Thursday, 5 May 2011

a map of meself

As part of 'a map of you' our art/poetry project with homeless people, we've invited guest artists to run some sessions, or edit work. This has been made possible with the help of Bury Text Festival, whose support has been tremendous. The Festival brought poet Geof Huth over from the USA and Geof spent some time working for 'a map of you.' Below is an extract from his blog describing the session. We worked with four vendors: Chris, Scotch John, Tim and Mircea. Each encounter brought moments of tenderness anger, sweetness. Tim introduced us to his dog Charlie, Mircea displayed his method of learning English - by embroidering the words onto himself. Daniel Cenna from BBC Radio Manchester recorded the session and the broadcast feature can be downloaded from our website. Over to Geof, as they say.

Friday, April 29, 2011
A Full Day and Life
Hilton Deansgate, Room 920, Manchester, England, UK

Today was too big a day for me to recount everything that happened in any detail at all. This will be just the roughest of notes on today's events, those of the day before the official opening of the Text Festival, a celebration of the text as art, in Bury, England. All of today's events, however, occur in nearby Manchester.

I started the day with a big breakfast, a huge British breakfast with lox and sausage and eggs and fruit and toast and tea. Then I took a cab to the Manchester offices of magazine The Big Issue on Swan Street, and my day began.

The start of the day was quite remarkable. I met up with the poet Phil Davenport, Gemma from The Big Issue, and Daniel from the local station of the BBC, and we visited four homeless men who make their living by buying copies of The Big Issue for £1 and selling each for £2, thus making a 100% profit. These men we met make their living that way, and exist in various states of homelessness, some having made it into flats they share with others.

When I started the day, I wondered if we were, somehow, taking advantage of these gentleman, by talking to them about their lives in order to learn about them and to find two or three phrases that actually map their lives, document them. This proved reasonably easy, because everyone makes poetic statements. It's just that we don't usually attune our ears to them, and Phil and I tried to do this today, and Phil especially succeeded. In the end, we had some beautiful statements from these four gentlemen, and I learned that we had given these men something. We'd given them the opportunity to tell their stories, and a way to document them. Ours was a human exchange of interest and attention. Even on a coldish morning in Manchester, the living human heart beats warm...

Geof also documented the experience as a poem.

Friday, April 29, 2011340.

A Map of Meself


teeth that tell of you
(through the gap)

to be wearing a mask
to have in the wearing of the mask a hiding

of the stigma
of the mark

(on a corner as a marked person
not one of the crowd
apart from society

someone discarded)

might let the mask slip
to show

hating the interiors of

just a white note
in the movement

just a white note
in the speaking

just a white note
lost in the chorus

of who might pee on you
swear on you
hit on you
set you on fire

it’s okay putting it in words

but words are not going to change anything
words won’t change a thing

just as a little light in the middle of a great ocean

and at night


from the Helms
not at the [singular]

man of faith
but not religion

come on out of a hard life
walk on up a hill

season of sunshine upon it
and green for it

rain comes down upon
then again sun

rain comes down upon again
then again sun again

water of life

(he said)

it pissed down twice

water of life

he said


a cigarette gets rolled small like a toothpick
doesn’t make much smoke or smell

is slipped between the lips
as words slip out between

(quietness verging on silence)

decades on the street
and “it’s not bad”

with a grave gentle dog
“Charlie” (a she)

the wander from town
to other towns
sometimes to avoid the troubles

always a chance to start a life anew
in a new place

old though they be

“I’ve got my travelling boots off”

Mancunian now and for good

“I’ve got my travelling boots off”

“It’s harder to sell on sunny days”
he says

people think your life is fine in the sun
if the sun

people think you’ve lost your problems

“But more hassle on a bad day”

people understand their own problems then
and don’t care about yours


come bearing paper flags
on the day of a wedding

one side Union Jack
one side an ad for a prince and princess married

patriot from Romania
and still learning this English
into him

“ni” sewn onto his right knee
“ni” sewn onto his left

he learns phonetically by the repetition
of wearing these jeans
the repetition of living

an engineer by training
and learning to draw with his hands

very bad on sleep
“keep fear”

keeps fear very close

pink fingernail polish flaking from fingers
erosion from the edges

on these sturdy hands

(a tall man)

“elbau” sewn onto the elbow of his jacket
“koff” sewn onto the back of his legs (the jeans, for “cuff”)

Logo for Barbie sewn upside-down
on his T-shirt so he could look down on it and read

mind wandering into conversation
or through

the intensity of compulsion

to learn the words
to learn the words
to see the things the words say

he says
“I decorate my life”

two narrow strips of cardboard
sewn onto the back of each pants leg
and he can slip the stem of a small hand flag
between cardboard and denim
his shins waving the two flags

“I decorate my life”
he says
“I decorate my life”

and written above the word “Barbie”
so written below the logo upside down there


his body

changing as it doesn’t change.

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