Our Art Writer's Programme writer-in-residence Mary Paterson tells us about the text she's started writing on the walls of our basement.
I'm writing three pantoum poems using found text, loosely themed around the idea of movement in public space. Each poem takes a different type of movement as its source. The first poem, Soon after, this creature was moved to tears is taken from The Book of Margery Kempe, a first-person account of the life of the medieval mystic, Margery Kempe. The second poem, Affords Well Appointed Communal Areas is taken from the language used by estate agents to sell new homes or refurbishment properties in Bristol.
Kempe was an anomaly - a married woman in 15th century King's (then Bishop's) Lynn, who decided, in middle age, to go on unaccompanied pilgrimages around the world. She displayed her devotion through performances of loud, convulsive sobbing - which gained her as many detractors as followers. At a time when women's freedom was heavily curtailed, Kempe's extraordinary public persona was her ticket to travel. In 1417 she travelled to Bristol on her way to and from Santiago.
If Kempe's movements were circumscribed in the 15th century, estate agents' movements in the 21st century are the opposite. Bristol has the highest rising property market in the UK, with numerous new build projects taking place in the city centre. The language used to sell these properties is laced with potential and desire, alluding to the movement of wealth and the wealthy that the market needs. This language glamourises the often industrial past of city centre buildings, and treats the new properties as assets rather than homes.
The pantoum is a form of poem taken from Malaysian tradition, made of four line stanzas. The second and fourth line of the first stanza are repeated as the first and third lines of the next stanza, and so on. As a result, the poem has a stumbling, stilted feel. It blocks its own momentum, as if it is struggling to move, and its repetitions mean that each line is read in two different contexts. As a form, I think it lends itself to language that is hiding something.
Mary Paterson is a writer who works between critical writing, poetry and live art. She is currently Bristol Writer in Residence for the Art Writer's Programme, hosted by the Art Writers Group, Spike Island and Arnolfini, funded by Arts Council England. Here, she is continuing her research into the politics of movement and the etiquettes of public space, through a series of interviews, critical texts and public walking workshops.