Blindsided: story in pieces

[Interstitial: n. Of an intervening space; esp. a relatively small or narrow space, between things or the parts of a body, of the minute spaces between the ultimate parts of matter. From the Latin, interstitium, space between]

[fragment: transf. and fig. a broken piece; a small detached portion, a part remaining or still preserved when the whole is lost or destroyed. from the Latin, frangĕre to break]


What images have burnt a trace in your mind when all else is forgotten? What stands when all else has fallen? What do we take with us when we flee?

Story burns, story stands. Story defines and identifies.

Anders Nilsen compiled Don’t go where I can’t follow, a story told in postcards, letters, cartoons, scraps torn from his jottings as his fiancée Cheryl was torn from him, from life. A camping trip, photos from when they visited France, then everything changes with the black and white text and sketches in The Hospital. After that, The Lake, the graphic story describes how Anders scatters Cheryl’s ashes where they had planned to marry. The book was first created as a memorial for friends and family. A relationship in ninety pages, this assemblage is as moving as thousands of words. It tells the story.


[fugitive adj. Apt or tending to flee; given to, or in the act of, running away. From the Latin, fugĕre to flee]


Story is elusive. Scattered snapshots, some burnt, blow across the pine needled forest floor. The house no longer stands, the people have been taken away, but a child hid in a gap in the wall, and now he is running too, so the story can go on … start … flickers, traces of memory, Fugitive Pieces, blurred memories tainted and torn by trauma, as in The Drowned City, the first section of Anne Michael’s novel. Chase the story, run it down, pursue it, consume it until it is part of you that only ends with death.


[fiction n. arbitrary invention, that which is fashioned or framed, counterfeiting, the action of ‘feigning’ or inventing imaginary incidents, existences; the species of literature which is concerned with the narration of imaginary events and the portraiture of imaginary characters. From the Latin fictiōn-em , noun of action, fingĕre to fashion or form]


Experimental stories glide into your mind, unseen, seep, creep, slide. Their presence eludes touch, but they are there, none-the-less. Expect no start, middle, end, no neat ravelling of threads to form a rope evenly over pages, chapters. When you close the book the rope is there, none-the-less.

In Katherine Angel’s Unmastered, A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell a woman meets a man, has sex, conceives, has an abortion; ‘and then down, down, down, further and further I tumbled – Alice, pointy boots, tressed hair, topsy turvey into a tunnel of grief, into its numbing invisible embrace.’ (p238) Abortion reverberates through her life, through the white spaces in her book where something elusive starts to become present, something intangible, something that changes texture when you try to grip it.

‘5.           Years later I roamed, stunned, excited, through the Neues Museum in Berlin: rebuilt, restored; the archive of itself.

Its wounds preserved, lovingly rendered. Its memory on its skin.’


Story emerges, unbidden, unbound.


[borrow: v. To take (a thing) on credit, on the understanding of returning it, or giving an equivalent; a thing recognized as being the property of another, to whom it is returnable.]


The pieces for this story are borrowed, appropriated, adapted. I learn through others. I take what I am given, and that which I am not given. I consume, devour other people’s stories to narrate my own.

Life’s events force story: we are compelled to tell our stories, of trauma, of change. Life is rich in complexity, messy, uncertain, relationships are tangled, and however much you want closure, a creative writer’s perfect plot, the script writer’s story arc, neat endings are unlikely. As Anne Carson writes, ‘The fragments of the Geryoneis itself read as if Stesichoros had composed a substantial narrative poem then ripped it to pieces and buried the pieces in a box with some song lyrics and lecture notes and scraps of meat … you can of course keep shaking the box.’(P6-7). That is life, that is writing about life.


[shake: v. to move quickly to and fro. To vibrate irregularly, tremble. To shiver, vibrate, flutter.intr. A poetical word for: To go, pass, move, journey; to flee, depart, in physical and non-physical senses.]

[unsettle: v. to force out of a settled condition; to deprive of fixity or quiet, not peaceful, not firmly established.]



  1. Marsh, Henry, Do No Harm, Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery (Phoenix, London, 2014)
  2. Jay, Martin, Downcast Eyes University of California Press 1994
  3. Nilsen, Anders,, Don’t go where I can’t follow (Drawn and Quarterly Quebec 2012)
  4. Michael, Anne, Fugitive Pieces (Bloomsbury, London, 1998)
  5. Carson, Anne, Autobiography of Red, (Jonathon Cape, London 1998)
  6. Angel, Katherine, Unmastered, A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell (Allen Lane, London2012)
  7. Inspiration for word definitions derives from and accessed 3, 25, 28 March 2015 and Downcast Eyes (referenced above)

Blindsided: Introduction

‘My first sight on entering the consultation room was a Babel-like tower of multi-coloured folders containing the patient’s notes … a tower of sheets of paper, bursting out of dog-eared files, in which the recent relevant results have rarely been filed, and if they have been filed, have been filed in such a way that it is usually very difficult to find them.’

(Marsh 2014 p264)

Aspects of people’s stories can be found between the pages of a medical record, yet medical records are about the patient, not the person, for the practitioner. In much of what we have read this term the overall story is an accumulation, something found in the words on the page but also in between the words, between the pages, within different styles and formats, which makes me think of the way that a medical record works.

I want to unsettle conventional expectations of a medical record and use it as inspiration and as a place to contain poetry, prose and critical work, the scaffolding for the story of a person. Because of my background as an optometrist, I have written about sight loss, and explore issues of changing identity in relation to shifts related to sight loss. Sight loss unsettles the human experience in the same way that experimental writing can. It forces you to look in a different way, use different parts of your vision, your brain, your mind. Did you know that people with cortical visual impairment may not be able to ‘see’ an object, yet can still react to its presence?

Our senses are dominated by the visual, and as Martin Jay explains in Downcast Eyes (1994 p3), so is our language. Development of sight comes late to the foetus, and much only happens post birth. Since the industrial revolution our culture has shifted from oral to visual. In the imagination, our brains prioritise images over sounds and smells. The visual function takes a disproportionately large part of our brain, and it dominates this paper. Visual metaphors recur throughout. French creeps into this paper, as does Old English, as does Latin, language of medicine, in attempt to seize back jargon, to own language, on behalf of the patient, the person, my self.

With more space and time I would have included letters – a medical record is packed with referral letters between practitioners, post it notes, perhaps the person’s own notes, letters and thoughts. There is a further critical paper on sight loss in literature that I could not include due to constraints of space. This story spills out beyond these sheets.




  1. Marsh, Henry, Do No Harm, Stories of Life, Death and Brain Surgery (Phoenix, London, 2014)
  2. Jay, Martin, Downcast Eyes University of California Press 1994
  3. Nilsen, Anders,, Don’t go where I can’t follow (Drawn and Quarterly Quebec 2012)
  4. Michael, Anne, Fugitive Pieces (Bloomsbury, London, 1998)
  5. Carson, Anne, Autobiography of Red, (Jonathon Cape, London 1998)
  6. Angel, Katherine, Unmastered, A Book on Desire, Most Difficult to Tell (Allen Lane, London2012)
  7. Inspiration for word definitions derives from and accessed 3, 25, 28 March 2015 and Downcast Eyes (referenced above)

An’ here I go again on my own … Blindsided

blindsided coverIt’s term paper time. Experimental writing term paper time. Whatever comes up next on the blog should perhaps come with a warning. It’s written for a very small audience: people who are interested in sight and blindness along with experimental writing and the avant garde. I suspect I may be the only person in the centre of this Venn diagram … but I’ve been bitten hard by this one, it’s obsessing me, and I have so much more written than will fit in the term paper, and it’s all going to end up here …

watch this space

The title is Blindsided. Visual metaphors ripple through the work.

watch this space



quote: Derrida, Jaques, Droit De Regard (Les Impressions Nouvelles 2010)

Experimental writing workshop 4: Create Your own Writing Exercise

Writing in a box

this term we have been exposing unwritten rules about writing.

Do you always start sentences with a capital?

why? because you were told to? what happens if you don’t?

writing without rules, outside rules, with new rules, your own rules, any sort of experimental writing, is scary, exposing, liberating.

try to write with new rules, with the rules that you devise yourself, with

my rules,

his rules,

her rules.

when you write like this Do you find a new you?

have you got a pen? do you need one to take part in this class? do you have to write with pen on paper, black on white? black marks on a screen? what happens if you write in white on white?

does your writing need to be understood?

Take away the rules of writing, and what are you left with? There’s nothing scarier to a writer than a totally blank page: at the same time that page is full of potential, the perfect object of desire.

Give me space to write and I could write anything.

So, here goes. I’m giving you a space to write. Space with new walls, new rules.

Go to the supermarket, the café, the corner store. Hang out at the back, try not to look too suspicious. Eye up everything they have chucked out until you find the cardboard boxes. Look for the biggest box you can find. If you live near Ikea, all the better. Pick a box, big enough to fit a body in. Take it home.

Set up your box. Use tape to reassemble it if it has been flattened. Switch off your phone.

Take your box, and find it a place. This might be the bathroom, perfect if it has no windows. What about the basement, the attic?

My basement is concrete lined and dark.

Find a marginal space, somewhere you won’t be disturbed. If there are windows, pull the curtains.  Lock the door. If there is a light, put it out. Do you need clothes? If not, disrobe. Pick up your pen: I did say that you’d need a pen, didn’t I. Choose the colour of your ink.

My ink is white.

Climb into your box, seal yourself inside, sit there, legs furled, pen in hand. Eyes shut.

Feel the card against you, warm card, warm skin. Do you want to move, wriggle, shuffle? Adjust your position until you can be still, then sit again until the bones of your pelvis burn and your spine fuses.

Listen. What can you hear in your box? Water flowing through pipes? The rustle that might be mice? The rub as you breathe in and out? The whoosh of blood in your ears. Impulses racing down nerves, the message each sound sends to your brain? Listen until you can hear your irises dilate.

Open your mouth. What is on your tongue? Is the air stale, metallic? Can you taste the last meal you ate, lingering garlic? Do you thirst? Salivate, and taste yourself.

Inhale. Smell the room around you, your own scent, that of the box. Stay there, stay with that, how long do you need to stay there before it changes? When do you end up immersed in the scent of your own excreta?

Now, open your eyes. What can you see? Is it dark in your box? It’s not, not really, not if you have sat there long enough for your irises to dilate, your rods to adapt, for every cell in your retina to scream for stimulation. Track the lines of light where the box is made, the outside world seeping in through cracks and corners, follow them round and round, up and down, trace them with your gaze until your head spins and you no longer know which way is up.

Now write.

Write your heart beat, write your enclosure, write out, write infinity. Write secrets, write blindness, write what you know and what you don’t know, never knew, will never ever know again. Write on the walls of your box until they are covered, and when you have covered the walls write on your own skin, until there is no boundary between you and your box and your pen has run out of ink. And if you need to write more, you must write in your own blood.

When you have written, burst open your body, your box, cardboard sprawl on carpet, on concrete.

Flatten your box. Expose your words, let light in and see the true colour of your ink.

Lie on your box and be your words. Ride them, wavewords, ride them, sightless horses, ride them ecstatic until they cast you back on the shore.



Helene Cixous The Laugh of the Medusa (1975) in The Routledge Language and Cultural Theory Reader, 2000

Helene Cixous Writing Blind, in Stigmata, Routledge 1988

CA Conrad A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon

Knife-edged Love

If you are broken I might be enough

sun in my eyes blind me to what stands

stone grey sea rises and falls with my heart beat

worship me you say

cotton, polyester, wool,

fingers freeze

waves ride in relentless sea

wind in my hair

feet enclosed in fur lined boots

my worship is not enough

I stay hidden

next to my skin

chill at my breast

unceasing sea roll me over and over

sun warm on my eyes

grey white winter skin and hair

cotton polyester wool in layers keep me warm

food in my belly                love

what I want is fractured

knife edged love

chill freeze my fingers

rays caress me open

waves roll in       heaped spray spreads into sheets of foam

wind blows harder

knife marks your wound

why is it so hard to think about love

out of place nothing before me

no more skin exposed than lips and nose and icyfingertips

heat escapes      capillaries contract

sea slide up the beach bubble and roil

sun seeps through the cold

just like your words scar

other than as a mirror for you

what I want doesn’t exist

strip layer after layer,

expose my eskimo skin

waves roll and roll

role on

I bare myself for you

because I can imagine what I want

still chill on my heart

roll no gold line roll on

you are hundreds of miles away

will you do the same for me?

Experimental writing workshop 3 (First Draft)

This week we can either:

1. write about being naked in a truck full of strangers in another, imaginary, world. how will we SHOW the differences, sociologically and anthropologically, by the interactions between us and our fellow prisoners. (Ref, Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness)

2. construct a physical world and write about it.

3. write about love without the use of gender pronouns.

I pick 3.

Please excuse the French in the first draft, as I have put this all down very quickly – any corrections gratefully appreciated (plus my Petit Robert fails me on limerance and liminal!)

frontier love

to love = aimer


we love without borders

in limerance I give myself to you

no holding back, no baggage

our love is perfect

hold this/that moment


je suis

tu es

nous sommes

nous tombons

nous sommes tombé(e)s amoureux


a border divides us, a sea, a language

I don’t know why I think I can love in French when my love in English is imperfect


nous aimons

nous avons aimé(e)s

nous aimons quand …

nous avons aimé(e)s

nous aimons sans frontières

en limerance je me donne à toi

sans retenue, aucune bagage

notre amour est parfait

maintiens ce moment


I am

you are

we are

we fall

we fell in love, we fell loving

une frontière qui nous divise, une mer, une langue

je ne sais pas pourquoi je pense que je peux aimer en français quand mon amour en anglais est imparfait

we love

we loved

we were loving when …

we used to love


under au dessous de La Manche, 250 feet below sea level, ca c’est soixante seize mètres a toi, I pause, je m’arrête, weight of water (l’eau) crushing me m’écrase

as I travel again comme je voyage encore

liminal space/espace liminal

my life divided/ma vie divisée

from yours

no we. oui?

If you say tomber en amour to a French(wo)man, s/he/they/we may start looking for holes.

to see: voir

the sea: la mer

je traverse la mer de te voir

je deviens une mère/un père

tu deviendras un père/une mère

nous serons des parents

unspeakable difference