The Light of Things: One Sentence, Two Problems and an Unexpected Shift

… smaller than some element
smaller than the elements
a connection to death
or risk
a caterpillar can be as wild
as a storm …

Looking at the world of wood ants above the Duddon Valley

We’ve asked each of the residents from the September gathering to share a blog about their experience, and the process that has been unfolding since. Here’s Melissa Davies with her thoughts as she sums up what’s been challenging and inspiring her. Apart from this paragraph, all the words here, the poetry and the prose, are hers. Thank you Melissa – we’re looking forward to seeing what emerges next!

In the infinite number of words and phrases that were exchanged over this four day residency it was a single sentence from my own mouth that sparked the work I plan to exhibit. A dinner table conversation about wilderness changed the way I think not just about the Lake District but the entire globe. What more can you hope for from three nights in the company of six creatives and a dog?

Now I had a seed of an idea in the form of questions; questions about the wild, wilderness in the national park and our individual encounters with the wild.  Over the remaining days of the residency I listened to my fellow artists’ opinions and in time gathered the responses of family and friends, even strangers using questions on Instagram. I saw myself reflected in these responses: incredibly strong and impassioned opinions on a topic that, really, they hadn’t spent that much time considering. How interesting…if this residency taught me anything, it has been to question my own idea of The Wild. We feel so strongly, so sure about what that word means and where we can find it but where have these concrete ideas come from?

Melissa’s notebooks

… but what if we created this wilderness
then there’s no loss
of control
we become bigger than the elements …

As I’ve been considering the issue, talking to more people and attempting to create poetry, the most difficult part has been focusing on one point. What is my point? I ask myself this often.

I want the work I produce to encourage people to reassess their idea of what wild is but the concept—even the word—is so complex I find myself and my work scattered, confusing. I simply have too many questions. Add to this the ongoing conversations with my fellow artists-in-residence and the influence of my other creative projects …

The second problem I’ve been expending a lot of brain space on is how to present poetry in a way that is engaging to exhibition visitors. Not only that but how to present it in a way that doesn’t impact on the work of other artists in the shared space. Although, as a group we don’t see this as a problem to be solved, rather another dimension to consider. Overlap and clash is inevitable and we’re excited by how that could impact visitor experience.

On Wallabarrow Crag during the residency

… wild is reduced to an antidote
celebrating outdoors
from the indoors …

I’ll close this blog with my unexpected. Writing about Place that is mine, that I live and work in and have a personal connection with, is new. I had no idea that acute observation of this Place would draw out of me new emotions as well. I’m listening everywhere I go. A tourist’s throwaway use of “lovely”, in an Ambleside café or an incorrect description of Grasmere gingerbread and my hackles go up. I’m in so deep yet I want to keep the sense of distance that has always characterised my poetry. It’s my voice.

So I find myself thinking about technique, shifting the way I write.

My voice must slightly alter now that it’s vocalising love.

Drafts in Melissa’s notebook

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