Deadlines are coming at me from all directions. They’re flying in thick and fast … and there’s no dodging them.
I’ve been a touch frantic in the past week. This, perhaps, explains how a whole mug of tea ended up on the study rug rather than by the computer. Perhaps.
As I’m not known for my coordination, it is possible the rather promising brew was always doomed.
The present collision of deadlines is unusual.
I am no stranger to the intersection of a few due dates but the current fortnight is a doozy.
My response? Set-up to-do list, remember that fretting about timelines makes me tetchy (sorry, loved ones), catch up with friends, remember to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air, sit on a couch by the window in a favourite cafe and write while waiting for an appointment,* take in a few lectures.
Why? Breaks that require me to stay alert and give time for reflection and planning are more helpful than simply ‘switching off”.
I find that if I choose television as a break activity I struggle to get back to working effectively. Engaging with other people and ideas creates space between one set of tasks and the next. So does the processing time that driving across town allows. I gather I’m not alone with this.
The bonus: once I’m on campus I find I am ready to focus and I tend to be quite productive. I think I’ve made that observation previously.
It was tricky, but I made it to three lectures this week. I’m glad I did.
The Bodleian and the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays
Wednesday was Pip Willcox’s talk for UWA’s Institute of Advanced Studies: ‘for Harry, England, and … everyone: the many lives of the Bodleian First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays’. Pip Willcox is Curator of Digital Special Collections at the Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. She gave an account of the Bodleian’s ownership of a specific copy of the book, the physical features of the book, and the project to digitise the Folio.
It’s probably no surprise that I’m a book geek. I find the history of books as objects – and the history and process of creating books – fascinating. I wanted to make it to the lecture as soon as I saw the abstract. The story of this particular copy has drama and intrigue. I wish I had time to go into the details.
The digitised product Willcox was speaking about looks to be a wonderful resource. The project website is still available at http://shakespeare.bodleian.ox.ac.uk and the digitised version of the folio is available at http://firstfolio.bodleian.ox.ac.uk. I can’t wait to have some free time to get in and look around properly.
Bresnick on Blake, Goya and Kafka
Thursday brought another presentation sponsored by the IAS featuring the composer Martin Bresnick, Professor of Composition, Yale School of Music. The title of the talk was ‘Listening to Images, Hearing the Text: new music that engages the visual and the literary’.
Bresnick spoke about his work as a composer – particularly in relation to the development of his multimedia piece developed from ‘For The Sexes: the Gates of Paradise’ by William Blake and his response to Francesco de Goya’s ‘Caprichos Enfaticos’.
The evening included a live performance of ‘For the Sexes: the Gates of Paradise’ by Lisa Moore. The combination of music, spoken word and a projected animation of Blake’s illustrations of the poem was intense and visceral. It left me wanting to go back to Blake and read more by and about him. I’ll also look out for an online version of the multimedia piece. Not just yet, though. I need time and space for that.
The recorded extracts from ‘Caprichos Enfaticos’ were powerful, and disturbing. Again, I want to go back to look at the full piece. That will definitely be down the track.
There wasn’t time for a performance of the third billed piece, on Franz Kafka’s ‘A Message from the Emperor’ but Bresnick’s account of the piece was intriguing. Something else to look into … again, at a later date.
Qaisra Shahraz on Building Bridges
The final lecture in the trio was an author talk by Qaisra Shahraz on ‘Building Cultural Bridges through Literature’ that was sponsored by the UWA Centre for Muslim States and Societies.
Shahraz moved to Britain from Pakistan when she was nine. She writes novels and has a commitment to building bridges, using literature to celebrate diversity. Identifying as as British, Pakistani and Muslim, Shahraz spoke about how each of these identities is important to her as a person and a writer. Reading from her novels, she shared a world that is alien and familiar.
This third talk came as a welcome change of pace. Making the dash from work to uni didn’t appeal and I was tempted to cut my losses and head home. I’m glad I braved the freeway at peak hour.
I walked away with a copy of her first novel. I’m afraid it will linger on my shelf before I get a chance to read it. I will want to take time and not be distracted by other things.
Even if I’m tempted … I must resist for at least the next few weeks!
*The window in question for this particular post was at Bread in Common. On Saturday morning the sun was streaming in, the sky was clear. It was perfect for writing and working out a plan of attack for the weekend and the week ahead.