Taking a cue from National Poetry Day last week, we set out in search of water.
This time, turning away from the green slick of the tidal Avon, we headed for the Floating Harbour, a vast ’80 acres of tidal river’ pinned in to create a busy inland port. A sealed body. A container for water, for trade, for the choppy glitter that the tourists’ packet boats trail between bars, galleries, restaurants. A Floating Harbour? Like a money float, we thought, perhaps? A bottled supply of buffer, delay, duplication, constancy.
We started to sketch the water, taking notes, reading the momentary alignment of passing boats as if they were snatches of conversation, sentences, overheard.
We looked at the water, realising we kept describing the surface skin: peaks, mirror, rippling, movement, splash, wake. A fisherman catching roach suddenly drew a vertical line out of the depths and we paid attention.
We tried to take a sample of the water from underneath what we could see. It looked the same, but quieter.
We were talking a lot about writers’ practices, the daily routine and the relentless rolling of the day into night when some writers begin and others pack up. We started to talk about the containment of time, the allotment of schedule, of discrete moments, of split vision. We started trying to look at the water, this bright band of movement from left to right, in segments. To think: we were here, we will be there, though, at some point. And we must be back here by 4pm. We talked about the water as a model for writing. The surface as semantics. The hidden mechanics of the moving body underneath, the rolling movement of narrative, time, force. We were dealing with the fine ripples, the muscular flick of a repeated wave caught on the foreshore, that we framed in a little guide for looking made especially for this workshop.
Six frames of reference, moving around the reassurance of you are here: you will be here, you were here, you could have sworn you were here, you wish you were here, you will never never never be here no matter how hard you try.
We used this model of looking, splitting our attention across six points, six times and focussing on brief moments of alignment, of interruption. A boat glides across, a seagull drops from the breeze, a fish splutters up the fisherman’s line, the Pyronaut. We started to notice other containers for water and we had other conversations about writing poetry, about prose, about writing for academic purposes. Containers each. And ways we shape our time, our attention.
We started with the same scene, the same water. And amongst us, we wrote very different accounts of our walk. A meditation on water, a short story, a sequence of poems, a conversation, a promise. And in many ways, all our responses were all of these, just split and layered across the surface in different arrangements. Some of these will be appearing here in time.
The next walk in the Spike Archipelago series is Sunday 13th October at 2pm, meeting at Spike Island foyer. We will be exploring the buildings, developments and missing structures of Spike Island. Please do join us! Contact email@example.com for further information.