Filed under: Lindow Man Exhibition, Poetry | Tags: archaeology and poetry, Bog bodies, Lindow Man & art, Lindow Man exhibitions, manchester museum body lindow
When we were working on the Lindow Man exhibition last year, at one point I got very interested in poetry and the way archaeological discoveries often inspire poets. One has only to think about Seamus Heaney and the bog poems for example. For various reasons we didn’t pursue the poetry angle but now there’s a chance to look at poetry again.
A lady called Joan Poulson has contacted the Manchester Museum about the Lindow Man exhibition. She expresses mixed feelings about showing the remains of the man she knows as Pete. He has been one of her four favourite ‘exhibits’ in the British Museum for many years and in fact she rarely goes to London without paying him a visit. Joan is intending to visit the Museum soon. Joan has built up her own story around this man and was a little worried to find out Pete was displayed at another museum. She says she was relieved to find out that the Manchester Museum aims to treat human remains with respect & dignity. Joan has been working on a poem called ‘Relics’ which focuses on Lindow Man. Two years ago, in 2005, it was entered in a national poetry competition organised by Scintilla (the annual literary journal) and it came second. Joan has very kindly allowed us to post it on the website. My sincerest thanks to Joan for agreeing for us to reproduce her poem here.
I’ve been thinking about Pete. I often do:
his discovery in the bog not far from here,
the lonely museum coffin.
One of my neighbours, he’s Swiss, is also Pete,
Once ran an art gallery. I see little of him
or others in the three-man household
but the way they peg out washing always entertains.
One man is German. Sometimes we discuss that war,
the one to end them all.
We talk of children, of Rwanda and Iraq.
Pete was garrotted. He must have died in terror.
When I visit I robe him in white light, see it seeping
through his leathery skin, absorbed into his bones.
Circling the case I wonder if we’d put the body
of a World War II pilot on public view.
My neighbour talks of his show Relics in Berlin.
We’ve both seen exhibitions of conceptual art,
symbolic icons, both curious about Joseph Beuys.
Did Pete and his tribe take trophies?
Were their raiding parties ‘peace initiatives’?
An American friend has never been able to grow
her hair long. As a child she ripped it out
and stuffed it in her mouth, almost choking –
lost without the father on peace missions in Vietnam.
I met a Vietnamese photographer in Vermont,
his face and hands distorted, formidably scarred
despite years of plastic surgery.
He didn’t want to talk of the past, just his book
of colour photographs: images of children
over 25 years, none showing pain or fear or despair.
I am ambushed by his anguished wife and children.
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