I wrote a poem a while ago which mentions Halva – a favourite childhood sweet. I now realise I should write many more poems in praise of Halva. It is the most delicious and wondrous thing. I’d asked Fabrica if they could provide some Arabic (in honour of Etel Adnan) and Polish (me) refreshments for my creative writing workshop Write Across The Border. They came up trumps and there in the middle of the table was حلوى or chałwa, a dessert found in so many countries and cultures, Arabic, Jewish, Middle Eastern, North African, Asian, Maltese, Balkan, East European… Think how many borders it has crossed! I declare it the official food of this residency.
I’ve been collecting sounds in Brighton and around Stranraer and you’ll be able to hear them soon on the Sounds page. I used these sounds in the workshop. I also wanted people to respond to voices speaking languages they didn’t know and by a lovely coincidence – more serendipity – artist Jane Fordham http://www.janesybillafordham.com/ had decided to do exactly the same in her drawing workshop. She recorded me reading in Polish and other people reading Greek, Spanish, Catalan, Italian and Neapolitan poetry and gave me a copy to use. So the workshop participants became travellers straining to make sense of what they could hear but not understand, discovering their own meanings, which they did beautifully. Some of the results will appear on this blog on the Workshop page.
Next week, on Tuesday May 22nd, John McCullough, Tracey from Fabrica and I will be working with young people at Allsorts Youth Project – we’ll be uploading their contributions live that very night. Exciting! Then on Wed 23rd May it’s Border Lines the Queer Writers Show and Tell evening I’m hosting at Fabrica (see Events page for details).
This will be a discussion and sharing workshop, not a writing one – about the borders you cross as someone identifying as LGBT. Everyone’s bringing a short piece they’ve written and something by someone else which somehow spoke to them. This second piece doesn’t have to be by a queer writer. One of the things I’ve thought a lot about is how in our hunger for representations of our lives we insert our own meanings into texts. That word insert always sounds full of dreadful innuendo to me. Oooogh, er, madam! But everyone does it. Reading is never passive. We bring our own associations to everything. How quickly people at my writing workshop were able to ‘translate’ poems from languages they couldn’t understand. Our own memories and imagination are ready to supply meanings and fill in the gaps at the drop of a hat. As queer folk, we just do this more. When I was growing up you had to scour books for the slightest hint of lesbian love. Now there is a body of queer literature young people can access much more easily. But in terms of the curriculum or mainstream media, images of our own lives are still few and far between. Add other dimensions to that – ethnic/racial diversity, images of older people say – and the gaps grow even wider. Rachel O’Connell who lectures at Sussex University gave me this quote from Jewish & gay screenwriter Arthur Laurents (in Vito Russo’s The Celluloid Closet):
“I think all minority audiences watch with hope. They hope that they will see what they want to see. That’s why nobody really sees the same movie.”
So Border Lines will be an evening with us in centre place, definitely at the Captain’s Table – to share ideas and food. I’m hoping there will be halva…