Monday, 25 July 2011

Al-Mutanabbi Street project: an update

On joining An Inventory of Al-Mutanabbi Street I had a clear idea of the concept for my contribution - though the details, especially in relation to the book's production, were (and are) still hazy. I made the initial assumption that a poetry chapbook would qualify as an artist's book without the need for visuals or special production techniques.


The poem 'Muses Walk', included in my upcoming collection, is the product of an attempt to write a specific street in the centre of Nicosia as it stood at a (less) specific period of time. It's made of 16 lines, some as short as three words, others running to a second or third physical line on the page. The poem is an attempt to freeze space and time, and present Οδός Μουσών in a condition now long gone.

Οδός Μουσών is - or was - a street containing elements that I imagine, through pictures and verbal descriptions, Al-Mutanabbi Street to also contain. I was also struck by the idea that Al-Mutanabbi Street could be an ordinary street anywhere and at any time, but with a unique and extraordinary story. And of course Nicosia continues to be scarred by its own history of conflict.


So for the project I proposed to make each line in 'Muses Walk' the title/starting point for a new poem, therefore producing a book of 16 poems, the "contents page" of which will simply be the original poem.


Four months on I have begun expanding ten of those original 16 lines. I am keeping an open mind on the format each new poem might take: discursive or in note form, written in prose, made of found texts, employing words from languages other than English... And I haven't ruled out the possibility of adding photographs - perhaps in a manner not unlike the books of W. G. Sebald.

Writing "to order" like this is turning out to be bloody hard! Especially since I thought I had written all I had to write in the original poem. But it's also exhilarating and, now that the book is starting to find some shape, immensely satisfying. It's been put to me that what I am in essence doing is 'exploding' the original poem, with shrapnel of memory and language flying about in all directions, often crossing and lodging into each other at odd angles.

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