‘What is Dragon’s Blood? And where do I get some?’

Photo c/o Babs Guthrie; L - R, background, Anna Maerker; Kelley Swain, Henrike Scholten, Babs Guthrie; foreground, Eleanor Crook and assorted waxworks.

Photo c/o Babs Guthrie; L – R, background, Anna Maerker; Kelley Swain, Henrike Scholten, Babs Guthrie; foreground, Eleanor Crook and assorted waxworks.

The above title/quote is one of the comments left in the guest book from last night’s event. To answer: Dragon’s blood is a resinous red pigment,  and you can probably buy it at the alchemical and extremely helpful art shop L. Cornelissen & Son near the British Museum.

I have a hunch that Eleanor Crook may have asked – she and Dr Anna Maerker joined me in a discussion following dramatic readings from Opera di Cera last night at the Gordon Museum of Pathology. It was a pleasure to blend expertise from Anna (an historian,) Eleanor (a wax-modeller,) and highlight lines from my poems – lines that had been inspired directly by their work.

The poems were performed with sensitivity by Rachael Black and Keith Hill (he performed Fontana’s obsessive, controlling character perfectly).

Curator Bill Edwards oversaw the evening, and we welcomed over 60 people into the galleried, vaulted space of the Gordon Museum.

As Keith put it, ‘not since I played Salford have I been looked down upon by so many embalmed bodies’!

Some of the lines we discussed included ‘turpentine hides everything,’ a line that I took directly from one of Anna’s academic articles. She was able to tell the audience just what the statement came from, and why. Another line we discussed was ‘every pore, pressed orange-peel,’ which came from one of Eleanor’s online video demonstrations of wax-modelling. She told us last night that in fact, a lime is an even better citrus fruit for gently patterning the wax so it looks like it has natural pores on its skin.

One of our guests wrote that the evening ‘Made me feel a little sick, but excellent…wonderful inspiring bringing together of art and science – more please!’ Well, we certainly hope to do more, and I am working on, and thinking of, and planning discussions for, many ideas that may bring more of the full, 40 poem verse drama to audiences.

After the reading and some discussion, we moved from the lecture hall into the adjoining room, where Eleanor gave a wax-modelling demonstration, and the audience networked, connected, and re-connected (many of the medical, academic, and creative people knew one another, and there were many delightful instances of only one or two degrees of separation,) over flutes of Prosecco – an appropriately Italian drink for the evening.

Eleanor Crook at work, photo c/o Roger Kneebone

Eleanor Crook at work, photo c/o Roger Kneebone. Eleanor was working on an example of someone with hemifacial paralysis from Bell’s Palsy.

Further guest comments:

‘I can honestly say I had no idea about ANY of this! But it was a real joy to plunge into this world. I particularly enjoyed the grapefruit simile.’

‘Contains the best poem about dissecting a live dog I have ever heard – also the rest of it’s great as well.’ (Richard Tyrone Jones)

My thanks to Anna Maerker, Bill Edwards, Eleanor Crook, Rachael Black, Keith Hill, Richard Barnett, Giskin Day, Diaga Emanuwa, James Yeats, and all of our gracious guests for making this evening come together brilliantly.

A selection of poems from Opera di Cera won the 2013 Templar Poetry Pamphlet Awards and will be published in book form this autumn – Further news of book launch events forthcoming.

K and E Crook

Photo c/o Roger Kneebone

3 thoughts on “‘What is Dragon’s Blood? And where do I get some?’

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