A Tissue of Quotations



Hello, here is poem number five in my sonnet series.

This one deviates somewhat from my self-imposed brief, as it does not directly refer to any particular activity which took place during the Performing Worlds festival.

Instead, it was written in response to a jumble sale which I hosted in my former flat a couple of weeks ago. The sale was an attempt to raise some funds and rid myself of unnecessary ‘stuff’, in preparation for moving from one Dundee flat to another. Any unsold items were donated to charity shops, aside from several boxes of ‘essentials’, or highly sentimental/practical items, which I have kept. During and after the sale I parted with a considerable variety of possessions, including most of my personal book collection.

I discovered that ridding oneself of material goods is no easy task, and in my case led to some serious questioning of how we define ourselves through objects; how much we rely on ‘owning’ these objects for emotional support; and what happens when our domestic environments are altered beyond recognition.

The ensuing sonnet (featured below) can be related to my experience of Performing Worlds in the sense that I was obliged to confront my own subjective ‘world’, as defined by my hoarded possessions, with the impermanence and flux of external reality. When expanded to the scale of a city, these issues are equally relevant – should we cling to the past, or embrace the future? The choice seems ambivalent.


Goodbye Library

God’s giftie, Rab would have it, is to see
One’s entity as more than some forked bag
Of blurry features. Bitter Phil agrees:
‘They may not mean to’. Vendredi, Samstag,
Dimanche – days alternate, unnoticed
In translation. Sell the dictionary!
Cast its pages to a plague of locusts!
Opinions held on this subject vary,
But we were taught to relinquish objects.
Labour just enough, and set aside time
To focus on a number of projects.
So goodbye, dearest library of mine.
Text is tissue, layer upon layer.
I’ve no real use for a record player.



The above sonnet references several existing texts by established authors. I have included copies of relevant text extracts below.


Death of the Author

Text is a tissue of quotations, drawn from innumerable centres of culture.

Roland Barthes


Das Kapital

A commodity appears at first sight an extremely obvious, trivial thing. But its analysis brings out that it is a very strange thing, abounding in metaphysical subtleties and theological niceties.

Karl Marx


To a Louse

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion:
What airs in dress an’ gait wad lea’e us,
An’ ev’n devotion!

Robert Burns


King Lear (Act Three, Scene Four)

Poor naked wretches, whereso’er you are,
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop’d and window’d raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en
Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp;
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just.

Why, thou wert better in thy grave than to answer
with thy uncovered body this extremity of the skies.
Is man no more than this? Consider him well. Thou
owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the sheep
no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here’s three on
‘s are sophisticated! Thou art the thing itself:
unaccommodated man is no more but such a poor bare,
forked animal as thou art.

William Shakespeare


The Plague of Locusts (Exodus 10, King James Bible)

Tomorrow will I bring the locusts into thy coast: and they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth: and they shall eat the residue of that which is escaped, which remaineth unto you from the hail, and shall eat every tree which groweth for you out of the field: and they shall fill thy houses, and the houses of all thy servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians; which neither thy fathers, nor thy fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were upon the earth unto this day.


Poetry of Departures

Sometimes you hear, fifth-hand,
As epitaph:
He chucked up everything
And just cleared off,
And always the voice will sound
Certain you approve
This audacious, purifying,
Elemental move.

And they are right, I think.
We all hate home
And having to be there:
I detest my room,
Its specially-chosen junk,
The good books, the good bed,
And my life, in perfect order:
So to hear it said

He walked out on the whole crowd
Leaves me flushed and stirred,
Like Then she undid her dress
Or Take that you bastard;
Surely I can, if he did?
And that helps me to stay
Sober and industrious.
But I’d go today,

Yes, swagger the nut-strewn roads,
Crouch in the fo’c’sle
Stubbly with goodness, if
It weren’t so artificial,
Such a deliberate step backwards
To create an object:
Books; china; a life
Reprehensibly perfect.

Philip Larkin


Goodnight Moon

In the great green room
There was a telephone
And a red balloon
And a picture of

The cow jumping over the moon.
And there were three little bears sitting on chairs
And two little kittens and a pair of mittens
And a little toy house and a young mouse
And a comb and a brush and a bowl full of mush
And a quiet old lady who was whispering “hush”.

Goodnight room
Goodnight moon
Good night cow jumping over the moon
Goodnight light
And the red balloon
Goodnight bears
Goodnight chairs
Goodnight kittens
And goodnight mittens
Goodnight clocks
And goodnight socks
Goodnight little house
And goodnight mouse
Goodnight comb
And goodnight brush
Goodnight nobody
Goodnight mush
And goodnight to the old lady
Whispering “hush”.
Goodnight stars
Goodnight air
Goodnight noises everywhere.

Margaret Wise Brown

Number Four


Here is my fourth contribution to the aforementioned sonnet project.

I intend to install printed versions of these poems in the HMC Hub at some point, so I look forward to seeing how Morgan’s wall is developing, having a go on the Every Little Helps program, and generally nosing around the exhibition!

This piece is inspired particularly by Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s novel Sunset Song, and by the wonderful sunset-based work of fellow Performance Platform artist Ger O’Brien ( see http://gers-theattic.blogspot.co.uk/ or http://www.d-air.org/content/gerry-obrien-7-sunsets for more info).




Sunset Song

The lesson ends before we have a chance
To turn the final page of Gibbon’s Quair,
Or reconcile the trilogy’s expanse
Of sun and moon left hanging in the air:
The gaze is incomplete. A body twinned
Might fathom its own afterglow: one sphere
Deflects another. Recognised as kin,
The fire heats the granite; tempests clear;
But skies are thrown by unknown syzygy.
More honest, then, to never read the tale
Or play the tune. All sets upon the day
We marry Guthrie with her Tavendale.
Perhaps a darker Ewan broke his heart;
Perhaps she loved Christina from the start.




Sonnet No. 3

To continue with the sonnet-writing project detailed in my previous post (https://performingworlds.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/performing-words-sic-55/), here is my third offering, a response to activities which took place at Camperdown Wildlife Centre on the third day of Performing Worlds. This was a Monday, after Sunday’s ‘Non-Participation Festival’ (i.e. an optional day off!).

Monday’s activities included a performance by Beth Savage (http://www.d-air.org/content/beth-savage-urban-animal), who had led us in a workshop called IN:HABITat some weeks previously (http://bjsavage.co.uk/cv.html).

The sonnet in this instance is based more directly upon my IN:HABITat workshop participation rather than the day at Camperdown (and titled accordingly), though similar ideas and themes shaped both experiences.

PS If anyone could tell me how to turn links into neat little highlighted words (if you know what I mean) rather than cumbersome full addresses, please let me know…

PPS I hope my fellow Performance Platform artists don’t mind me borrowing the titles of their artworks as titles for my sonnets… if anyone does mind I will adjust the poem titles accordingly! No breach of copyright intended! Pure homage. I am indebted.





Set loose, at once I’m territorial.
Stake out the boulders, scratch the letter T,
Hiss at the peaceful golden oriole –
Insisting this is mine, and this is me!
We gather halfway through the exercise:
What did we find, what have we yet to learn?
Let’s try a partner’s psyche on for size,
And introduce our weaknesses by turn.
The concrete struts are strong: the hedges green.
I cease to squabble over chicken bones,
And follow steps to median and mean;
The mode is mathematically honed.
A spider’s web is fastened rule by rule –
To understand the king, we play the fool.




Performing Words [sic]

Hello! This is my first contribution to the Performing Worlds blog. Mega-kudos to Morgan for setting up this blog in the first place, and for her commitment to posting every day during the festival week, i.e. almost single-handedly maintaining an online presence for the Performance Platform group.

Huge respect to everyone who contributed to the festival in other ways… too many to list here, but you know who you are.

My main personal contribution (other than enthusiastic participation) was the Tent of Life project, which I will post more about once I have collected some decent photographic / written documentation.

In the temporary absence of the aforementioned, I have decided to document my experience of the festival through another medium, namely poetry, specifically sonnets.

Why poetry? I find it much easier to organise my thoughts if some existing structure is in place, and poetry is generally more structured than prose. In the hunt for structure, poetry can also prompt some interesting and unexpected deviations.

Why sonnets? Primarily because they are fun to write, and have a pleasing way of unfolding, with the central turn and the final couplet. I am following the Shakespearean formula: fourteen lines, iambic pentameter, and a rhyme scheme of a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g.

Also sonnets traditionally concern themselves with the subject of romantic love, which I consider the perfect foil for the artistic, social, political and economic conflicts within Dundee.

So: I will attempt to write a sonnet for each scheduled (and unscheduled!) festival activity in which I participated, and post them up in an order corresponding roughly to the chronology of the festival.

Here are the first two sonnets, reflecting upon the pieces Time’s Rope (devised in collaboration with Jonathan Baxter, Emilia Giudicelli and individual members of the D-AiR Performance Platform, http://www.d-air.org/content/9th-june-performance-platform-times-rope) and Spinning, Wait… Curses, by Ruth Aitken (http://www.d-air.org/content/9th-june-ruth-aitken-spinning-wait-curses), both of which took place on the opening day of Performing Worlds.



Time’s Rope

I am the blind who leads the blind – what larks!
I drag them through the repertory square
To where my supervisor sometimes parks;
And leaning from her car, we find her there,
Our faux-jute rope beribboned with the blood
Of coffee-morning stories, metal hoops
And feathers. Is this work as understood?
We wake, we rise, and coil in snaking loops
Around the city: Maslow’s hierarchy,
Circles, squares, a wave, an intervent,
To shouts of That looks like a right malarkey!
Yes it is, but is that what we meant?
The path down to the waterfront is steep.
We drown in mud we thought was ankle-deep.



Spinning, Wait… Curses

We’ll walk for an hour, she said. It’s a ritual.
The axis of the field: a wheel. Circumference
Is key. We swallow our discomfort, our habitual
Self-centre, or self-censorship. The present tense
Is recommended, often sought; though lost
As frequently as not. A flash of sense
Might radiate the scrubland – borders crossed,
Smallholdings hailed across the sodden fence,
A toe dipped; and what begins as idle mist
Torrential. Upped umbrellas, camera views,
And colours – after you, no I insist
Might we arrange ourselves in open pews?
And afterwards, peruse the clouded lens:
Here is the art, and here the group of friends.



And finally, a real sonnet from the master, with a suitable tempest reference…



Sonnet 116

Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove:
O no! it is an ever fixèd mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come:
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me proved,
I never writ, nor no man ever loved.

William Shakespeare

Many many thanks

Firstly thanks to everyone on Monday, esp Morgan who helped a lot! I had a great day!

Next a massive thank you to all who came along to our lunch, talk and conversation at Generator projects today as part of the Performing Worlds festival. To Neil Mulholland too who gave the talk. Lastly I personally would like to thank all the generator committee, performance platform members, friends and family that contributed to my lunch and made it such a success! Lets hope the lunches to follow are equally as wonderful! xxx

Photos still to come since I abandoned my camera at generator!



Preparatory discussions for gameplayGameplay

Preparatory discussions for gameplay, Friday 8th June 2012, in collabration with Performing Worlds, Hannah Maclure Centre, Dundee. please click the link to hear the audio..

Wonderful discussions were had with the good folk in the city library, we have lots of photos and questions to bring to you on Wednesday 13th from 11am – 12.45pm as part of the open education event that morning. Looking forward to playing it out.

Serendipity Coracle: Live Floating-Drawing Event

Although my distinct invisibility since the Degree Show the coracle and I will be at Stobbswell pond tomorrow (the 10th of June) to make some drawings and think about serendipity in the city, in art and everywhere.

Anyone can have a go at floating round in circles and discovering a drawing produced by yourself and the coracle in collaboration with the surroundings.

Consider it the chance to make a serendipitous self-portrait.

I hope to see you and your friends if you are free from 2-5pm tomorrow at “stobbie ponds” (Pitkerro Road, Dundee)

Eilidh McKay

Hello out there!

So Performing Worlds will be kicking off in style this Saturday and with just under a week to go final preparations are happening throughout the city…

What I’ve seen of the exhibition install at the Hannah Maclure Centre is looking great and the programme is now out and about around the city (pick one up from various locations including Camperdown Wildlife Park and the Central Library)

I am putting the finishing touches to my work and finalising plans for my performance at Camperdown Wildlife Park on Monday 11th.

I will also be tweeting live about the schedule and events throughout the week so follow @performingnow to be kept up to date.

Tonight the Performance Platform will be devising the Times Rope performance which will be the first event of the week on Saturday.

It’s going to be an exciting week jam-packed with performances, talks, lunches and more so spread the word!

Beth x