melville will be up to something, and so I believe will Stephen Paterson.

IMG_1645

 

I’ll be reading from the walking texts that make up This Is Not The Place, a knot of writing I produced with Leiza McLeod. It’s been present in the Warm Up exhibition in booklet form, and also as long ribbons of paper. I’m doing my best to magic something of Leiza there from Bristol via technological wizardry (we’re talking wizardry level 1 at best, though possibly with merit).

IMopening work 4

Hope to see some of you there. More details on facebook for the detail-driven.

 

 

Jacket 2 snaps poetry in Scotland

Brilliantly eclectic selection (with a lean perhaps towards the experiementalists among us) from Sandra Alland who’s chosen poets to represent a snapshot of Scottish writing at present. She’s over the other side of the wee pond at the moment and the selection appears in the American online institution Jacket 2.

Do enjoy these, passing through.

http://jacket2.org/feature/new-scottish-poets

Against the Poets – next reading! Mon 13th Aug, 7pm, it’s frrrrree at Word Power Bookshop, Edinburgh

Hail Glad Crowds,

I’m reading at this event, which is part one of two (the other’s on the 16th and equally tempting). It was an curious title to invite a poet to read under so I did a bit of interrogating and found out the organisers are taking the ‘Against the Poets’ title from an essay by Polish 20th century novelist Gombrowicz. Turns out that the essay, rather than a self-indulgent, lazy tirade trotting out tired opinions about elitism in poetry, was an enjoyable provocation touching on some interesting points. I think the main thing I took from it was that Gombrowicz had identified some lazy behaviour in poetry audiences who wanted perhaps to consume poetry as a product which provided quick access to rapture and elysium, and that as poetry practices ossified into ritual it was in danged of becoming a dead art form with no connection to the lived life.

I’m still sceptical about this line of argument; the development of ritual and ossification even are processes which really interest me, along with their human roots and implications. But, the article was written around 1950 and I think there have been seismic shifts noticeable even to conservative poetry audiences since then. Even the likes of Larkin came after and pushed back the readership’s tolerance of  scatalogical, painfully confessional or bathetic content, say.  At the same time, I liked that Gombrowicz said that writers ought to make sure their work expressed themselves in a true way. The call to remember that your creative products should be hard won attempts to wrest something of your experience and most strained-after perceptions if they’re to further knowledge, is welcome to my ears still.

Gombrowicz talked about ‘endlessly lofty singing’ as his experience of poetry, of being bored by it. I’m pleased to say that I think we’ve found ways of keeping the party going while updating the playlist.

For details of the reading click here

By the way, Scottish Poetry Godfather Tom Leonard is reading at this event. OMG. So do come if you can.

That there’s Gombers himself. Ooh!

I’m doing a reading (so I am) on Thurs 26 Jan

the poster for the reading as a word doc download. (haven’t worked out how to make it just show….)

That there’s the (somewhat sinister) poster for a reading I’m taking part in this coming Thursday. Mind you, it’s in the Canon’s Gait pub on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile which is generally quite a witchy place. I’ll be reading only for five minutes because there are so many people on the bill.

I haven’t done many of these affairs and am still trying to work out if I like ‘the poetry reading’ as a way of presenting what I write. I figure I’ll try doing a few to find out what I get from it. One thing that does worry me, I guess, is that I might skew the work to fit the context. I mean, the event’s happening in a bar. What if I feel like I have do my poetry like stand-up comedy or something? The guys running it are quite comfortable in those environments but I think my training as a composer makes me hanker after a concert hall where you can hear a pin drop, sometimes. Mind you, the stuff I did with my band required more work getting the audience’s attention, which never seemed that hard.

Ok, I admit it, I’m fighting my inner exhibitionist!