“…dizzying scale of the museum’s ability to inform and entrance me”

Gary Studley is currently poet-in-residence at Canterbury Roman Museum.

Bonjour, folks and welcome to Blog Two. Although it’s early on in my residency, I’ve already worked out that there may be no great  regularity as to when I post blogs!  As I have yet to be talent spotted by BloodAxe or Faber & Faber  as the literary equivalent of a mind-reading dog, I happily earn my crust by teaching part-time. Accordingly,  my posts about the Roman Museum will be effected by how much free time I have to get into the city and more importantly in what form inspiration hits  me each week. Only time will tell. But we’ve started off well!

I confess right now that I have had no formal education in history, so  working closely with the Roman Museum and the historic city is a daunting challenge and one I have set myself to stretch myself. Where I’m from (the fantastic, faded-seaside-glamour town of Hastings) at secondary school you had to choose between studying French or German; Geography or History. I chose my options based on a mixture of two criteria: which teacher was less violent or boring (French) and which subject could I do more drawing in (Geography). In reality, judging both by my exam results and my woeful lack of skills in using a second language, these choices may very well have been bad ones! And if I continue to be honest, one of the many  reason that recent curriculum reforms so appalled me was the (slightly exaggerated)  idea of children standing at their desks to parrot the chronological order of the Kings, Queens and infamous battles of Great Britain – a task in which I too, would be awful! But all this may soon change!

Obviously although drawing links across our island’s development, the museum is more Canterbury-centric than Britain focused, but I’m certain that if he were to pay his entrance fee, Michael Gove himself would have skipped down the stairs, flitting eyes lizard-like, left to right across the walls, tongue excitingly traversing lips as he savoured the wealth of dates, names and information stencilled there.  Personally, I particularly like the practical logic of  peeling away from the tourists of 2015 and descending from the street-level reception counter, down an, at times, surprising and varied time-line, full of weird and wonderful facts to read, to arrive in the body of the museum at AD43, at the point of the Roman invasion of the Canterbury area.  Today’s visit was spent being introduced to the staff and the building itself by The Canterbury Museum and Galleries Officer, Paul Russell, an enthusiastic and tireless young man, almost as interested in what the collection and the residential collaboration might inspire as I am! As such, what struck me today was the possibly dizzying scale of the museum’s ability to inform and entrance me once I take more time to investigate it in detail. But here’s a taste of today’s creativity. Enjoy.

…Peel away to ask and

pay yourself in

and once done,

go on down, down

through the twin dogs

of dates and names

guarding not the gates of hell

but rather – well, what ? …

 

Gary is a writer and visual artist with long-term connections to Canterbury. Having a keen interest in the city’s present and historic past, he is looking forward to investigating the museum and as a vivid commentator on place and people, plans to use the museum’s atmosphere, artefacts and human interactions as inspiration for his writing and artwork. 

Gary will be at Canterbury Roman Museum on selected dates between Friday 01 May and Monday 31 August 2015
Dates include 17 July 12–4pm and 7 August 12–4pm

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