Saturday, November 04, 2006

Trace

I am compiling a collection of postcards, hand written notes, calendars, photographs and other bits of related material for a client. The material covers a period of sixty years. Some of the material is loosely scattered in boxes, other material is tied together with string, or in photo albums, including small items tucked into old tobacco tins. The bulk of the collection is, if looked at on its own, of very little value. Some of the early postcards are very beautiful, and these would be interesting on their own, but would not necessarily be meaningful or important on their own. What is so captivating about this material is its mass and span over time.

Small details from fairly ordinary lives, two people who travelled widely, enjoyed the correspondence between family and friends, who also travelled. All of them communicating (and much is lost) by sending postcards (the evidence supports the fact that postcards were sent to others, but these are not to hand) and receiving postcards. There are four hundred and ninety-five postcards, and some few boxes remain with one or two postcards, or photos still to be found. The postcard communication during the second world war is non existent, with only a few black and white photograps representing that period.

Further details about the life of these people could be gained by close examination of the furniture and paintings, collectables, books and fondness for some things; the woman loved cats and collected many things to do with cats and the man loved opera and classical music, collected an absolutely incredible collection of records, sheet music, videos and tapes. All this (including a ten year span of shopping dockets gathered onto a bulldog clip) could offer any stranger a small picture of who these people were.

I will be finished compiling this collection and will send it away next week, with a few of my own notes and references, which support the smaller details including the mentions above of the fondness for (her) cats and (him) classical music. My client will pay me well for this collection.
Its value is relative to its mass and span over time. The collection will offer my client an opportunity to trace a brief history of some interesting strangers.

I found this process exhausting, yet very compelling. I'll miss the collection when it goes.
I also found myself thinking about the process in relation to poetry; developing poetry over a long period of time, adding small segments which build and grow over time, so that each new addition supports the ongoing work. So much is lost in time, so much missed inspiration is not noted down, forgotten. Poetry does reclaim a great deal of the lost information, or it re-frames it, in order for us to see, or to know.

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