Friday, 24 July 2015

Belonging... at Manchester Museum

Today I've visited Manchester Museum to write a poem with the help of Dmitri, filmed by Mollie. I used a methodology that Claire Collinson shared from her work at Kettle's Yard.

Dmitri and I had previously discussed both the themes - Migration and Water - at quite some length, so I took the notes from those discussions and came up with two lists of 10 words.

Water: Pollution, Transport, Flood, Power, Sewage, Life, Clouds, Pond, Boundary, Thawing.

Migration: House, Money, Community, Belonging, Banishment, Symbols, Home, Smuggling, Settling, Survival.

I picked one randomly as a starting point - Belonging and then we went on a tour of several galleries, through archaeology, ancient worlds, the Manchester Gallery, natural history and up to the vivarium. As we went I looked for objects which related to the theme and to the object before, creating a chain of words on post it notes. Mollie filmed me at each other objections, chatting about my choice.

We took the post-its back and Mollie filmed Dmitri and I discussing them and then I went off for coffee and bruschetta and to make a first draft. Mollie then filmed me reading it (from many different directions!).

It'll be a little while before Mollie has the film finished - and I still need to work on my draft. But here it is for now.


We all came from somewhere and now we are not there - 
we have journeyed across the miles, the centuries
and over the strange lands of our own lives. 

We brought nothing more than our names, our faces - 
the death mask, the label. We gathered our few things
round and fastened them to us with buckles 
we craftedfrom iron or gold. We pinned ourselves 
to the world around us by our naming of it. 

We carried a few coins, it seemed  we owned 
them until they left our hands for the hands of others. 

We remembered ourselves in our stories
in the wolves and forests of our origins. 
We found ourselves in others, we shared
our names with them, and our faces.

We were gathered and we were dispersed, 
collected and cast out. Like tea or cotton
we belonged not to the land, the trader, the user, 
but to ourselves. Like a dodo, tree-frog, moth
we belonged to a place and the place changed. 

We made ourselves in things, in the guard
for a sword, in paper, in coin. We watered crops
and collected butterflies. We heard ourselves
in bird song and caged birds to hold them to us. 
We became the coin, the buckle, the dagger. 

We longed for sanctuary. Sometimes we built it
for small pulsing amphibians in tanks. We are trying
somehow to hold the world together with small buckles
and bandages as we bind our dispersing bodies
with cloth. We buried our coins and our dead
to keep them close. We named the place. 

But we are always leaving, like exhibits
in packaging crates, cases lying empty, waiting
for work to do done - until it seems that where
was never the thing at all.