CAROL WATTS: Good Life Redact

It is a bank holiday and I get to write. I think so much about any future point where I might get time, that it drains away in the clearing of it. The question posed was: what I am thinking and working on just now, these days before coming to Hay. What is central to my practice, thinking. Just now. How I do thought these days, rather than having time to think, is a question. Something about the loss of duration, understood as a form of knowing in time, patience. But also discovering another kind of rewiring or pace. How practice begins to demand other routes, where thinking ceases to work along accustomed lines. How age shifts things along, and you come out elsewhere than you imagined.

The headline in the paper this morning says we have gone past carbon emissions targets to the point of no return. On the brink. ‘Bleaker and bleaker’. An emergency but governments aren’t listening. Even scientists are shocked. Are they? The recession hasn’t reduced emissions as hoped. It says. Western governments are surfing on Chinese outputs. In the south of England it will be like the sound of Morocco, eventually. I mean south, my fingers don’t write it. Sound. Future. Desertification, mass migration, extinctions.

Yesterday my son was 15 and called in Dominos pizzas for a couple of friends while they played for hours online. I can hear them singing along. Today, more multiscreening. Today I am potting up tomatoes and chillies in the small yard. The cat is chattering at birds, but can’t be bothered to move. Planes go over every few minutes. I am thinking about Kaia Sand’s work. I am remembering potting up, gestics of gardens, without thinking. Something my body knows, had passed on to it. Somewhere it reminds me of growing up in that post-war span, making do. Like welfare, what we carried, believed between us. There is a romance in that – it reassures (like some fantasy of self-sufficiency) and disturbs. Because I think there is a great expropriation going on, and memory is a name for something much more total. The condition of living, taken. I am thinking about Andrea Brady’s new baby, the gentle quiet of pictures and new beginnings. At what point is memory subsumed by some external command, given up. Forgetting what we share and pass on, knowledge given over. Like, to bankers. Made-offs. Gets them off the hook either way. Does future memory come through the skin and body, still. The practice of knowledge, understood in the doing of it. I am thinking about Allen Fisher’s three way emblematic work – text, thought, image. What it means to inhabit that space between. Blood, bone, brain. World.

What the hell. How do you keep these things in place.

My partner is talking under his breath to his screen, small tacks and thumps.

How can I say.

I am thinking about the beautiful face of Gil Scott-Heron and what happened to him. Today in his obituary, it quotes his B Movie (1981), the part that begins Mandate My Ass!                                                                                                                                                                             I remember what I said about Reagan … meant it.                                                                                                                                 Acted like an actor… Hollyweird. Acted like a liberal.                                                                                                                           Acted like General Franco when he acted like governor                                                                                                                       of California, then he acted like a Republican. Then                                                                                                                             he acted like somebody was going to vote for him                                                                                                                                   for president. And now we act like 26% of the                                                                                                                                         registered voters is actually a mandate.

Acting like. I’m thinking of the difference/parallel between 1981 and now. ‘Acting like’, knowing things are otherwise but acting nonetheless – is a cynicism that seems to have intensified, as if the notion of acting itself has dissolved, and we absorb the ‘given’ through membranes. There’s no acting going on. As if the truth is given over to others. A worse kind of poverty. Not just a massive bank-grab. ‘Not to face now or tomorrow’, that’s what he sang about. B-movie living – that was then. What is this.

How do you spell burgeoning.

You are lagging so much. Can you do the highroller.

I’ve been working on a small series of collages for Susana Gardner’s Dusie Kollectif 5, her last ever pamphlet series. Small upcycled pamphlets have been arriving through the door from all over for the past few months, around 100 poets taking part. It’s a wonderful exchange. My turn. Cutting together pink and browning found fragments from the leisure pages of the Financial Times and an old copy of Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, where he defines the good life for his son. I’m thinking about what is taken away, redacted, from what we might think of as a good life. The first page I made says:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The truth was hardy to dive from.                                                                                                                                                                                        the puttering of gifts                                                                                                                                                                  and counter-gifts                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           passed too quickly

Another:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            If we look deeper into the nature of things, a                                                                                                                                            complete evacuation and abandonment                                                                                                                                                                             has at last begun to                                                                                                                                                                  pay off.                                                                                                                                                                                                                  everyone supposes that they live The effect is cosy

Sometimes I feel like starting again – reading it different somehow.

Good Life Redact, backyard thoughts. One hot ratatouille to come.

Carol Watts published her first chapbook brass, running with Equipage in 2006, described by the American critic and poet Charles Alexander as ‘a revelation’. Her first collection Wrack followed in 2007, and since then three chapbooks: When blue light falls 1 and 2 with Oystercatcher Press, and this is red with Torque, as well as the artist’s book, alphabetise. Her recent work moves across different media and includes a collaborative performance for live voice, film and dance called In the Fold. Her poetry has been anthologised in The Reality Street Book of Sonnets, Infinite Difference: ‘Other’ Poetries by UK Women Poets, and is included in the forthcoming collection of radical landscape poetry, The Ground Aslant. Since 2005 she has been working on a site-specific sequence called Zeta Landscape, which explores the land and rhythms of a farm on the banks of the River Vyrnwy in Powys through pastoral and prime numbers.


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