‘Piling, not filing’

‘Piling, not filing’ is a piece of advice to which I attribute my relative sanity. It was given to me in the very early stages of my PhD and has remained the keystone of my self-help litany. Spending the first couple of months meticulously taking both type and handwritten notes, I had been filing these away in neatly labelled folders (both real and virtual), ready to be instantly recovered and referenced at a later date. This, I told myself, is the year I get organised. This is the year that I streamline my life, via my research, into a super-efficient, well-oiled machine. No more messiness, no more chaos. All this was epitomised in and enacted through my filing system. 

Imagine my horror, then, as it started to fall apart at the seams. As my research simultaneously broadened and deepened, the neat dividing lines between my files and folders and categories started to distort under the pressure. One set of notes was no longer only relevant to one avenue of investigation; one label no longer quite defined the uses and abuses of the notes it was supposed to contain. As hypothetical chapters began to emerge in my mind, both paper and virtual notes needed to be in several places at once, rather than in one folder forever. In what I now see as a vain attempt to control this burgeoning chaos, I flitted from one filing system to another. Expandable folders to contain the different sections of a chapter; a ‘current’ folder in which I would assemble that week’s work before deciding what to do with it, or in which to insert older notes that had permanent homes elsewhere. It was all getting rather complex, and my Ryman’s bill was steadily rising.

I never quite committed to either handwriting or word processing the notes I was supposed to be filing. Seeing advantages to both, I wanted them all. For a while I experimented with a division of labour: I handwrote less important notes, and typed notes from texts to which I thought I would need to refer more regularly and in greater depth. Of course, this was based on the naive assumption that I would be able to make this distinction before I had read the texts in question. This prescriptive error, as it turned out, was at the heart of the collapse of these systems. Instead of being led by my research, I was trying to force it into pre-ordained shapes and categories, the ultimate consequence being that I didn’t listen to what the words in front of me were saying. Not only was I prescribing how I was going to understand them later in my research, I was also, inadvertently, trying to file my notes before I had written them.

Before I realised what the problem was, it just looked and felt like I was unable to handle my own work. In a state of confusion and mild panic, I had a conversation with my second supervisor. Trying to conceal the fact that I thought everything was already falling apart, I casually mentioned to her that some of my notes seemed to want to be in lots of different folders at once. In an equally casual reply, belying the profundity of the sentiment, she told me, “There’s a lot to be said for piling, not filing. Trust yourself.”

I have been learning to trust myself ever since. I stopped filing. It felt at first like giving in to disorder, like losing control. But I gradually realised that gripping things too tightly suffocated and contorted them, and that the less I did this to my notes, the less it happened to my thoughts.

Most of my notes are now in a series of notebooks (albeit meticulously numbered, with handwritten page-numbers and hand-drawn margins), each one physically different from the last to facilitate recollection. I write down the date and location each time I write in the books for the same reason; I am, I have learnt, much more likely to remember something I have read or written by remembering where I was when I read or wrote it. I will also probably remember whether it was in the large purple notebook, or the small Mr Men notebook, or the mid-sized stripy notebook. I think of my notes as a kind of horizontal pile, or a series of diary entries, documenting not only what I have read, but how I read it, where I read it, and how I felt about it at the time. If a text particularly takes my fancy, I make notes on loose leaf sheets, so that they can circulate around and about the notebook bedrock, and can be read alongside complementary theory and scholarship. But the lion’s share of the notes are in the notebooks, and they are what I would rescue from my burning flat.

I can’t search my notes, but I know them well. I have much more involvement with them as I write them without a filing cabinet in mind; drawing in the margins, circling and highlighting, sticking in addenda and going back over them, days or weeks or months later, with a different frame of mind and a different coloured pen. I feel, when I write my notes, that I am having a conversation with the words and ideas I am reading. It is much easier to recall a conversation in which you have been personally involved, than one you have observed at a distance.

For what it’s worth, I have kept the notes I tried to file in the folders they were in when I started trusting myself. They were put there when I was in a particular frame of mind and had a particular perspective on my work. They, and their plastic homes, are part of an era of my research from which I have moved on, but which I can’t erase.stillpoint 1

Alice Hazard is a third year PhD student in the French department at King’s College London. She works on faces and faciality in twelfth and thirteenth-century vernacular literature.

Sounds to Accompany a PhD #3

I must start this post with a disclaimer: I don’t really listen to music when I’m working on my PhD. I’m a silent writer and reader, someone who needs peace in order to become properly absorbed in my materials. Sometimes, I find the vague hubbub of voices and machines in a coffee shop relaxing whilst I reference. At other times, I have listened to just one song over and over on endless repeat to encourage greater focus. I can also admit to playing various RuPaul albums at max volume on those occasions when I’m either having a slump in productivity and confidence or I need to be reminded that I am a PhD ‘Glamazon’. These sounds, however, do not a PhD playlist make and, mostly, I prefer peace, quiet, and a strict lack of noise.

I do listen to music, however, when I’m travelling around the city. Commuting takes up a significant portion of my day, an experience which I’m sure many other London-based researchers can share. Long tube trips should be the perfect time to catch up on journal reading or compose a few emails but, as anyone who has caught the Northern Line at practically any time of day will know, personal space is usually at a premium and there is no room for outstretched arms clutching unwieldy tomes. So, for me, tube-time becomes music-time, and I block out the world with a little bit of determination, a stony ‘commuter’ expression, and my over-ear headphones.

It is also in these moments that I do some of my best thinking. As I travel to or from my place of work, I’ll often use my time on the tube to think about the wider project that I’m working on. When I research, I tend to work chapter by chapter, section by section, which is great for the depth but does mean that I am also in danger of ending up with a series of isolated, disjointed articles rather than a coherent PhD thesis. When I’m on the tube, I can stand apart from my work, gain a better sense of the overall shape of my project, and clearly articulate (in my head) why what I do matters.

I’m not sure if the thinking and the music are related. But the latter does help to block out distractions around me and so it must, in some way, be conducive to the former. With this in mind, I thought I’d share a playlist. I’ve tried to pick songs which help me focus, rather than just my normal daily musical fare (which tends to be a combination of The Hold Steady, Drake and, of course, RuPaul). To call it a ‘PhD Playlist’, then, is perhaps bogus, but these are some of the sounds that help me find a much needed ‘still point’ amongst the commuter chaos. Maybe it will do the same for someone else.

Briony Wickes is a first year English PhD at King’s College London, researching settler emigration, human-animal relationships, and global trade in the nineteenth century. Follow her @brionyjoy.

A Literary Topography of the City of London

Trawling through a database from 1650 to 1800 whilst sitting in the clock tower on Chancery Lane trapped in starkly lit, windowless white box number ‘4’, or in the simultaneously overheated and overchilled department on Kingsway, I find myself constantly at the heart of my research. Monotonously documenting the publication history of the translations central to my study has instead turned into a mapping of the 1-mile radius surrounding my research vantage point. The ‘Bibliographic’ column instead becomes the topographic:

The Strand
Catherine Street
Chancery Lane
Middle Temple Gate
Fleet Street
Black-Fryars
Temple-Bar
Pater-noster Row
Little Britain
Gray’s Inn

Stretching from Nelson’s Column to St Paul’s, they are the London landmarks and checkpoints of my morning commute. My own personal guided tour of the eighteenth-century interaction with Lucretius. My university life is a constant retracing of my research’s physical history. A daily pilgrimage of sorts; I pay my dues to the producers of these texts through walks from library to library to study the product of their work.

John Strype 'A new plan of the city of London, Westminster and Southwark' 1720
John Strype ‘A new plan of the city of London, Westminster and Southwark’ 1720

As I print the copies of these texts from my department on Kingsway, they gain another printed life in the centre of the square mile of their original emergence. By adding my own 21st century marginalia the texts are born anew, becoming my own manuscripts as I hope they will ‘guide [my] searching mind to farther truth’.

In this search I use the poem as my guide:

Pursue coy Truth with an unerring sense
Into her close recess, and force her thence:
Go briskly on, and in such things as these
Ne’er doubt, I’le promise Thee deserv’d success

It is in this pursuit and promise of success that I walk the close recesses of London herself. I weave through the Rows, Inns, Gates and Bars as my eighteenth-century counterparts in my search for ‘coy Truth’, becoming a new addition to the ‘curious Youth’ Creech’s translation of Lucretius’ poem originally appealed to. Retracing the history of my text, I cover 150 years in an hour’s circuit.

Through my poetic walk, Lucretius promises that ‘We from one Thing known/ To hidden Truths successfully go on’. These landmarks are my current ‘one Thing known’ in the depths of my uncertain research, not just cells of data but physical connectors between me and the eighteenth-century readers I’m trying to understand.

Here my research has a sense of true belonging, from my vantage point on Kingsway the streets of this eighteenth-century city pull me along, retracing the journey of my texts to uncover the ‘hidden Truths’ waiting to be discovered.

To turn to John Banks in 1738, ‘This is London! how d’ye like it?’

James Morland is a first year PhD student in the English department at KCL, researching the changing interactions with Lucretius and Epicurean philosophy in eighteenth-century poetry. After spending a year in art school, James has spent the past few years studying English literature, though constantly tries to find ways to tie together the academic and visually creative sides of his thinking. Follow him @jameswmorland

Emotions, Ideology, and a PhD

Often, I think as serious students of English literature we are tempted to deny our most personal – frequently deeply emotional, sometimes frivolous, always totally nerdy – interests in our chosen topic, both amongst friends, and in our thesis-writing. As soon as I reveal my intention to study Anglo-Saxon poetry at PhD level to a new acquaintance, the most frequent courtesy follow-up question is ‘so what made you choose that?’ I feel like I should respond with some scholarly sound-bite, something along the lines of:

‘I’m simply fascinated by the philological implications of translation’

or

‘I’m concerned with exploring the linguistic word-hoard of a poetic idiom now lost.’

But I don’t want to start throwing academic jargon (that I’m not even sure I’m using correctly) around, even if it does give me a little thrill to say words like ‘philological’ or ‘idiom’ aloud. So I usually end up laughing away the bemused looks, murmuring something about how ‘someone has to do it’, before moving the conversation on. However, I’m always afraid that one day I’ll end up spilling my secrets and spout either something incredibly geeky and boring, or worse, I’ll reveal an innermost daydream that should never be said out loud:

“Actually, I am, like, totally in love with getting lost in a world of fearless seafarers and warriors, I mean, we’ve all seen Viggo Mortensen in Lord of the Rings right? I like to think of Beowulf having his face, I mean you definitely would, wouldn’t you…?”

Probably not something you should reveal on a Tinder first date. Alternatively, I’ll get political, and start bemoaning the fact that, in general, we as a nation know so little about our medieval past and I want to explore ways of changing this: isn’t it a shame that school children are more likely to think of Daenerys Targaryen than Queen Ælfgifu if asked to imagine a medieval woman? And by crowning Chaucer as the father of ‘English poetry’ aren’t we missing out on a rich treasure-trove of poems from the centuries before him? I could bang on about how outraged I am that the very words – ‘medieval’, ‘The Dark Ages’ – that we use to talk about the time period that spans 500-1400CE either get the bad rep of being associated with baddies from ISIS to FGM advocates, or are otherwise totally misunderstood as referring exclusively to Arthurian knights, damsels in distress, magical fairy kingdoms, and elves. So too ‘Anglo-Saxon’ is often appropriated now by the likes of the English Defence League or the Republican as a way of defining ethnicity, of othering and neatly excluding anyone they don’t like either because of the colour of their skin or their religion. Of course, I’ll conclude, my thesis will be part of an effort to reclaim and redefine all of these words, helping to liberate all things medieval from the clutches of fascists.

Image by Fran Allfrey
Image by Fran Allfrey

But again, this sort of conversation probably won’t make me many friends, or will at least have me sounding like a smug armchair activist with a grandiose delusion that anyone beyond my supervisors and my parents will read my thesis. Furthermore, it’s these sorts of conversations that I long to weave into my writing, but feel pressure to do so in a measured, academic way. Phrases like ‘I love’ or ‘I am outraged by’ feel too personal, too impassioned, and could never be part of a serious argument. But it is love, and outrage, a childish sense of adventuring and time-travelling, a complete fascination with playing with language, a desire to simply get lost in poems, reflect upon beautiful art, and immerse myself in the ideas of other people, whilst trying to come up with my own opinions, that are all driving me. So, over the next three years, I’ve just got to find a way of channelling all these drives that push against each other, compete for attention, and conflict with what I understand to be ‘scholarly’, into coming up with some serious, passable, research. If I can also find a way of making my PhD sound interesting to Tinder dates, that would be a bonus.

Fran Allfrey will begin her PhD in the English Department at King’s College London in October. Her research asks questions about what cultural work Old English poetry can do, or can be made to do, now, and what exactly medievalists might get out of this new work. Follow her @francheskyia.

Untitled: A Collaboration Between James Fisher and Mircea Teleaga

The following was written in collaboration by James Fisher and Mircea Teleagă after a couple of meetings and many emails. James is a PhD student in the Department of History at King’s College London. Mircea is an MA student in Painting at the Slade School of Fine Art. You can find Mircea’s work here: http://mirceateleaga.com/en 

I am playing a game of response. I have always been playing it but I was not always aware. Each response is always concrete and particular. Each one is a deliberate provocation. So I respond again.

Oil on Canvas by Mircea Teleagă.
Oil on Canvas by Mircea Teleagă.

It’s a game of chess with myself where I try to catch myself out. I try to think ahead of myself; I try to think against myself. But perhaps if I don’t think at all I might surprise myself and make something. The trick is to completely trust myself. I leave the room and leave myself to act in my place. I trust that when I come back I will be pleased with what I see. I trust that I will have new eyes to see it.

Or I train my limbs to know their way in the dark. I only need to be brave enough to turn the lights off, or wait for the night. I do something first, then discover what I have done when the light returns. It is then that I realise how similar the darkness and the details are. In this game the blind man is king.

The details are essential. They say this thing is not the same as that thing. They induce complexity and sensitise us to difference. They build the steep slope of Sisyphus upon a smooth well-lit highway. They mock all my own categories. They humiliate my attempts to theorise. They say it is an insult to claim the mind needs categories to understand. They are anarchic. They infest and destroy categories like bacteria eating away at a large mammal. They remind us that when the mind grasps anything through a category, it kills it. Like nailing butterflies to wood. Labels are anathema. Panta rhei (everything flows).

Oil on Canvas by Mircea Teleagă.
Oil on Canvas by Mircea Teleagă.

So I aim to be an organ of digestion, where these details multiply and mutate. I become a filter that is always being filtered, perpetually undergoing change according to what does or does not come in. Everything I have ever done, seen, heard, felt, or tasted. Every experience, direct or vicarious. All of it enters and is transformed. Even if it is completely rejected, the act of rejection alters me. These are all my footnotes.

I do not make things. I simply leave deposits, a by-product of my own cultivation. These deposits mirror me. They build upon themselves like weather, developing from within and every part shifting with every other. They spiral like a wild rock formation, growing without erasure; becoming a monument to itself.

Oil on Canvas by Mircea Teleagă.
Oil on Canvas by Mircea Teleagă.

I do not ask why. This simply happens because it is embedded within me. I see the deposits as an extension of my self. I am not interested in the reason they exist, any more than the reason my self exists. I am only interested in the effect they have. Purpose over reason.

I am not playing this game alone. My game is part of a larger set of games. I filter the deposits of others and they filter mine. We are all sculpting the same bit of clay.

Oil on Canvas by Mircea Teleagă.
Oil on Canvas by Mircea Teleagă.

I do not ask how it started. I just respond again.

This text was written as part of The Still Point’s ‘Creative Exchange’ which paired artists, from the Slade, with PhD researchers, from UCL and King’s College London, for an exhibition of visual art work and live readings at FAT RELIC. More details can be found on the blog and photographs from the evening are on our Facebook page

Out of the mind and onto the page: a critical examination of personal thought in the literary public sphere. 

Private faces in public places
Are wiser and nicer
Than public faces in private places
W.H. Auden
(1932)

I dislike the sound of the title already. Does it make me sound unappealing to the core? Have I become a Creative Writing cliché? I ask myself these questions for I live in an era of extreme self-awareness. The birth of the selfie, the Tinder pandemic, and the superficial allure of counterculture all lead me to realise that today’s society cares so much about the surface. Our stock stereotypes rely on the assumption that our physical appearance represents our internal ideal; businesswomen wear cruel heels and suits because they are sharp, serious, and driven, whereas artists wear smocks and spectacles because they are a diverse band of individuals (ahem). People use their exterior as a way of expressing their interior, but only the interior they desire everybody else to see. I used to find comfort in the idea that words could be free from this culture of shallow scrutiny, as they require a semantic understanding before they can be judged, and had hoped they would therefore survive as the most honest portrait of life. 

Unfortunately, however, I now realise even the sanctity of writing is not immune to social pressure. Continue reading

Notes from Literary Events I attended in First Term

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24.09.2014

Adrian Henri at the Liverpool Biennial

(On the train back to London).

If I had the energy to write, I’d write about Adrian Henri and the Mersey Sound.

I’d write about the sounds of Liverpool and how these sounds and the chiming of Liverpuddlian, can be lyrical, sensual and richly musical.

I’d write about how you can stand in the research centre discovering Adrian Henri for the first time and overhear two Scousers talking about their own adventures with the Liverpool Scene, and about a singular meeting with the round, black-bearded and be-spectacled Henri himself.

Yes, if I had the energy, that’s what I’d write about.

04.10.2014

Alice Oswald- Tithonus

A poetic jig.
A foot tapping.
A fly.
But shouldn’t they have driven us out to some field at dawn?

I will reflect a little more later, I promise.

15.10.2014

Ali Smith: Living Translation

It began with Ali Smith’s ‘Provocation:’ a rolling, breathy work of sound and voice and soft (irresistible) accent.

Smith speaks like a poem. She holds her breath until she reaches the end of her thought-rhythm, before introducing the next etymological haiku. What genius it takes to craft a polemic into a sound poem: a rapid fire, perfectly formed stream of provocation.

Smith says that “translators are more writer than the original writer” for this is “a double layered writing, a twin responsibility, an osmosis of the self.”

Smith says that we should be learning languages when we are so young that “language structures sink into us like butter into toast.”

Smith says “the translator sees what the writer did not write – it takes that level of close reading.”

Smith says “look and all languages display relation.”

That’s all for now, I will write more later.

29.10.2014

Caroline Bergvall- Drift

The tking of the voice, almost the sound of a typewriter or a haptic phone dialling, signals a visual layering of type – a streaming of new letters sounded into illumination.

Understanding is a process of fluctuation.

Letters shrink into illegibility but become small islands of type, shifting land-masses of notation suggesting a map; or are they the lights of the distant city which Bergvall speaks of, the hallucination on the horizon which promises respite yet is not as solid as a land-mass, but is a gathering of sound in words: as material (or immaterial) as the voice which resounds in space until it fades away.

I will write more, later.

10.11.2014

The Joy of Influence: Paul Mason and Anne Enright on Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow

This is all I wanted to note down from the event last night.

During questions at the end (this is more of a comment than a question), a Scottish man in the audience says: “I sped read the book again on the train down from Holyhead to London with some page notes I made in the 1970s. I finally think I know what the book’s about.”

Francesca Brooks is in the first year of her PhD at King’s College London, her research looks at multilingualism, translation, and aspects of orality in Old English manuscripts and the printed poetry of David Jones. Follow her @Frangipancesca

‘Omit Needless Things’

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When I was fifteen years old, I was tired of waiting around for my Dad to find the right weekend. During Spring half term, I rolled up my sleeves, tore down the pages of the NME that adorned my walls, and painted my earnestly floral bedroom chalk white. The gig tickets and photos that were plastered everywhere were carefully tucked away in scrapbooks and wood drawers, and I arranged my clothes into colour order, and band t-shirts into order of preference, with AFI first. AFI were always first. Though this was procrastination at its purest (which I’ve never really grown out of), as I inhaled the fresh air through my curtains, I knew I could handle my looming GCSEs from this place of newfound clutter-free serenity. And I did.

Ten years later, I’ve been somewhat seduced by the minimalist movement again. There’s something about all those white, peaceful, Scandinavian Instagram feeds that has really captured my imagination; those tiny squares on my phone somehow conveying that glorious sense of space. While so many of us may fall in love with the minimalist aesthetic, however, it can be a little hard to live it. Who are we, if nothing else, without our stuff?

For a PhD student, one might argue that the constant budgeting and moving from overpriced London bedroom to overpriced London bedroom prepares us for the minimalist lifestyle rather beautifully.  One doesn’t, however, tend to factor in the inextricable clutter of the Arts & Humanities researcher: books. Though my books have recently undergone a 3am colour-ordering session to fit in with my rejuvenated bedroom, they are still everywhere, and will likely remain so. I leave a paper trail wherever I go; so far, not so minimal. But minimalism isn’t merely an aesthetic; it’s an approach, and an approach us new researchers might benefit from.

In William Strunk Jr.’s classic treatise on minimalism, The Elements of Style, he offers young writers his golden rule: ‘Omit needless words’. This is not that all sentences are short and mundane, but that ‘every word tell’; we all apply this rule in our feverish editing of essays that have found themselves miles past the word count. But perhaps we might swap ‘words’ for ‘things’, and widen the realm of possibility for this principle, taking the unnecessary clutter out of our lives and away from our research. If we keep what is necessary to our work and our happiness, and omit those drains on our energy that are not, surely our research can only improve. Minimalism, to the PhD student, isn’t only a neat, tidy and white workspace; it’s learning to say no to seven conferences and three undergraduate classes. It’s identifying where your time needs to be spent, uncurling those shoulders from eight hours of solid work to have a look around you. It’s also having a good clear-out, seeing what you can sell on eBay to bump up that funding packet, because every little helps.

Minimalism is not having or doing as little as possible; it’s knowing that everything you have or do counts. So I’m striking a couple of things off of my ever-growing ‘to do’ list, paring back on my aims for the week to focus on my writing and give myself space to breathe. Time to dream and sit quietly with a hot drink fall under the category of ‘necessary’ to me; the dangerous glorification of ‘busy’ is everywhere, especially in this strange world of academia. By omitting what is needless, our work can become clearer and more purposeful, and our sense of wellbeing might even defy all the horror-stories of PhDs past.

I’m keeping my books, though. They will remain necessary in their white bookcases, bathed in natural light and the perfect Instagram filter.

Sinéad Kennedy Krebs is a first year PhD student in the Department of English at King’s College London. Her research examines the cultural legacies of the Great War in Ireland. Follow her @sineadkk, or head to sageolympia.blogspot.com

What We Talk About When We Talk About Death

Sarah Boulton Correspondence with JM

Correspondence between Sarah Boulton and James Morland

This text was written as part of The Still Point’s ‘Creative Exchange’ which paired artists, from the Slade, with PhD researchers, from UCL and King’s College London, for an exhibition of visual art work and live readings at FAT RELIC. More details can be found onthe blog and photographs from the evening are on our Facebook page

I am the supposed translator of conversations spanning centuries,
Witnessing poets combatting poets:

A first century exclamation responded to from an eighteenth-century graveyard:

[…] death to us, and deaths anxiety,
Is less than nothing, is a less could be.
For then our Atoms, which in order lay,
Are scatter’d from their heap, and puff’d away,
And never can return into their place,
When once the pause of Life has left an empty space. [Lucretius]

………………

If death were nothing, and nought after death,
If when men died, at once they ceas’d to be,
Returning to the barren womb of nothing,
Whence first they sprung!  Then might the debauchee
Untrembling mouth the Heavens; then might the drunkard
Reel over his full bowl, and when ‘tis drain’d
Fill up another to the brim, and laugh
At the poor bugbear Death [Blair]

I decode this ‘death-talk’:
This is a language game congregating around nothing,
Writing on the timeless and unresolvable.

In attempts to make something, I separate my clauses with the trusty colon:
Conning myself into thinking I have some sort of order:

DEATH-TALK: PHILOSOPHICAL DISCUSSIONS

THE DARKNESS OF THE GRAVE: NIGHT AND THE SENSES IN THE GRAVEYARD

SHUDDERING ON THE BRINK: THE EXTREMES OF NOTHING

But thinking of this nothing, it is me, not the poet, who shudders on the brink:

Procrastination is the thief of time;
Year after year it steals, till all are fled,
And to the mercies of a moment leaves
The vast concerns of an eternal scene. [Young]

The poets mock my academic practice,
Instead of leading to a solution, they taunt me, as together:

We sigh; and while
We sigh, we sink; and are what we deplored;
Lamenting, or Lamented all our Lot! [Young]

all the magnanimity of Thought
Resolves; and re-resolves; then dies the same [Young]

This is my death song:
To write of death is the thief of life,
Hours spent writing nothing about ‘nothing’.

My writing is about the poetry and emulates its futile ambitions;
The poets’ straining to see around the corner to their own death mimics my academic composition,
Our words are like the first century atoms that caused this whole project to arise:
An endless cycle of regeneration, a stream of chance encounters where some hit and many miss.

In writing on a nocturne darkness where men ‘see not all clear’ [Vaughan],
I instead quote the camera obscura, as a ‘darkened room’,
Referring to the stanza, as a ‘capacious dwelling, a receptacle’.
Returning to semantics to interpret a physical something from their poetic nothingness.

In thinking of death, then, we must relate it to something. It becomes images and myth:

The knell, the shroud, the mattock, and the grave;
The deep damp vault, the darkness, and the worm;
These are the bugbears of a winter’s eve,
The terrors of the living, not the dead.
Imagination’s fool, and error’s wretch,
Man makes a death, which nature never made;
Then on the point of his own fancy falls;
And feels a thousand deaths, in fearing one. [Young]

So in talking about death, I must document this cycle of centuries:
death has become something from a sublime sense of nothing through the fool and error of an imagination. It should instead be seen as nothing by the dissolution of something:

Therefore death is nothing to us, it matters not one jot, since the nature of the mind is understood to be mortal.  [Lucretius]

When I talk about death I resolve, and re-resolve about the vast concerns of something and nothing.

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‘Spiderboy’ videowork by Sarah Boulton installed at FAT RELIC, photo by Giulia Legora

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James reading his piece at the Creative Exchange, photo by Giulia Legora

James Morland is a first year PhD student in the English department at KCL, researching the changing interactions with Lucretius and Epicurean philosophy in eighteenth-century poetry. After spending a year in art school, James has spent the past few years studying English literature, though constantly tries to find ways to tie together the academic and visually creative sides of his thinking. Follow him @jameswmorland

Sarah Boulton is a student at the Slade. She is currently working with [including]: diamond doves, relationships, verbs, internal parts, live editing, light videos, friends and words (talking). http://saraboulton.tumblr.com/

Simone

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It began among female student intellectuals

seeking to appropriate the Other.

Only a body can touch another body.

She took great pleasure in urinating in the country.

Becoming prey,

the housewife knows little

of the discovery of treasure.

She locks up the parlour to save the Pope;

does it for a definite reason.

Where are the women?

It is not enough to have a

woman’s body,

exactly symmetrical,

the domains of thought

and art

and the suicide of Lucretia.

But in fact there is no question.

I read between the lines –

you see how it is. Become Kafka,

justify our existence.

The free woman is just being born,

Will be poet!

 –

Each night I said a little farewell

and put the cap on my fountain pen.

Thus she appeared in her childish distress.

This poem is made up of lines from the writings of Simone de Beauvoir.

Sophie Peacock is a poet and designer living and working in London, she is interested in gender, sexuality and collage. Follow her @saudadesophie