26 Fruits


Everything is connected

UntitledThe title this week is the title of a poem I wrote for a 26 project that opens this week. 26 Words: Exploring the DNA of Language is an exhibition at Free Word Centre in London, and it runs there until the end of January before going on tour to Reading, Sunderland, Bruges, Snape and Hereford.

It started in March when writers from 26 were paired with artists from the Letter Exchange – then each pair selected a word randomly by inserting a knife into the Oxford English Dictionary and seeing where the knife pointed. In this way 26 words were chosen to represent each letter of the alphabet, and the pairs were invited to produce a work to express that word. Some stunningly beautiful work has been produced for the exhibition.

I didn’t get one word but all 26. It’s an exotic collection that often sent me scurrying back to the dictionary. But I loved some of the less well-known words, now exposed to the world. How had I managed previously without ‘battement’ and ‘xenium’? I put them all together in a poem, which was then interpreted typographically by my visual partner Freda Sack. To do justice to her work, please go and see the exhibition. In the meantime, here’s my poem.

The battement of the present beats on,

undulates into the future, with a

dismissive wave towards the past.

We light upon fractions of history,

touchwood creatures burning off

the memories of cultures not our own:

Yankton, Scythic, Vinća.

We reveal the remains of lives we acidulate

with our uncomprehending glance.

We dig, we excavate, we make ordination

beneath rock and desert and quag

miring ourselves in rash

assumptions of hostile difference

when really these are mates leaving

us strangers a misunderstood xenium.

Meanwhile out at sea the porpoise leaps

and on land the kangaroo hops

while we wear jeans and trainers

lacking poise to make our excusation.

The hearse of history edges forward,

the naviculoid burial vessel sets sail.

Yet sometimes and sudden an inpouring

of feeling creates the vivid picture

as if cut out of lino

and coloured in zaffre,

a bright image to say:

Everything is connected.

Freda and I tell the ‘creation story’ behind the work here. You can also read the creation stories from the 26 other pairs on the same website. http://26words.org/26-makes-27-by-john-simmons-freda-sack/

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