WASTE LAND REVISITED : Ann will be reading at the ‘Waste Land Revisited’ talk in the BRLSI on Monday April 11th and introducing our ‘Waste Land’ performance reading on Saturday June 11th with a presentation of ‘The Ruins’, a poem in Old English that evokes the former glory of a ruined Roman city believed to be Bath. The poem was written in the 8th or 9th century by an unknown author and published in the Exeter Book, an Anglo-Saxon anthology of riddles and poems.
ANN WRITES …
Professionally I worked in local government in Arts Development for about 20 years, and now I am on the boards of two organisations in the heritage sector and do a lot of volunteer time with both – this means I do a great deal of what I’d call technical writing: policy, strategy, funding applications, Board reports, website copy; sometimes I write articles (one is on the Bathscape project website, about the Bath Jewish Burial Ground); and I wrote the commemorative publication marking the World War 1 Centenary for Bath & North East Somerset Council. I am also a super-accurate proof reader and good at editing the kind of technical writing I’ve referred to. For several years I’ve been involved in organising Bath’s annual commemoration for Holocaust Memorial Day and have read poems for this event.
What I do in the more creative sense (though arguably, technical writing is creative if you do it well) is I hoover-up other people’s writing and I make connections, so that apparently disparate texts can ‘talk’ to each other and make thought-provoking dialogues and meanings. When I say ‘text’ I am including all forms of creative expression – dance, music, art, novels, poetry, film – and pretty much anything with words (diary, journal, newspaper report, weather forecast, letter, advertisement).
An example of disparate texts talking to each other would be Dickens’s opening paragraph of Bleak House about London fog, alongside one of Whistler’s ‘Nocturne’ paintings, a scientific weather report from the mid-19th century, and a diary entry by John Ruskin saying how grim the weather is as he looks out of the window in Denmark Hill. Sometimes the dialogue will be in tension, where one text appears to contradict the other, and new perhaps unexpected meaning is created – this is how good film editing works. Think of Eisenstein’s film Battleship Potemkin (1925): we see the baby-carriage teetering and then jolting down the steps; we do not need to see the baby inside, nor what happens to the pram, to know what happens and to picture it in our minds.
The go-to example of how placing-alongside of texts creates new meanings is Pandaemonium, 1660–1886: The Coming of the Machine as Seen by Contemporary Observers by Humphrey Jennings, documentary film-maker and one of the founders of Mass Observation, created in the 1940s but not published till 1985.
What do I like?
Films where almost nothing happens, rivetingly (Two Lane Black-top; Radio On)
Journals and diaries and letters of the 18th and 19th centuries
Metal print type and fonts
Researching my dead family (the 19th century characters)
Headstones and inscriptions in cemeteries, such as:
My sledge and hammer lie reclined My bellows, too, have lost their wind My fire's extinct, my forge decayed, And in the dust my vice is laid; My coal is spent, my iron gone My nails are drove, my work is done.
(1787, on the tombstone of John Dowler, blacksmith, in Aston churchyard, Birmingham)
ANN CULLIS WRITES :