Queer the Record!

Book week was a few weeks ago now. It went by in a flash after all that planning. We had a good turn out for the online event Queer the Record, with Michael Lee Richardson leading some writing prompts inspired by documents in the Saltire Society archives.

After I had introduced the session and given some background to the Saltire Society, Michael started us off with some digital cut-up poetry courtesy of Glass Leaves, a website which manipulates text in all sorts of wierd and wonderful ways. We started with several writer’s rejection letters from the archive. My contribution turned out like this:

I should be a fiction list
in the publishing interest
It is not impossible.

In any case the publishing interest
is not impossible.

Cut-up poetry is a great warm-up activity when in a room together, and we had discussed before about how the same atmosphere might be created online but I had not seen the Glass Leaves website before the event so it was a fun suprise to be able to participate in this activity myself.

Following that short exercise, we explored the idea of creating manifesto poetry inspired the Saltire Society’s 1979 Manifesto for the Arts in Scotland. Then after a short break Michael showed us a series of found images from the archives, stimulating some beautiful and imaginative interpretations.

I was interested to see the different levels of engagement from the participants. One or two didn’t engage at all during the session but contacted me afterwards, there were a couple who joined in the conversation by sharing their own stories and insights, and one person who commented and shared their thoughts in the chat. Usually when I have done zoom events in other settings people have seemed to follow each other’s lead, so if a couple of people engage in the chat, for example, then everyone does. I think it was due to Michael’s skilled introduction and encouragement that the group felt comfortable to participate in a way that suited them which made the group dynamic flow well.

At the end of the session I explained that I was looking for submissions for the Saltire pamphlet and was really pleased that everyone got back in touch to submit work or express interest in doing so in the following fortnight. Through that later contact I was able to find out a bit more about the participant’s interests and am really looking forward to working with them to produce something for publication.