I ran a writing drop-in session at Canterbury Roman Museum last Wednesday, where people were free to join me in creating some Roman artefact-inspired poems. David Walsh (who joined me on the very first leg of my walk from London to Canterbury back in September) dropped in, and wrote up his experience here. He links this creative exercise to ‘cognitive archeology‘ and says that:
Suddenly, the tools of the mosaic layer (my pick) weren’t just objects behind a glass screen – I had a whole idea of where this guy had come from, why he was in that occupation, and how he felt about the art he was creating. Some academics might be cynical of such an approach, but when you spend a lot of time looking at sites and finds, it’s easy to forget these were real people. […] it is a fun, interesting way of experiencing the past. What I really loved is how some of the others present, who were not archaeologists or poets, embraced this idea and went away with a new interest in both the arts and ancient world.
Here’s a poem David wrote, inspired by a mosaic tool and ending with an excellent punchline:
Hours pass as if only seconds
I barely notice the sweat across my brow
Locked so intently in my task
I do not see Orpheus
I see myself, the colours and shapes like a mirror
I do not feel the weight of the tools
They are my hands, my finger tips
This is my epitaph to the world
A piece of myself that will remain
When the rest of me has long since departed
The art will linger on to inspire
Like the words of Cicero
The theatre of the Flavians
The Wall of Hadrian
My name will be forever be written in the tessera
… and I’m sure no-one will notice the mistake.
David’s also been helping me get my facts right in a poem about Mithraism, which I will be reading at MOLA’s event to celebrate the oral history project about the discovery of the Temple of Mithras in London. Can’t wait!