Writer in Residence • April 2018 • Birch

April 9, 2018

We are delighted to share Rebecca Sharp's fourth piece of writing for our exhibition Courting the Muse

Please take time to read Rebecca's work, while enjoying the work of the artists

View the exhibition here

: 31st March – 12th May

Dominique Cameron, Kim Canale, David Cass, Matthew Draper, Henry
Kondracki

I already knew and loved Dominique Cameron’s work, and enjoyed reading
her statement for this exhibition about the Muse.  She writes about being a teenager, drawn to walking
around the edges of her rural environment to find meaning and adventure; which
still informs her practice of walking and making work.  You can see all kinds of edgelands in her
work – road closures; boards, railings and fences; boundaries, slipways.  The point of view poised at a fork in the
road.  Where we’re shown a path in a
forest – a route through – the eye is drawn to the black tangles of trees and
shrubbery at the sides.  Light in the
distance, but we haven’t emerged yet.

I think we share that inner teenage voice – our own versions of course.  Though my experience was of growing up in
Glasgow, my adventures still took me to the in-between places: climbing through
holes in fences, finding the playgrounds and gardens I wasn’t supposed to use;
stairways and lampposts on corners.  They
seemed like good places to hide, but in fact they were places of revelation.

My prose writing to date has been preoccupied with this childhood or teenage
interest in risk and of seeking adventure and identity in peripheral spaces –
especially in
(2012).  I loved reading Dominique’s description of
herself as still being
– which I certainly recognise in myself, and as a
driving force behind my own work.

Seeing these connections, I remembered a piece of prose I had been
playing around with –
Something I’d often tinkered with and
then left; revisited, but which hadn’t yet found a home.  Recently, I’ve been starting to gather ideas for
a novel, which itself feels like standing on the edge of a deep dark forest,
taking that first step into the unknown. 
Reading Dominique’s own words and seeing her work again felt like an
invitation to finish this extract, to bring it out to the light and into the
beginnings of a story.  I think
(and whatever it might become) shares
this same feeling of being on an adventure both outward and inward, not quite
sure what’s going on, but being at home with uncertainty.  Feeling compelled to go to places real and
imagined, without needing to know what you might find there – giving yourself
over to that inner voice. 

 Birch

 

Betula, birch.

I never knew
there were two of you.

That you are
completely incomplete.  That you are what
I think with. 

 

You’re the
sting across my face, the sudden underscore.  

The sound of
silver dug out from the leaves. 

 

Imagine that I
found you there, leaves veined with silver, seeping silver, branches swooping
low to silver-tip the soil.  To lead us
underground to the tiny lit pools of what we might have thought was missing.  And that we were glistening.

 

This could be
a letter to your unsolved selves. 

The one that
still kneels under tables; with sounds of adults talking underwater through
palms pressed tight against your ears. 
Keep pressing; find the point where the membrane is at its thinnest.  Where time diminishes and the voices shrink
back inside the speakers.  The voices
that once leant deadly against the hush of your blood, the crack as those hands
pressed too tight. 

 

And I know
this isn’t real but that it could be, in the scatter of twigs in the cold air
that drives you and the rain; the tread of that hillside and the one that’s
inside you, that’s there when you open your eyes.

 

It’s as
natural as any other kind of difference in the world. 

It makes
itself known; indicates its presence in the soil.

 

Wintergreen is
the air you breathe.

Desire lines
lead you between pages, branches.  Places
you might have been before.

Blank,
unplanned, alive in the cold. 

This shouldn’t be happening

The cold gets
colder. 

 

You never said
whose hands they were.

Betula, birch.

 

Like
deforestation it strips you clear; the sudden introduction of air to
shadow. 

You are the
stark white timber: feel the stricture at your throat. 

Something
narrows at your ribs and something else is unearthed.

 

Now indicate
your presence in the soil.

 

© Rebecca Sharp 2018