FEATURE JOHN HEGLEY
Poet and funnyman John Hegley is waxing lyrical about clay heads, pencil Sharpeners and shoelaces in a magic combination of verse and ﬁlm. He speaks to Alan Morrison about the event celebrating the work of wacky animator Jan Svankmajer.
an Svankmajer is to screen surrealism what Salvador Dali is to the painted canvas. The Czech animator is best known for his feature-length, dream- like takes on Alice In Wonderland and Faust, but his short ﬁlms are just as distinctive, whether subtly disturbing political allegories or comic transformations of the human body in plasticine.
‘There’s a certain ambiguity in his work,’ says poet and Edinburgh Fringe favourite John Hegley. ‘lt’s never “this is what it is”, more “this is what it might be” and you interpret it as
you will.’ Hegley has teamed up with Edinburgh-based writer Val Gillies to present Sir-Reel
Svankmajer. which brings together a bizarre concoction of visual and verbal images. For the event — part of Writing November, organised by the Edinburgh Book Festival — Gillies has mingled poetry with the ﬁlms as they screen, while Hegley has written pieces inspired by individual images from Svankmajer’s work. ‘He chooses the commonplace and makes it uncommon.’ the poet says of Svankmajer’s ability to give inanimate objects the potential to come to life. ‘For example, i use the still of a man with a pencil sharpener on his tongue and another man with a shoelace on his tongue. And
i ask things like: “is it a shoelace or a piece of brown spaghetti? Do these people have bodies? Do they have names? is this man called Seamus Shoelace-Face?”‘
A popular performance poet. Hegley has written several books that thrive on unexpected, almost childish wordplays and rhymes. Svankmajer’s body of work also exists in its own right. So what is gained when the two come together?
‘l’m not trying to add to Svankmajer,’ Hegley insists. ‘The two things stand separately, but are complementary. Hopefully they support each other like a couple of cards in a house of cards. Maybe we do build a house of cards by the fact that we’ve got a number of things happening, and maybe they’re different cards — tarot cards and ordinary playing cards — all leaning against each other, and i don’t know how long i can keep this simile going.’
Long enough it seems. Any longer, and it
might —— like a Svankmajer shoelace — develop a life of its own. Sir-Reel Svankmajer And The Speaking Parts supported by The List, is at the F ilmhouse, Edinburgh, on Sat 9 Nov, 2.30pm. John Hegley reads from his new omnibus poetry collection The F amin Pack (Met/men £10) at tlte Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, at 7.30pm the same day.
Tongue tied: an Image iront Svankmajer: Dimensions Oi A Dialogue
.. “is. John Hegley: head to clay head
are those author appearances in full.
I David Lodge Sat 2 Nov, 2pm. £3.50. Traverse One. One of Britain’s funniest writers and most acute literary theorists, Lodge chats to journalist Alan Taylor about the work of others and his own contribution to the nation's bookshelves.
I Four Scottish Poets Sat 2 Nov, 5pm. £3.50. Traverse Two. Kate Clanchy, Douglas Dunn, Valerie Gillies and Tom Pow read from their own works and discuss their love of language.
I James Ellroy Mon 4 Nov 7.30pm. £3.50.
@rse One. Ellroy, arguably America’s greatest
crime writer. meets Stuart Cosgrove, undoubtedly
2cm List 1-14 Nov 1996
Writing November highlights
The Edinburgh Book Festival is urging you to lose the autumn blues and meet the author at its Writing November events in the city’s Traverse Theatre. Here
St Johnstone's most famous fan, to examine the themes in Ellroy’s novel My Dark Places.
I Margaret Drabble and iiell Dunn Tue 5 Nov. 7.30pm. £3.50. Traverse One. Drabble reads from her novel Tlte Witch 0f Exnroor, while Dunn chooses passages from her latest work The Silver Shoes. Maggie Lennon is in the chair.
I Fay Weldon Wed 6 Nov, 7.30pm. £3.50. Traverse One. The She-Devil discusses the art of the short story with Woman is Hour’s Di Speirs.
I Redmond O’Haolon Thurs 7 Nov, 7.30pm. £3.50. Traverse One. Tom Adair is on hand to keep travel
writer O’Hanlon on course as he talks about his \ voyage up the Congo.
I Kate Atkinson and louis de Bemieres Fri 8 Nov, 7.30pm. £3.50. Traverse One. Atkinson mulls over humour and vivid evocations of time and place with de Bemieres. Edinburgh Book Festival director Jan Fairley conducts proceedings.
I John Hegley: The Farniiy Pack Sat 9 Nov. 7.30pm. £4.50. Traverse One. Luton’s favourite son indulges in his usual passions — dogs, dads and dodgy eyesight - through his omnibus The Family Pack.
I light Through The Bar: Ii: A. I.. Kennedy Sun 10 Nov, 5pm. £3.50. Traverse Two. Kennedy marks the anniversary of activist Ken Sara-Wiwa’s execution with readings from his prison diaries and his novel Lemona 's Tale.
Tickets for all events can be booked in person at the Traverse Box Office, Cambridge Street, Edinburgh.
or by calling 0131 228 1404. J