Outsider poems, a mini-anthology in progress (51): From 'The Library of Unwritten Books'
001. The End, by Anon.
I think I’d have to write a very short book. Yes, I have wanted to write lots of books before. I think my first book would be about actually how to get into the position of having to write a book in the first place.…
The book would be red and white. That’s all I know. The colour of snow. I don’t think it would have pictures.
And yes, it is about isolation. Maybe the whiteness is the blank page. Maybe it’s the blank page.
(Recorded at Brompton Cemetery May 2001)
116. This Is a Story, by Anon.
… My dream would be to write it in a column. I’d have a big book but only write in an inch and-a-half space down the middle, with lots of paper on either side so you can draw pictures. If you are writing in short blasts, like I was saying, you can fill out the details with little stick figures doing stuff. If you can’t figure out how to write it, you can do it visually.
I just want to write it. It makes me laugh and that’s the most important thing.
(Recorded at Battersea Library 8 September 2002)
215. The Latvian Table, by Richard Layzell
Perhaps it would be set in this café. I have a little bit of a thing about café tables, just like we are sitting here. I think a café table is a great place for being reflective, but you might also be interrupted by the waiter or the waitress. It’s very ordinary. There are cafes all over the world, so I don’t even know where it would be set. Might be Eastern Europe or even the Soviet Union, places that people in the West don’t know very much about. I have been to Minsk and Belarus, but there weren’t any cafés there, because they couldn’t afford it. They couldn’t afford to go out and have a cup of tea. So maybe it would be somewhere a little bit richer than Belarus. I haven’t been there, but maybe somewhere like Latvia …
I might talk a lot about the table. The table would be like the blank stage or blank canvas. Everything would be very rich. If there was butter on the table, it would taste very special, and the colour might remind this fictional person (it probably isn’t me, I think it might be a woman) of looking at the sun, and she goes into some kind of poetic journey until the cup comes with the coffee in, or something like that. …
(Recorded in West Bromwich 1 June 2003)
307. The Boy in the Coffin, by Amanda
… I fished out a bizarre newspaper cutting I’ve had for twenty years. It was in the Daily Express. ‘The Boy In The Coffin – Mystery of Man in Milton Keynes’. This guy had jumped off the bridge into the canal and they had found him floating in a standing position, and they had no idea as to his identity. In his pocket they found a wood shaving, a bus ticket, and an old film.
They dried out the film and when they played it back it showed him as a young boy in scenes with a coffin. First they show him lying down in the coffin, then he gets out and this thing swings towards his head, swings across the screen; then there’s the doll’s head being smashed, squashed tomatoes... all very ritualistic. They found a ring in the water as well with the initials BR. That linked him to a family in Swindon who had always practised black magic, and the sons – one went missing, one was murdered, and one died in suspicious circumstances. … and now twenty years on it’s haunting me again.
I’m back on the trail but I’m not going to bother about the reality behind the story. All I’m going to use is the actual point of death – whether he was pushed, jumped, or bumped off is irrelevant really. What I’m going to stick to is how the film in his pocket was made. …
(Recorded at Spread the Word, Lambeth Walk, London23 May 2004)
712 My Secret Marbles, by Marbles Mya (aged 9)
I’ve collected ﬁve hundred and sixty-four marbles. I’ve got one big one and I’ve got six medium sized ones and I’ve got four hundred little ones. I’ve got white ones with spotted different colours, blue ones, purple ones, two that are sky blue but one’s a light sky blue and one’s a dark sky blue and I’ve got an orange one with black spots and waves, a purple and white one that’s all wavy and a dark green and light green all mixed up together. I haven’t got a favourite; I like them all.
In my spare time I like to pretend they’re people. I’ve got some toy cars that I pretend they drive around in and I’ve got this doll’s house that I got for Christmas and I put some ornaments in it and pretend that they’re sitting on them and stuff. …
It’s called My Secret Marbles because my friends always say it’s a bit weird so I don’t really tell them. I don’t like it when people say stuff is weird but I don’t really mind. Anyway, it is a bit weird because nobody else would probably do that. Maybe it’s because they’re not really into marbles, they’re into pencil cases and stuff, and they don’t realise how much fun it is if you haven’t got any brothers and sisters to play with at home and have something to do when you’re bored, instead of just sitting there watching TV or playing on your Nintendo all day long like I do sometimes.
(Recorded at New Art Gallery, Walsall 1 September 2007)
with John Bloomberg-Rissman
SOURCE: Library of Unwritten Books (http://www.unwritten.org.uk/about.html)
[Write the founders of this work in progress – an exploration of poiesis as a basic human capacity, even where unrealized]: “Library of Unwritten Books is a collection of possible books. Short interviews are recorded with people about a book they dream of writing or making. Limited edition mini books are published from transcripts of the interviews, which are made available to readers at exhibitions and special events. Touring book-boxes also display the books at everyday venues such as cafés, pubs, libraries and launderettes. The concept was inspired by a fictional book repository featured in The Abortion: An Historical Romance by Richard Brautigan. The novella’s main protagonist is a librarian who catalogues any book deposited in his care.
“Inspired by the non-selective ethos of the Brautigan library, Caroline Jupp and Sam Brown founded Library of Unwritten Books in 2002. The books are collected through random encounters in parks, city streets and public places, and by invitations to visit literature festivals, public libraries and community centres. People are prompted to spontaneously record their unrealized ideas, fictional tales, and personal histories. There is no selection procedure and all contributors to the library receive a free copy of their own unwritten book.” (Library of Unwritten Books website)
(2) Who could be more “outside” the world of writing than someone who hasn’t written? Yet, as the creators of this project note, “The collection is evidence of the common desire to write a book and is an ongoing survey of this literary phenomenon.” This common desire tangles the written with the unwritten, and complicates the notion of inside and outside immensely.]