The Writer as Collector by Miriam Nash

Miriam NashI grew up in a house of things – driftwood, cassette tapes, coloured glass, families of trolls and all manner of things that might one day be useful. I often find myself putting these objects into poems. I like the idea of a poem as the perfect storing place where objects are given space to exist and hold meaning without requiring an attic.

Agatha Christie and her family were great collectors and much of their collection lives at Greenway – furniture from their travels, china tea sets, display cabinets of tiny boxes for keeping postage stamps. Christie also used her books to house collections. In Cards on the Table, Mr. Shaitana collects outstanding objects of any ‘period or class’ and also – dangerously – murderers who haven’t been caught.

Collecting has been a theme of my residency at Greenway. Visitors typed their thoughts and impressions on vintage typewriters and I collected some of these into poems, tweets and a lucky dip of lines. Writers from Moor Poets, Poetry Teignmouth and POETSFriday generously shared local poems through our Poetry Picnic and an exhibition in the house kitchen. This assembled a group of poems on local places, collecting the landscape around Greenway in ways that have delighted visitors as they look at places they know and love through other people’s words.

Recently in Greenway’s cosy kitchen, sixteen people (some new to writing, some experienced) sat round the table to consider the idea of the ‘writer as collector’. They wrote in response to parts of the collection at Greenway and considered collections in their own lives – the intended and the accidental. The poet Graham Burchell wrote a gorgeous poem about a box of chocolates in the library, in which he imagines Agatha reaching for a chocolate and savouring it.

Over this residency, I’ve had many tastes of this charmed place and treasured collection. Visitors, workshop participants, writers, primary school students – everyone who took part has, I hope, had a chance to savour Greenway’s delights in a way that feels intimate and all their own. Entering a place imaginatively through writing can make space for this special kind of visiting. It certainly has for me. I feel well and truly collected by Agatha.

 


 

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