Tuesday, 8 November 2011

A Collection of Poets in Glasshouses

On Friday, Shaun and I travelled to Manchester to attend a Poetry Book Society Benefit where 15 northern poets gathered in support of the threatened PBS. They, like other societies and literary festivals, have lost all of their funding from Arts Council England. After 58 years of funding, they discovered in March that it would end; they’ve been in a state of crisis every since. The PBS director Chris Holifield explained:

The Arts Council seemed to acknowledge almost immediately that it had not understood our place in the ecology of poetry and agreed to support us and to help us write a Grants for the Arts application so that we would at least have some funding to use as the basis for a survival plan. But on 12 August we received the unwelcome news that that application had been turned down, which has meant that the crisis surrounding the PBS has deepened.

A second application, for support for staff to run the TS Eliot Prize, is currently with GftA. The situation now is that unless we can find sufficient funding for next year, the board is going to find itself in a very difficult situation. We have only until the beginning of December to establish that we will be a going concern next year.

So this is where I was on a rainy Friday night: supporting poetry, making a small contribution, being inspired, and remembering why it is that a want to be a poet – despite the barrage of cuts that continue to be inflicted upon poetry. And on Saturday, I wondered how I could tie this into a Science Fiction themed blog post... And this is what my mind imagined:

I was sitting on the second row. On the front row the poets sipped wine and waited for their names to be called; I was close enough to Simon Armitage that I could have tapped him on the shoulder, or even stroked his head. But neither of these things are subtle, they would draw attention, and for a collector – such as myself – that is never a good thing.

I removed a small plastic bag and a pair of tweezers from my pocket, and just as Armitage stood – ready to make his way to the lectern – I plucked a hair from his poetic head. As is usually the case, he turned in response to the sudden twinge of pain on his scalp, but there wasn’t time for him to question: his audience was waiting, eager to hear him read from Seeing Stars and Kid. I had succeeded; Simon Armitage was going to be the next poet in my collection.

Later when I got home, I went straight to the laboratory with Armitage’s hair sample and extracted an almost-exact copy of his genetic coding. The next stages are a little tedious and technical, so I won’t elaborate – but I’ve developed a method that allows for human cloning to be achieved within 72 hours. It produces a replica: not one that you need to wait for, not one that has to grow from infancy to adulthood, but an identical copy, well, almost identical.

The process alters height, quite drastically in fact, so what results is a miniature Armitage; a borrower-like poet that you can hold in the palm of your hand. But poetic ability, intelligence, persona, and even accent is unaffected, therefore, on the whole the results are fairly pleasing.

On a shelf there is a small glasshouse containing a few items of doll’s house furniture: a desk, a chair, a Victorian style bed and mahogany grandfather clock. I carefully wrap my fingers around Simon Armitage, lift him from the worktop, and place him inside his new home.

“There, isn’t this nice,” I say as I close the glasshouse’s lid. “Perhaps you could write about it...”

I check on the other poets in my collection, each living in a separate glasshouse, and suggest that they might like to do an evening reading to welcome our new arrival.

Carol Ann Duffy taps on the wall of her glasshouse and eagerly says, “I’ve got a new bee poem, I could read that.”

Thank you for reading,



Ashley R Lister said...

A cheeky idea that is wonderfully visual.

You've also got me thinking about a direction in which I can take my own poetry...

Thank you


Lindsay said...

I've tried to leave a bloomin' comment all day but my internet is is a big fat sulk with me.

That was eerie and beautifully written, and that made it even more creepy as the conclusion crept up on me.

My costume on firday is sorted, a plastic bag and a pair of tweezers and I follow Lara all evening with a plastic grin bwaaahaahaa.

Nikki Magennis said...

Wow, I love it!

Anonymous said...

Super stuff. I wonder...the "almost exact copy of his genetic coding." So, he's now Simon Aemitage the mouse?

Lara Clayton said...

Ash: I'm intrigued about this 'new' direction that your poetry might be taking. Looking forward to hearing more about it...

Lindsay: Hehe, that's quite a cool costume. Plus, anyone who is silly enough not to read our blog will be in utter confusion; it'll be like an inside joke :)

Nikki: Thank you. I think my current sleep deprivation is causing my mind to think in very strange ways.

Anon: Thank you. I don't profess to know anything of science, but I was assuming that if the genetic coding wasn't an exact copy then this would explain the miniature (mouse-like) Armitage. I really wanted the poets to be little, to fit inside little glass boxes - there just seemed to be something more interesting about the idea of miniature poets.

Christo said...

Super conceit - Metaphysicals' imagery for post our post-DNA era, yet with the glass domes it has a hint of Victorian/Edwardian taxidermy and the salons of grand houses.
I'm sure Mr. Armitage and Co. would argue that you need none of his hairs as his DNA is all over his poems.