Thursday, 25 November 2010


Perhaps unsurprisingly, considering the diversity of poets participating in the Watershed Crossing Borders project last Saturday, we produced some wildly different collaborative pieces concerning the landscape we were in, and the borders we had crossed to get there.

Mike Barlow and Helen Mort were explicit in their meeting, walking from east and west to climb a fell, enveloping weather and sea, snatches of people and voice as they approached. Their images and voices overlapping eerily. Their piece rolled forward and then unwound as they described the descent, reading backwards through their work.

Clare Shaw was paired with Ben Wilkinson. Strikingly different perspectives. They had written in response to each other and bounced between political and lyrical, from humour to philosophy. It was a spiky piece that grew in energy as the contrasts built.

Steve Waling and Sally Baker were another bonkers pairing (well done to Andrew McMillan for thinking so tangentially on this!) - of the surreal and the linear narrative encounters of inhabitant and visitor to a small town. Steve Waling particularly feels like an inspired discovery for me.

And then me and Joe Hakim, from Hull. I immediately liked the idea of the coast to coast meeting we made, like the folding of the country so its edges meet. We walked for a couple of hours (Joe bravely in his city shoes) up the fell behind Mytholmroyd, then along the most muddy of muddy bridleways and down across fields to the canal, talking about what nature means to us, what made it natural (not a lot was the conclusion), the language of an area, and the fleetingness of it all - how nothing is constant. Great stuff.

We wrote separately but all the shared thinking and exchanged ideas came out in the subsequent pieces, which slotted together beautifully - a clash of concrete argument and metaphoric philosophy. We played a bit further about how we could develop that riffing of thought in the delivery. So there was a prologue of s/wordplay before the main event. I was pleased anyway.

Although once the heady excitement of fresh creation died down (ie, the morning after) I'm not so convinced by what I wrote, but in a way that doesn't matter - they were fresh, living things that we all created that day and then gave to the audience in the evening. Like the natural world, isn't it inevitable they withered a little after picking?

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