“Every city in the world has an “avenue of roses”: a place depicting the multi-layered relationships humans have with their constructed environments and urban landscapes. A place reflecting the socioeconomic strata of the broader city, and a place that speaks not only to isolation and disenfranchisement, but also speaks to how communities come together within these complex spaces. Welcome to the Avenue of Roses”. Cinematographer and photographer Kevin Fletcher ‘Avenue of Roses’ series project info
Much appreciation to Abridged for featuring ‘Linen Divinination: 9 Riddles’ in their current Trivia (0-70) edition. This joint poem – created in a joint process with textile artist Emma Whitehead – is a reworking of the poem elements of ‘The Present’ portion of a textile/poetry project which is intended to provoke an interest and creative thinking on the ‘whither goest thou’ of linen – industry and/or material – depending on the perspective of the querent.
The overall project ‘Linenmancy: Playing with the Fates’ was to have been featured in Linen Biennale 2020. And it has been interesting to sit with the present for longer than originally planned.
In the context of the project, the poetic element is not standalone and has, in the making, a visual/textile element that travels with it. I think that may be best way of describing the relationship. But in the Abridged submission, the poetic elements – reconfigured – travelled alone, confident that good company would be found on the road. In this case, Portland’s 82nd Avenue, also called ‘Avenue of Roses’.
The basis of leaps in creative thinking, I have often observed, is often found at impasses, stones in the road, a confusion of how things fit together, and frustration that things are not as the querent expects/wishes them to be.
Emma Whitehead’s connection and track record with linen and its road forward is self – evident.
But mine is, I think, more suspect. Particularly as I don’t believe I owned anything linen until very recently. Nonetheless, I am fascinated by the onward journey, in this geographical context, of a material with such an ancient history, and my fascination is a car crash at a three way junction.
The town I grew up in was, when I was a child, very much dependent on the textile industry – mostly cottons and carpets in that world, rather than linen. But the decline in linen is/was a subset of changes in textile production generally. I know, far beyond the academic, what it means when an industry which spans lives, communities and built environment goes under.
My own academic interests of many years ago were, for what it’s worth, in business strategy development – individual firm and industry wide – a dark art which spans practical/scientific observation of the here and now, with ‘deux ex machina’ observations of how progress in the socio-economic heartlands do not always progress through logic but via intuitive leaps (or a dance with the unknowable beyond the observed what is proceeding forth from what was in an orderly fashion) and yet, for all that, learning from experience remains both useful and significant.
And then I had a gift of a contract to facilitate a series of workshops designed to get people in communities close to the Lagan river to write down and share their stories, (handed-down) memories and understanding of linen/industry in Northern Ireland. Individually, the stories had deep resonance but as I moved along the route of the river from urban to rural and, as and between, communities and social strata, I, as first received and an outsider of sorts, began to assemble a story, as much of fragmentation as material creation. You can find a reflection of that work in the Waterways Storymaking Festival‘s second anthology. But, for me, who had in another part of my life a kind of tangential connection with people very interested in the past and invested in the potential of linen, it left me asking – with so much lost – how to make creative moves forward and how could I contribute.
The overall project employs the trope of the Greek Fates – the Moirai – best known, I expect, of the mythical-threesome-creators of fate and fortune in individual lives – with the unknowable/unturnable/inevitable death (and what that might represent in a less literal reading) in the outcome position.
The Norns (or Nornir) are a newer acquiantance. But in the practical application of ‘as one action leads to another’, I am very interested in, irrespective of the fate alloters, the nuanced difference from unknowable/unpredictable to expected outcomes, ie what should happen based on what has gone before and observed understandings of one thing follows another (Skuld – scold).
I love how that ‘crossroads’ seem to be echoed in the Kevin Fletcher series , not only the one accompanying our poem, (note: there are, in fact, a range of them in this Abridged issue) but across the series generally. And, of course, the pandemic has transected both – in a very physical embodiment of the unknowable in all its manifestations (putting the kaibosh on a+b=c outcomes). Still, just for now, and in a creative sense, 82nd Avenue seems to run a line of latitude parallel to the past, present and future of linen – and I note that a generous documentation of what is, just by accepting and attempting to communicate what is experienced as it is – given that that can only ever be virtual – also becomes an impactful part of the journey, which is on, and yet not part of, the road.