Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Memory Fails Me Not

John Levett, venturing after poet Philip Larkin, recreates his own past —true to the present.

imageAt Hull University

Essay and photos by John Levett

About a week ago I delivered a presentation entitled ‘Refractory memory.’ Some of the definitions of ‘refractory’ include obstinate, stubborn, mulish, pigheaded, obdurate, headstrong, self-willed, wayward, wilful, perverse, contrary, recalcitrant, obstreperous, disobedient, difficult. For this the research group, I was presenting work derived from a four day stay in the city of Hull on the Humber estuary; in the context of my own photographic practice, I was reflecting upon the persistence of pronounced subjects in the images that I capture. I was also asking why I keep returning to Hull. Screen dissolve.

In the first week of October 1964 I travelled up to Hull to the university. I stayed for three days. It was the first of five universities that I went to in the ‘60s. I could never settle to the life. It has only been of late that I have recognised the processes by which I learn and none of the places I went to in that decade let me get on with my own curriculum. With Hull, however, I never gave it a chance.

I went up on the Monday in a friend’s car and we arrived long after nightfall. I woke up in the morning in the hall of residence I’d been assigned, took a look around the barracks, found out it was miles from the campus and started making my exit plans. Day two included a talk by the librarian on what to expect. He stood above us (on a stage? on a podium? just tall?) and said: “I feel like Hitler or John Lennon.” It was at this point that I missed a trick. Anyone who comes out with a first line like that in the retentive context of the provincial university of that time is no bore. If he’d then read ‘This Be The Verse’ then I’d have taken notice, bought the book and hung around. He didn’t as he hadn’t written it yet, and he’d have found self-promotion vulgar anyway.

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Posted by Julie on 10/12 at 11:30 AM
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