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  • Writer's pictureCaleb Parkin

Beautiful Weeds, Cities and Systems

Botanical Time-Teller

At the end of last month, I performed the Vermin Cycle at Green Man Festival – it was a great experience, although it was a very family audience, not all of whom went along with the gothic style of the poems. Ah well! Find your audience, speak to them. There are some picture of the performance in the ‘Listen/Read’ page – and I’m going to refine some recordings of all the Vermin pieces from the Halo Open Mic night.

It’s been rolling around in my head of late that I would like another poetry ‘project’ or sequence to write. Having finished writing the seven Vermin pieces, I realised how much I enjoy a creative system – coupling the seven ‘verminous’ species with the Seven Deadly Sins gave some unexpected results, a fruitful ‘liberating structure’. Perhaps I’m reasonably ordered in my approach to things, but creativity as a completely ‘organic’ or unstructured process doesn’t always end up being rewarding, in my experience. When artists or writers talk about their ‘practice’ – sometimes to others’ chagrin – there’s an implied sense of development and progression, learning from what’s worked before, structuring those things which ‘come to you’ and nurturing what arises (as I think Virginia Woolf said something about – ‘Structure the things that come to you’, or similar).

So, moving on from the idea of Vermin – animals in the ‘wrong place’ and in the ‘wrong numbers’ – I was thinking about weeds. What is a weed? We’re perpetually pulling up Bind-weed (or Devil’s Guts, as it is also known!) from our allotment – it’s a strangling presence, it’s true. But it’s also very beautiful, with its white flute-flowers – and the way it strangles is actually a real wonder. Have a look. I’ve been listening a lot to a group called ‘The Burns Unit’ – who are fantastic, I encourage you to listen too ( ). There’s a gorgeous lyric in one of the songs, ‘A young boy hands his mother / A beautiful weed’.

Many plants we consider weeds are really just ‘plants in the wrong place’ – according to our idea of planned horticulture and propagation. Neither is wrong, it’s just interesting to step outside inherited notions of ‘good’ or ‘bad’ plants and see them all as ‘plants in context. Likewise, in my hippy-lefty-liberal idea of people, more or less all of us could be the right kind of flower – but so often end up mired in some situation that makes us feel like ‘weeds’ – the wrong kind of plant, or the right kind of plant in the wrong conditions. Frequently in our attempts at planned cityscapes, the situation emerges as much more of an ‘organic’ one than any plan or government can realistically cater for everyone who dwells there. (This is where Imposed Buddhist Anarchy comes in, but that’s another post – and yes, it’s a deliberate nonsense!)

Having become more involved in Aro Buddhism over the last year, there was a course recently on Embracing Emotions as the Path. There’s some more information about the idea here:

It’s a useful system for understanding how we deal with the world, our reactions and distortions. I’m presently doing some more research into weeds – and would like to write something which ‘weaves together’ some characters with the properties of both people and weeds, as well as flickering between those qualities listed to do with the elements, into a space which is at once urban and organic – where we attempt to order our ‘patch’, but find it growing in ways we couldn’t have expected. When I’ve something more of this to show, then I’ll post it up.

I’ve also got a Murder Mystery to write – I’ll post up about that once it’s further progressed.

For now, I really should go and water the actual allotment, rather than typing about the idea of plants!

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