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Editor’s introduction

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Welcome to the 8th edition of Gadabout, marking the end of the second year for a
remarkable community of writers, musicians and artists.
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This issue was intended as a study in allusion and conversation between contributors, their
reading and their readers. Gadabouters were invited to respond either to a previous
Gadabout piece, as Jenni Sidey does in Conversation II, below (Nikki Moss’s ‘Headspace’
first appeared as an ‘Out Of The Box’ item from November 2012), or to something from
outside the world of Gadabout. Some contributors, such as Becky Varley-Winter in
Conversation I, choose to declare their starting point, inviting the readers of this issue to
seek out the ‘source’ poem. Others, such as Ryan Annett in Conversation III and Vicky
Flood in Conversation IV, do not.
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The division of the material submitted to this issue into Conversations is intended to
clarify the original relationships between items, indicating the real-time chronology of
reading and response. Readers will notice, however, that conversations between the pieces
in this issue frequently overflow or transgress these boundaries; the two poems called
‘Red’, for example, might be responses to different starting points, but they also bear an
interesting, entirely un-intentional relationship with each other.
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The quarterly journal is only one piece of the Gadabout jigsaw - a snapshot of an ongoing,
less formal set of relationships between contributors and observers. At the most recent
Gadabout performance evening in June, those gathered in the County Arms were treated
to another kind of snapshot of the marvellous variety of the Gadabout community’s
creative endeavours. The atmosphere was jovial, the enthusiasm infectious, and when I
asked for volunteers to contribute responses to the work already submitted to the issue-in-
preparation, I was delighted that so many people came forward to pick up an envelope
containing a mystery text. Of twelve envelopes handed out on 15 June, two responses made
their way back to me in time for this issue.
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So if you picked up a white envelope and haven’t yet had a chance to respond to it, or if you
have responded but haven’t yet had the courage to put it in the post, or if you thought you
might have liked to pick up an envelope but couldn’t quite commit yourself, then I urge you
to consider contributing to the Autumn edition. Editing Gadabout is a great pleasure and
privilege, but a successful journal is much more dependent upon the wider Gadabout
community’s participation than on the skills of the editor. If everybody who takes pleasure
in reading and listening to the work collected here or the performances of the annual
celebration night also considers making their own contribution, Gadabout will continue to
grow and flourish. All sorts of concerns and anxieties present themselves to a prospective
contributor, whether they are submitting their first piece or are by now a familiar voice.
But without people willing to overcome or momentarily suppress their nerves, Gadabout
would not exist.
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I am extremely grateful to everybody who gave their time and took the risk to contribute to
my little game of ‘Chinese Whispers’. I hope you will agree with me that the resulting
journal, if slim, is completely charming.
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Thank you for reading.
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Lizzi Mills, guest editor July 2014
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I
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Louis MacNeice
Becky Varley-Winter
Ryan Annett
Benjamin Mortimer
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The first ‘conversation’ takes as its starting point Louis MacNeice’s poem ‘Snow’.
Permission to reprint the poem has been sought but not yet received, so for now it does not
appear here. It is widely available on the internet.
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Tangerine
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The rose dies slowly
on stage, clutching
a bloodied thorn.
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I’ll give a tangerine,
split skinless flesh
soft as a mouse’s ear,
an unassuming tangerine.
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Early morning,
seeing the city snow
lies hard and bruised,
I’ll cross the ice
in pink plastic shoes –
before leaving, eat a tangerine
soft and sweet,
small room
expanding with my breath
into the cold outside
as the heart in my chest
divides and divides.
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Red
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Blood

drip
drip
drips
from that bloodied thorn.
Blood
drops
slow
and licks the wooden floor.
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Blood pools.

Blood crusts.

Blood is scuffed by boots and hides in cracks.
Blood lingers.

Blood binds.

Blood feuds.

Blood stains sleeves, soil, whips and souls.
Blood haunts.

Blood hangs in your hallways

like the light in a charcoal sketch.


Blood haunts.
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Snow / Tangerine response — a fragment
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The guys at TinyUrl.com know their business niche:
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Are you sick of posting URLs in emails only to have it break when sent causing
the recipient to have to cut and paste it back together? Then you've come to the
right place.
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‘URLs’ is incorrigibly plural, but pronoun disagreement aside, it’s a dangerous
business sending things over the net. Thank goodness Gadabout uses PDFs.
Without them, you have to entrust your email client or Microsoft Word’s
‘compatibility mode’ with whatever is carefully adjusted and laid out just so in a
digital document. Which is one reason why I feel so glad and warm towards the
falls and steps of ‘Tangerine’, arriving so intact after a dangerous journey.
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Vegetables matter. William Blake had recourse to emphatic language in the face
of ill-starred biomass: ‘O rose, thou art sick’. Now read on:
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The rose dies slowly
on stage, clutching
a bloodied thorn.
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If a rose is clutching at a thorn, is it clutching at part of itself? And what a
horrible thing to clutch at oneself and be clutching at a thorn. However camp or
dramatic it may be to act this out, the rose is ‘on stage’, in the first line of a
poem, a poem which separates out the elements of its sentences into a series of
steps down the page, resting on some to turn and look back:
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I'll give a tangerine
split skinless flesh
soft as a mouse's ear,
an unassuming tangerine.
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And what a beautiful and right simile, 'soft as a mouse's ear', held out on its own
line, isolated unassumingly.
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But the drive of the sentence is still onwards, without the different kind of
isolation line-breaks can create in the MacNeice. They can put forward a a
strange yet plausible phrase, one which works as its own independent
grammatical unit, bounded by the line break.
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One instance is ‘And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world’, as though
the fire, in its own proper way, were making some noise to celebrate how great
world is, which is the sort of thing you might appreciate or write if you felt ‘The
drunkenness of things being various’. The lineation offers a way of seeing
double, a different reading of the line before one stumbles on into the next line
that follows its last word ‘world’; for ‘world’, in fact, ‘Is more spiteful and gay
than one supposes’, and rather than being the be all and end all of the fire’s
libation, ‘world’ is only the second word in a new clause:
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And the fire flames with a bubbling sound for world
Is more spiteful and gay than one supposes –
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– ‘spiteful’, because the jolly bubbling sound comes from the water being
squeezed out of a log as it burns, giving up its lifeblood; and ‘gay’ because even
such a wrenching can appear as pleasant, and indeed is, ‘on the ears’.
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Feeling empathy towards a piece of dead wood, and enjoying the bubbling
sound of evaporating sap, are both varieties of experience; the experience of an
empathy that branches out in all directions, following the dendrite pattern of a
snowflake:
as the heart in my chest
divides and divides.
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II
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Nikki Moss
Jenni Sidey
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Headspace
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There is a room filled with violet light. There are colours strewn on the floor, bleeding

into one another. Along the walls tower rows and rows of shelves ready to tip tip

topple over with the weight of fantastic inks, paints and dyes. Elegant and thin, squat

and thick, brushes rattle in glass jars. Large vats simmer and spit multicoloured

clouds. In the corner a little man weeps for what is gone and his worries for the

future, while onto his shoulder rain steady drips of pink and green. The little man

sighs, then plants his wellingtons deep into the puddles around his ankles. He tips his

head back and howls like a wolf. This makes him feel better. So he does it again.

Eyes closed, he doesn’t notice the pallet above him tip mischievously forward;

leaking purple and indigo tracks pour themselves into his upturned mouth. The howl

turns to a splutter, he shakes his head from side to side, tangled hair issuing

haphazard rainbow drops. Hushed now, the little man wipes the paint from his face,

pauses, and licks his hand with a satisfied slurp. He scrambles onto all fours and

begins to crawl, growling, through paper archways, stacked cartons of colour pencils

tumble all around him, he is a wolf, a bear, a ferocious tiger. He slips, one hand

skidding away from him in a splash of yellow, he rolls and becomes a brave explorer,

chased by lions.

Excited now, he sloshes to his feet and galumphs across to vat four, leaving a

trail of footprints along a floor already covered in a flurry of loop-de-loops. The little

man takes a big breath, raises his arms . . . and stops. He cocks his head to the left,

tugs on his ear and elicits a quick whistle. Behind him a rustle, and Worrycat tumbles

into view, ears bespeckled with blue. Small paws sliding, he yowls and hisses at

brushes which stop rattling, then clang more loudly than ever. Worrycat scampers
forward, snatches a milky white crayon to gnaw on before leaping onto the little

man’s shoulder. He perches gravely for a moment, and watches as the little man

reaches into his large patchwork pocket, draws out a bright stick, and chalks two

streaks of red across each cheek.

On cue Worrycat begins to caterwaul, the little man drums his chest with his

fists before letting fervent hands dance over square, triangle, undulating buttons,

twirl dials, and pull levers with all his might. Worrycat’s fur bristles, the little man

seizes a pole and begins to mutter to himself, stirring animatedly, body obscured now

by intermittent puffs of steam. The vat begins to roar, and clatter, before emitting a

rush of great, thick colour cloud. They watch as it floats to the ceiling. There is a

rumble, then another, and suddenly there begins a rain of great glooping drops.

Worrycat purrs, licking here and there, while the little man sits in the middle of the

room, he rubs his face, then turns his head up toward the deluge. “O” he tries.

“Oooooooo”. He shakes his head. “Oo . .rrr”. He lets a hand trail in the puddles of

rain, tastes it. “Ooooorrraaanngggee”.

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III
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Ryan Annett
Vicky Flood
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Six Strings
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Dull strings have their charms too, but no matter how bright they once sounded, they age badly. They do not joke,
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gibe or dance. They thrum slowly, aching with arthritis and old wounds. They go flat over time. Like an out-of-focus camera
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capturing a photo, they dangle on the edge of the recognisable. If left alone for too long, they will wrinkle, rust and fray. They’ll lend
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fingers their blusher and hum their tinnitus tune regardless of what you play. They creak when you tune them up. They aren’t as strong
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as they used to be. They are unable to bear the tension they have carried all their lives. When visited, they will glimmer with vitality, and dab
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!discreet perfumes onto your fingers, palms and wrists. The dull smells will stick to you like an old, stooped woman clinging to her Zimmer frame.
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Four Strings
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I remember the day when You decided to rediscover the cello.

We went back to the house – the one with the white walls and the ivy growing up
the front. With wasps in the kitchen and bats in the ceiling.

No one was there.

You found the cello in the living room, and gave a delighted squeak of recognition.
The instrument itself was by no means so pleased. It tremored, afraid, the wood
visibly warping as You grasped the bow in your hot and sticky hands.

‘It’s like riding a bike,’ You said, ‘I won’t have forgotten.’

‘Be careful,’ I said, ‘It’s not yours’.

‘It is now,’ You beam. You believe that You have not only won a house, but a new
toy to boot. To break.

It makes a terrible sound. Fingernails scraping down a blackboard, only louder.
But its owner will not hear. He, or she, is a long time dead, and cannot object.

But in my mind I hear another sound. A sweeter music from the past, played by
ghosts. A song that cuts across your scraping, although you cannot hear it. A sad
song, an old song, written into the grain of the wood. A history I stand on the edge
of but will never quite know. A history that You stamp over gleefully, discarding
the instrument and snapping the bow.

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IV
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Vicky Flood
Sharifa Begum
Tara Kearney
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The Uncomfortable Shoe

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Her

The waiter suggests they order the rack of beef, for two to share.

‘I’m a vegetarian,’ she says.

He considers the menu. ‘I would like the duck.’

She squirms. Duck.

‘And for the lady?’

‘The mushroom risotto. Please.’

He is distracted, bored already. Her mouth is dry. Nothing to say. Anything,
anything interesting. Anything uninteresting. Anything at all.

Talk about – the weather? No, not the weather. That won’t do.

It’s too late now, he is parting his lips to speak, a new direction.

‘Which way is the station?’ he asks.

Does he want to leave already?

‘About five or ten minutes, that way,’ she points, an indefinably futile gesture.
‘Why?’

‘No, I meant which direction. North? South? East?’

‘Oh. I don’t know.’ She strains to remember the direction of the sunset, but she
can’t. Over the canal? Which side of the canal?

He gets out his phone. His favourite prop, captured in that first portrait. Two
strangers on a train.

‘It’s west,’ he says.

She does not care for the compass on his phone.

‘Do you want to know what I wrote underneath your picture?’ she asks.

He shrugs. Maybe. Maybe not.

‘iMan on the train,’ she says.

‘That will date your work terribly,’ he says.
She stares out of the window, streetlight reflects off the murky surface of the
canal. She turns, and the water sparkles on the margins of her vision, like the edge
of a headache.

He consults his phone. She despises the shiny black object. A silent enemy.

‘Don’t you want to know why I called you that?’

‘No. Not really.’

She would like to reach forward and grab it from him. Throw it out of the window
and into the water. She wonders what would happen if she did. It tests the limits
of her imagination.

She leans down, adjusts the strap on her left shoe. New shoes, they pinch.

On the way up she sees him looking at her. Absent-mindedly he puts his phone
back into his pocket, still staring. Eyes wide, pupils dilated, surely this can’t be
love? How could this be love?

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When his meal arrives she shudders.

‘I can’t look at meat on the bone,’ she says, ‘It makes me sick.’

He tucks in.

Duck. Duck.

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Him

She orders more wine. Drinks too much. That type of girl.

She keeps fiddling with the shoes she shouldn’t have worn. Shoes she can’t really
carry off. Not the type.

Red shoes, filled with blood.

It will ruin the leather.

Her movements are clumsy. She reaches down, rubs her left foot.

‘Ouch’.

‘Is everything OK?’

‘Yes, fine,’ she replies - too brightly.
He would like to get a better look.

‘How’s your food?’

‘Good, thank you. Yours?’ she says, and takes a large sip of wine. ‘The duck.’

‘Excellent. Would you like to try some?’

‘NO.’

More wine, she leans forward. She’s about to share something, an intimate secret.
He’d rather she didn’t.

He wonders how to get her out of those shoes.

‘My ex-boyfriend looked a lot like a duck.’

He’s not sure what he’s meant to say to that. He pretends not to have heard.

‘He had a funny face.’

‘Do your feet still hurt?’

She looks embarrassed. Yes, he thinks - I have noticed. You regret the shoes. I
regret you in the shoes. Take off the shoes.

‘You should take them off,’ he says.

‘No, really, it’s fine.’

He shrugs.

‘If you would be more comfortable, you might as well.’

He can see her thinking, cogs in motion, too much blinking. She slips them off. A
sigh of relief.

Better.

‘Let’s order more wine,’ he says.

They drink.

‘I draw sketches too,’ he says.

‘What of?’ she asks.

‘It doesn’t matter.’

He pours her another glass.
‘Do you want to see the picture?’ she asks, ‘The one of you.’

‘No,’ he says.

‘Why not?’

It does not interest him in the slightest. It does not matter how she sees him. What
matters is what he sees, and he likes what he sees. He wants what he sees.

Eventually she is going to have to stand up.

He downs his glass. She follows his lead. He pours her another. And down - and
pour - and again - and finally –

‘Will you excuse me,’ she murmurs, ‘For just a moment...’

She heads in the direction of the Ladies, barefoot, stumbling. He watches her go.

Now is the moment to strike.

He reaches under the table and with one swift movement the shoes are his.

He runs, due west.

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He doesn’t stop until he is over the bridge, underneath the metal skeleton of the
old gasworks. In the half-darkness he slowly unlaces his shoes (men’s brogues,
Italian leather), takes them off and carefully sets them on the ground. Teetering
on the edge of an excited precipice he braces himself - a strained hysteria bubbles
up inside him, his stomach leaps into his mouth.

Now is the time.

He puts a tentative toe into the left shoe, and slowly slides in the rest of his foot.
And now the right.

They are a little tight, true, but the pain is worth it.

The moon peeps out from beneath the clouds, and drenches him in white light. He
begins to dance, a stumbling gait, uneasy at first - and then he starts to feel the
rhythm of the shoes. It fills him, a liquid beauty.

‘I am not the iMan,’ he stretches out in a single luxurious movement and dwarfs
the gasworks, ‘I am the Man with the Red Shoes.’

In the moonlight he is a graceful stilt-walker. Sixty feet tall, he parts the clouds
and parades through them.
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Red
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I am searching for the red encased treasure
Forever hunting because it makes me feel better
In a heap of unwanted leather, my fingers roam
This red delight lifts me away, I look down below
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Stormy seas that wash over me, always out of reach
Swimming, gasping, breathless, trying not to breach
The ancient codes forever threatening what I know
At least my red leather will see me safe, a danger I sow
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Come and see my sparrow bones, my pretty little feet.
Come dance upon the stepping stones
My body bears no meat.
Though my feet be bandage bound,
I am an angel, truly
My gait is tender, painful, truly
Bow forward in assistance to me.
This Dynasty of Songs creates
The female form made quite unearthly
Child brides with silk wrapped little toes
And painted faces smiling.
Good enough to eat, the girl with Lotus feet
Dances in between raindrops,
Her shadow proves more substance really
I did this to complete a journey
From child, to bride, to fine young lady.
Remove the bind and you will find,
Amongst the scent of jasmine breathing
Faint moans unearthed, an ugly duty
Something violated to be holy.
She soaks her feet in steaming waters
A daughter’s tears ring in the bowl
Her hair provides a drying cloth
Her fingers grace the beaten sole.
She does not eat, for fear more weight
Will break the shimmering gait completely
She dreams of fabric figures in eight
That hide the ripening flesh completely.
She never leaves the marriage bed
Her husband does not dare to frequent
He finds he is afraid of that
Which was to make her body pleasant.
The walk, they say, strengthen those muscles
Which make men meek and much obedient
But all he could see
Was mutilation
A pretty-packaged abomination.
It made him turn
He had night terrors
To be touched by those things while he slept!
So he turned to pretty peasant beggars
And bowed to feet that nature kept.
And so you perched upon the covers
Between four posters carved with flowers
And cast your mind back
To a time
That could have been forgotten.
The dawn before the woman came
You crept to step upon the dew
And wheeled and leapt and found a sweetness
To chase a dragonfly where it flew
But when the little dash of emerald
Was lost amongst the skies unbounded
You found a sickness slowly creeping,
Mostly fear which made you weaken.
Someone other than the mother, the old and toothless witch
Was bidden during winter months
Which brought with it a numbness
Seven years of age
She sat upon your chest –
‘Never lift a finger, never shall you work a day,
against your hands the virgin snow will look so dulled and grey’.
Her sister’s words were different
She chased them from her mind
But ‘every footstep feels like death’
Was broken glass and tile.
Warm spices and warm mammal blood
Baptized toenails pared to slivers
Curl the toes
Into the sole
Make fortune out of shivers.
Break the arch
Draw en pointe
Make sure you’re listening carefully:
For when the footfalls make no sound,
You know that she is truly bound.
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V
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Benjamin Mortimer
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‘One of the smartest two-year-olds in England’ -- a fragment

When I used to work for the National Foundation for the Propagation of Irish
Literature (NFPIL), the harsh bark on Beckett that ran across the Dublin office
used to be ‘start with the early novels, otherwise we're all sunk'. It was advice
that I carried to bed with me. A familiarity with the work of Irish dramatists
was enjoying a vogue as the last word in pillow-talk and, at the time, I was
fortunate to know huge screeds of Watt by heart. If the heart failed (as was the
perpetual post- and indeed pre- and intra-coital fear), the head could make it
up:

…this is my earth. And my father’s. And my mother’s. And my father’s
father’s. And my father’s mother’s. And my mother’s father’s. And my
mother’s mother’s. And my father’s father’s father’s. And my father’s
father’s mother’s. And my father’s mother’s father’s. And my father’s
mother’s mother’s. And my mother’s father’s father’s. And my mother’s
father’s mother’s. And my mother’s mother’s father’s. And my mother’s
mother’s mother’s…

I never knew if my formulaic iterations matched the actual text of the book; I
just followed the algorithm ‘state father; state mother; repeat for previous
terms; repeat for product’. Seized with the Irish love of the races, I was often
down at the track taking a flutter, where the stasis of earth relative to the
creatures roaming its surface was resolved in emblem: successful horses had a
brief peak of a few seasons, with the next generation hard on their heels. The
races resembled the zoetrope of a horse galloping, repeating the same
movement of legs running, beginning again, running, beginning again, a solid-
state gif. A new horse with each derby, but animated in the same movement,
directly descended from its forebear.

In horseracing, as in farming, genetics is the only game in town. NFPIL didn’t
pay hugely well, and so to optimise my gambling earnings I turned frequently
to the internet to make sure I was backing winners. If you want to know the
ancestry of a particular racehorse, you could do worse than consult
Pedigreequery.com, ‘an online Thoroughbred horse database consisting of
more than 1.2 million horses from around the world’, arranged into such easily
scrutinised clades as:

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Your response here?
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Please continue on a separate sheet if necessary.
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Contributors
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Ryan Annett
Six Strings
Red (‘Blood / drips…’)
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Sharifa Begum
Red (‘I am searching…’)
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Vicky Flood
The Uncomfortable Shoe
Four Strings
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Tara Kearney
Golden Lotus
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Benjamin Mortimer
‘One of the smartest two-year-olds in England’—a fragment
Snow/Tangerine Response — a fragment
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Nikki Moss
Headspace (reprinted from out of the box, November 2012
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Jenni Sidey
Response to ‘Headspace’
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Becky Varley Winter
Tangerine
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Guest Editor: Lizzi Mills
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