The final poem in Dialogue between the body and the soul cycle by Melanie Challenger and John Kinsella is published today on the RSA Arts & Ecology Centre website. Alongside it there’s a web page of responses by other artists, writers and critics to the question of whether flying is …
Melanie Challenger and John Kinsella’s poem series Dialogue between the body and the soul concludes with a discussion about whether artists should give up air travel for art. Contributations from Mark Lynas, Ruth Catlow, Plane Stupid, Amy Balkin, Chris Bodle, Nicholas Lezard and others.
Over the weekend I had a flurry of emails from John Kinsella and Melanie Challenger who are both racing ahead with the Dialogue between the body and the soul series of poems.
Not only are both of them being kind enough to share a great deal of knowledge about the historical background to this ancient “soul and body” tradition of poetry which goes back to the 10th century, I’m also learning about both of their aims for the piece. As a footnote to the work in progress, they’ve shared some of the emails they exchanged last year which discussed the idea of giving up flying. John, who is 100% committed not to flying except in emergencies, had said he wanted to press on with these poems as he’s planning on going fully off grid at the end of the summer.
Melanie’s off-grid too, living on a boat in East Anglia. In a kind of environmental keeping-up-with-the-Joneses, I ventured that I was editing Melanie’s latest contribution off-grid too. An attempt to impress, obviously. I do have a small shack in Devon; I harvest my own rainwater, heat it with a woodburner and have a photo-voltaic panel which powers a notebook and phone. And over the bank holiday weekend I was working from there.
I think I’ve given John Kinsella the impression I’m “one of them”. Now I feel like a fraud. I’m not sure though that I could ever be bold enough to go the whole hog. I spent a month down there last year. For a couple of weeks I was off-grid with three kids who, I’m proud to say, thoroughly enjoyed the situation. My excuse for not cutting the ties is I’m not convinced that it’s the answer in this crowded island though. I love being off grid, and I’m full of admiration for anyone who achieves it – plus I think it’s a great way to learn about how profligate we are in our day-to-day on-grid lives, but I think we also need more collective solutions.
Or maybe I’m just too much of a wuss.
I’m really pleased to say that the RSA Arts & Ecology site is hosting a new artwork. It’s a collaborative piece of poetry created by Melanie Challenger and John Kinsella called Dialogue between the body and the soul.
The idea came from a reading that both poets were invited to in New York in 2007. Though they had worked together — John had edited Melanie’s debut collection — they’d never actually met, so the event would have given them both that chance. Kinsella lives in Australia; Challenger lives in the UK. But both were becoming increasingly uneasy about the idea of artists travelling internationally just to give readings of their own work.
In the end, neither travelled to New York. Instead, they’ve decided to create this collaborative work which comes from their decisions to eschew air travel for such events.
The first poem arrived in my email box yesterday; it’s posted on the site today, initiating the exchange. Take a look. I’m loving the idea of seeing a piece of work like this evolve in my email inbox.
You can link to the poems here tinurl.com/dialoguepoems.
Photo: Roger Bishop
The poets Melanie Challenger and John Kinsella have vowed never to take transatlantic flights to promote their work. For practitioners of a form which often struggles for wider attention, to restrict themselves this way has been a difficult decision. In this new commission for RSA Arts & Ecology, they are collaborating over the next few weeks in an extraordinary exchange of poems that explores their decision. The poems are published online as they arrive.
Go to RSA Arts & Ecology