Sunday 24 May 2020

Seed by Joanna Walsh

Last Friday night A Leap in the Dark featured the author Joanna Walsh in conversation with her publisher Emma Warnock of the excellent Belfast-based. independent No Alibis Press. 

Joanna generously provided this note introducing a short passage from Seed, as follows:

Seed is a story told in the voice of a teenage girl, isolated in industrial countryside at the end of the 1980s. When I wrote Seed I spent a lot of time thinking about what a voice is and what a character is, and I ended up thinking that a character can be many voices: porous voices sliding into each other, coming out of their environment, the body, and the words they read and hear around them every day. Here's a little piece of my book, 'Seed'. I hope you'd like to be one of the voices of Seed and read it together with me.


I am working toward a sentence that can say everything at once. I think I can make one but not yet about the valley and the town all in the same sentence and about now and about what has been everything I remember and what the valley remembers a sentence that takes into account each blade of grass—yes the topside that flashes white and the underside that is deep blue the smell when you walk on it—and the same for all the stems of wheat that catch the sun all together like they’re one thing like a giant metal monster and the fields at all the times of year all together the fields liquid green the gold the stubble that sticks out of the ground the straw on the roads the smell of fields burnt thick like tar hanging in the air their colour deeper than anything still not black as nothing’s black in nature only words and there is no need for prepositions because everything is at the same time and in the same place there are lots of verbs lots of doing words but layered on top of each other like people all speaking at once. It is like how time crosses the valley like the wind that puts its shape into things always everywhere at the same time like what I said about the shape in the settee I mean sofa I mean it’s invisible but is the past and the present at the same time.

It takes less than one second to say.
I do not know how long it takes to write.

I can’t make any sentence about the future. I don’t know if I can make one about anything outside the valley."

What happened on the night I'll remember for a long time

Around thirty members of the audience, all in lock-down and scattered over the planet, joined together reading the passage aloud, simultaneously but at different speeds. It was an uncanny, moving experience. Through headphones (and these are recommended on Zoom to cut down on reverb and feedback) the effect was immersive, a throb and murmur of voices inside one's head, some familiar, some not, coupled with one's own. Like being part of a hive mind, or at least a community with a shared purpose. It was both communal and isolating. It was wonderful.

No comments:

Post a Comment