Saturday 17 March 2012

A Load of Nonsense;Lear's 200th;'Word of Mouth'

There was something joyously explorative about today's show for and about Edward Lear, recorded in Bristol Central Library for BBC Radio 4's 'Word of Mouth'.

The line-up was writer Philip Ardagh, academics Anna Barton and James Williams and actor Paul Nicholson. Children from three local schools, Luckwell, Sefton Park and Cabot were there with their poems and pieces of nonsense and an audience of about 200.

We tried to weave a picture of nonsense in general, its history, Lear's own life and work alongside some specific pieces from Philip and me. The mood in the library was attentive and quick-witted. People seemed to be willing us on.

I think this is going to be an interesting year for looking at what nonsense (or 'new sense', as I've called it in the previous blog on this) is all about and we think we're doing with it. Of course it can oscillate between the twee and the subversive, between a refuge to the dangerous. One moment it appears to be disrupting the whole social order and the next seems to be saying hurrah for hierarchy. It seems to have instability running through its fabric.

My favourite line of the day came from a girl from Cabot Primary: 'There will be no sun today. It's melted.'

The great melter, that melts anything that gets too near to it, has in the end melted itself. For half a moment, nonsense can threaten the solar system. And then we laugh and the sun goes on being exactly as it was.

And today was also about nonsense not being just one thing. At one moment it was the sound of words that were being broken up or having attention drawn to them - rather than directly to their meaning. Another time, as with Philip's work, say, it's the form that gets disrupted. In his case, he often 'spoils' the telling of the story by interrupting it, asking the 'author' questions, telling 'him' to get on, thereby hiding the fact that it's another 'author'  ie another one who Philip is pretending to be, who is asking the questions! Storytelling becomes unstable.

I could go on...but please listen on Tuesday March 20 at 4.00pm (the Guardian 'Guide' has given it a nice plug), BBC Radio 4. Repeated on Monday March 26 at 11.00pm. After that, it'll be on iPlayer for the rest of time. (Does time rest?Sometimes.)