Mark Emery – An Atom of Sweet in Mud

23 Apr 2019 / #Arvon50

Lumb Bank House

Arriving home, somewhat wacked, leaving Lumb Bank was not so much a flurry of goodbyes but a time to ponder many new beginnings.

I liken Lumb Bank to a Cauldron, which can be used either to prepare nourishing food for sustenance or to invoke a new artistic creation comprised of multitudinous ingredients and all charged with elemental magic. The cauldron is not unlike the womb where an egg and a sperm, each loaded with histories merge, and with fire and fury create a hybrid creature. In the womb we are brooding potential yet to realise thought or language, we are a story in embryo.

Some people say you are what you are; your identity is fixed once the sperm and egg fuse. I say you are as deep as the universe and as old as time and nothing is beyond your reach. Beware the voices that fix you in a time and a place and give you a blueprint of your makeup. They lie. They deceive. They mark their own identity by defining and restricting yours. Resist.

Julia Kristeva, philosopher and psychoanalyst proposed the idea of The Chora, a womb like maternal space in which all our potential exists prior to birth and the impact the world will have on us. I liken the Lumb Bank experience to The Chora. We all dipped into our nascent origins, plunging headlong into the cauldron. Some of us were waylaid by ghosts and monsters, come they from the outside or come they from the inside. This is all the stuff of the writer, gentle humour parading the absurdities of the everyday, the cyclic repetition of the mundane, the ravages of trauma and the tragedies of loss, the deep hollow yearning pain for something vital missing that cannot be named or given a shape.

We were the microcosm within the macrocosm, all of life was there and it was for the most part kindly and loving, abundant with the delight of meeting the other and the enrichment our openness to them brings.

I think it very hard to write well. How easy it is to slip into clichés. They have their place but need to surprise rather than explain. Avoid the obvious. Invade the reader with subtle seductions. The writer places the ingredients in the cauldron and stirs. There are no new elements, only reconfigurations of tales many times told. Words long born fluctuate and change with time, weathered by the elements. As writers we honour the life and power of words, the twists and turns they take as they seduce, provoke and surprise us. As earthly creatures, composed of the five elements of earth, air, water, fire and ether, we shared at Lumb Bank the mysterious alchemy of birthing and nurturing art that transforms both writer and reader. It was a fertile fusion of delightfully disparate elements forged in the magical beauty of the Yorkshire countryside.

The title An Atom of Sweet in Mud is taken from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte



Arvon turned 50 in 2018 and to celebrate we have collected the stories of writers far and wide who have a tale to tell about Arvon. The collection is published in our anniversary book and featured on our blog. This contribution is by Mark Emery. 


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