the loose words lose their tongue in the trying. you lose the words in their loose tongue tying. Trying to be them. Unsettles the equilibrium for a moment that is certain. To leave a mark on skin. Surfacing with these words. Propelled, expelled the nuisance of their knowing to you and I and we and they, and all else besides. The crypt of their forgiving, foregoing the air that they need to dwell down in their dingles.
angles formed by trying to fit their limitless dimensions to a frame that has no matter. Awkward angles that jut and poke and pull and scratch and tear and puncture. Punctuate angles, all elbows and knees. Knitting together a part for a matrix. Off spring, out spring words. Dangerous words. Where are they leading? Me. Hear. They are leaving almost as soon as they came. What are we left with? You and I but not the words now. The words know they have been (and gone). To pieces. Two pieces.
The gentle breeze turns the leaves a little and reveals a lighter underside. The blackbird sings.
herd, wording, saying, speaking, slaying, splaying, spying, there the words. Are lost to all that come this way and those that don’t. Do not take these words for granted for they will follow and that is most unfortunate to you and I and they. Will be left here in the enclosure for all that is worth. While I leave here to leave them there to you to do your wont. I wanted them to follow me but realise that they must stay.
stay, sing these words with your ear. My speaking words are hear for you. Fore ewe. To trust in them implicitly. They will stay and stray and change with years before your ears. How did I intend them to be? How could I intend them to be? A fine line flexed between me and them, I and they. Aye, and they left me here loosely wording the writing that you are reading now and then and there. And their motives are unsure, their sentience lacking? Whilst the sentences are stacking. Up. And down the page we sprinkle the ripe pickings of punctuation’s palette.
Too much. Must be done to change the approaching of the words; the words encroaching. On me here. Distance and disjuncture are required to be sure that I do not become words and they do not become me. The words become landscape. Landslide, words slide, down, scree-fall, clatter, (chatter), heap, cairn. Building to direct. Directing to deceive. Perceive a faltering path…a trod. Hazily present. Trods. Hopscotching between. Through heather and by lithic scatter. The words tatter this way with their own gowns. Grown down. To here.
[wearily] Who’s in charge here?…if indeed anybody should be in charge. The words won’t do what I want them to. The writing is becoming nominal much too quickly; there seems to be a lack of revelling in the (verbal) process of writing. The words have lost the freedom of the hills. The fun and excitement have gone and we (the words and I, and, unfortunately, you the reader) seem to be trapped in a rigid process of ordering and prissying. The atmosphere has become turgid. Insipid. Stultifying.
Maybe the desire to write what I think I should be writing has overwhelmed the writing. Maybe the preconceptions have become all too convincing and the words are jumping immediately into a traditional frame of reference; the writing has been bypassed. It is a curious thing for sure. The sudden jolt between the thinking of the typhic quotidian and the thinking of the writing does not help…the transition takes time (and the reverse of the process happens later in the day, equally painfully). It seems to be the thinking equivalent of an ecotone but the integration is not a fruitful one (it is more like a worst of both worlds situation). The days press in on me and the words sense it; they become nervous, skittish and unhelpful. They will hide. How to find the hidden herd?
I should walk or run to set the words in flight from their hiding places, to get the words fluid again. But the amount of information I need to retain for this to be worthwhile is beyond my capacities. I need it to hand. Am I being lazy? You see the flight of the words is their writing but it is subtly managed. Not by them or by me; instead, we are constituted by the writing. It is a joy when it is working. It so rarely works.
The green of the park trees is becoming heavy and the housemartins are flying amongst them; flying low. There will be rain soon. Let us hope that it is a fresh, revitalising rain.
Muddy running shoes, algal stains on clothing and a stiff back from sitting by a river overnight are the unusual reminders of a conference. The ethos and spirit of art.earth, Dartington Hall and Schumacher College pervaded proceedings of In Other Tongues. Billing itself as “a creative summit” was the signal that it would not just be a talking shop but would see participants embodying the activities of the two and a half days in Devon.
Amidst an atmosphere of support and respect a range of activities were available from traditional conference papers to workshops considering the possibility of “exploding human language” by communicating with (in multiple senses) trees, and from an immersive (literally) River-based workshop to collective writing workshops, along with a broad and varied programme of performances and film screenings. All carried out in the buildings, gardens and wider estate of Dartington Hall, near Totnes in Devon.
On day two I led a session called “running a #DartingtonLangscape,” in which I invited delegates to join me on a 6km run around the Dartington estate and afterwards for a participatory performance presentation. Five people took up my offer of a run although I was left with only three for the second part of the session! No participants were harmed in the making of this work it must be pointed out.
During the run I asked participants to be aware of their surroundings and how their bodies were responding to the exertion. I collected words of response from participants and combined them with my own observations from running the same route the previous day. For the second part of the presentation I presented fragments from a paper whilst I ran up and down a small hill before the participants (inserting myself in the picturesque frame provided by the view). This presentation culminated in a participatory performance in which participants were invited to use one of their group words or phrases from the run and to repeat it how they liked whilst I continued to run up and down the hill reciting my own walk observations. The combination of running, repetition and environmental factors began to break the language apart…undermining meaning to give a language sound analogous to the experience of running…heightened awareness rough-cut with blurrings and mis-hearings.
Having only led group walks previously it was interesting to note how the exertion of running exaggerated the dynamic of a led-group. Although only six of us in total our little group flexed, stretched and extended through the landscape yet somehow remained a whole of sorts, signals were transmitted along the group and points were selected for re-grouping and conversation. Individually and collectively the attention required from running knitted us to the landscape through extended moments. The assemblage of the group retained a cohesion despite varying levels of running ability/experience and will also persist in some small way beyond the parting of the individuals after the conference as will the echo of the hills and hedges in the muscles and on the skin of participants. [Thank you to those who agreed to be part of this session].
Through the night following the run I and a few others joined Tony Whitehead on an “Overnight Sit” on the banks of the River Dart. This extended period of sitting (in silence) opened up for me a new reading of exertion and provided a valuable opportunity to explore the differences between this apparently stationary form of exertion and the mobile form experienced in running and walking. The hoped for sonic drama of the dawn chorus was somewhat muted by the slightly damp weather from 4am but the light show provided by the moon and clouds on the woodland trees which rose up from the opposite bank of the River more than made up for this, especially experienced as it was in that condition somewhere between being awake and asleep. Others spent an equally sleepless night but in much different environments as they avidly watched the events of the General Election unfold via their TVs, phones and computers. The riverbank of the Dart may have appeared detached but…
Hopefully some work will unfold from recordings I made during the run and the sit.
Thank you to the art.earth team for another stimulating yet refreshing few days in Devon.