Monday, 14 February 2011

Real Place and Katrina Porteous

Spent Saturday down at The Wordsworth Trust, enjoying a workshop run by Katrina Porteous entitled 'Spirit of Place' and looking at writing about place.  I liked her take on keeping it real, as it were, and being outside.  She'd brought a mysterious tupperware box full of soily, sandy objects (I had to imagine them, as will be explained) - which was never opened, due to the workshop taking place in the inner sanctum of the Wordsworth Trust, the Reading Room in the Jerwood Centre.  Strikingly beautiful, this room houses the treasures of the Romantic Era and as such has its light and heating controlled for the preservation of irreplaceable manuscripts.  No sandy, soily pebbles, rabbit skulls, damp bits of moss are allowed. 

So we went outside and did entertaining exercises based on close focus, and sounds near to and further away.  Truly interesting conversations and readings of different poems.  Dialect words and placenames.  I'm obsessed by placenames and besotted by maps.  I bought a copy of Katrina's 'Dunstanburgh', which was created as a radio play and designed for many voices.  I am very taken with its rhythms and half rhymes, and its sense of interrupted narratives and layered voices -

'In the courtyard, around the foundations,
The kitchens, the chapel, the Constable's chambers,

Leathery wings flit.  Woodlice trundle,
Armour on stone.  A spider trembles

A web's bull's-eye in the moon's full glare
On the arc of its journey, fierce white fire

Catches and fills a heart-shaped window.

And the deepest dark of the castle walls -
Doors going nowhere, hearths, holes,

Gardrobes, stairways bent at odd angles -
Join with the wider dark, the miles

Of field and heugh, and wind-blown fell,

Millenia of dark, the men
And women lost beyond recall,

Absorbed in silence, earth and stone.

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