Poet in the Parlour: Residency, Day 4

22/10/09

An interesting phenomenon I’ve noticed that falls somewhere along the spectrum from ‘myself-as-poet-in-residence-with-whom-museum-guests-enjoy-an-interesting-chat,’ to, ‘myself-as-mistaken-docent-whom-people-ask-questions-relating-to-musem-objects-which-to-my-surprise-I-have-actually-been-able-to-answer,’ to— ‘myself-as-somehow-a-museum-object-or-specimen’!

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Installation art?

Person enters Parlour and possibly notices my sign. Ah, person thinks, ‘poet in the parlour,’ looking over at me, sat in the little brown velvet Victorian chair, reading or writing, or typing on my not-so-Victorian-laptop. Person moves on to consider globes, stereoscopes, and other various objects.

And so I become one of the many things in the museum to, impersonally and silently, consider. Does this make me installation art? Is my presence in the museum still useful—is my very sitting here, in this scientific space, silently writing, bringing attention to ‘science and literature’? Even if we don’t talk to each other, am I encouraging museum guests to think of creative writing in relation to the history of science? Am I failing if this is not the case?

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Herschelian telescope

It is my last day ‘in residence’ at the Whipple, and I have enjoyed the residency immensely. We are planning more events, so I will certainly be back, but I do hope to return in the ‘residency’ capacity. Having a few days or a week together of working from the Museum has allowed me to explore ideas of actually being in residence that would not have arisen otherwise—and it has helped my work, as well. I have written a good chunk of the novel, and, today, a new poem, which is a thrill as one hasn’t come for some time. I really have been ‘poet in the parlour,’ then.

I had a fantastic discussion with a guest who was visiting, and who bought a copy of my book, and recommended some great reading materials about optics and lenses (which have to do with a different book I recently finished). I love the somewhat random but definitely intellectual variety of the people coming through here.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me to take part in this residency, especially Melanie, Sarah, Josh, and Liba.

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