A wonderful day thanks to the organisers and delegates at the recent Poetry and the Dictionary symposium and roundtable discussion, held at St. Peter’s College, Oxford. The zeal and zealotry for words and the process of ‘ their shape and lustre […] given by the attrition of ages’ was exhibited in full force.
Great papers by Prof. Charlotte Brewer, Matthew Sperling, David Antoine Williams (he of the slaveringly philologiwonderful blog), Peter Gilliver, George Potts, Mia Cuthbertson, postgraduate from my former college Vidyan Ravinthiran, Giles Goodland and fellow Royal Hollowayfarers Kate Potts and Amy Cutler for their enthusiasm and insight. My head was peeled back and filled with better things.
Recently named among the Best Young British Novelists by Granta, Pushcart-prizewinning writer Benjamin Markovits came to read a selection of prose alongside purpureus writers in Royal Holloway University’s rooms on Gower Street. He also answered questions from the floor and gave feedback to the readers, both of which were greatly appreciated – thanks to him and fellow readers Dimitri, Susan, Preti, Aamir and Ishita for making the day go smoothly and enlivening the afternoon with their work.
Early June had me reading a new piece for Ambit alongside poetry and prose from the magazine’s contributors.
It was also the last evening compered by the journal’s current editor Dr. Martin Bax at the end of his 60-year stint at the helm of the important publication: many thanks for his kind words, and for his commitment throughout his career to encouraging new writing. It was a great evening with Donald Gardner, Alan Brownjohn, Edward Doegar taking to the stage with Declan Ryan and Gary Budden on hand to oversee the baying hordes. If you’re about in London on 25th July and like the sound of bookshops, free drinks and an evening of readings, head to the Owl for the launch of Issue 213.
I had the opportunity to participate in a poster series for Royal Holloway’s recent Society, Representation and Cultural Memory symposium, running in parallel with an all-day session on Identity, Place and Mobility. Concentrating within the Arts, Humanities and social sciences, touches on the problematic of ‘cultural memory’, the overall theme was the (in)security of cultural memory’s representation from all relevant departments. The poster session was presented as a chance to make links with other researchers and practitioners whose work might overlap or sit at an interesting tangent to one’s own.
I chose to wheel out my favourite mountweazel and throw the spotlight onto it in terms of my PhD work. My final abstract emerged as:
Confabulation: False Evidence and the Violated Dictionary
jungftak (n.): A Persian bird, the male of which had only one wing, on the right side, and the female only one wing, on the left side; instead of the missing wings, the male had a hook of bone, and the female an eyelet of bone, and it was by uniting hook and eye that they were enable[d] to fly – each, when alone, had to remain on the ground.
Inspired by this entry in Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary (1943), my presentation is a mock museum exhibit based on the details provided by the jungftak’s definition. By representing this non-existent bird’s false history as a curated artefact, I hope to illustrate my research into fake dictionary entries’ existence as burlesque hoaxes enacted within ‘reliable’ texts, and the ways in which false, creatively written portraits of this nature problematise concepts of lexicographical probity, identity, iconography and media dissemination.
My allotted table featured preserved eggs, taxidermied feathers, commissioned artwork by Catherine Williams and an amount of PVA and questionable origami not seen since my headiest primary-school days. It was a fun day and great to see fellow presenters’ work (including exhibits by Amy Cutler, Eve Smith and Avi Tynan); thanks to Prof. David Wiles, Nik Wakefield and the faculty members for providing such a stimulting and engaging forum.