Lunalia: August to September 2016

Lunalia is a brilliant sound art project founded by Maja Jantar. It traces lunar cycles, with Maja and a collaborator exchanging recordings – be they found, sung, murmured, burbled, read or cried – each day of the cycle, somehow responding to the moon. I was the 12th Lunalia.

I was so happy to participate for one whole lunar cycle, lasting August 18th to September 18th 2016, a notorious summer, full of full, blue, white, half, blood and wolf moons. 

Recordings on a zoom and a phone from the open air of wormwood scrubs, to the bowels of a boat on the Norwegian coast, from a tent on the island of Vlieland in Holland to the kitchen from my house in west London, we exchanged a whole’s month of short sound files, which Maja then expertly mixed. You can find the below soundcloud files here

A note, the diary below is of my experience and reflections of this month responsible to the moon, even though the files are the work of Maja and I both. How she went about her wonderful work during these days remains a mystery. 

Week One

August 18th: Worm-moon Wormwood Scrubs is a place most in London would associate with its adjacent prison. Outside of London it’s hardly known. It’s where I go to exercise, often at night, especially in the summer. It’s totally dark, surrounded by a belt of light, and the industrial trains entering and exiting Willesden Junction. From the middle of the scrubs I can see the moon, first 2/3 blood moon, and by the end of my exercise, the full red moon. I took the recorder to the middle of the open expanse of grass, empty of people aside from the odd dog walker emerging from the darkness and let my exhausted breathing ebb as I watched up. By complete chance, a genuine coincidence, earlier in the day, someone had said to me that I should watch for the super moon that night, that the celts called it the Dispute Moon, others the Hunger Moon, Corn Moon and Wolf Moon.

August 19th: Rain-moon Imsomnia on the first day of travelling is unwelcome. The airbnb in Amsterdam has a threatening vibe. It's raining torrentially. I'm under the covers making the sounds at 4am, not being able to sleep. There's no wind in the room. The moon is visible I think, I'm writing this after the night happened. Was that real time? I’m glad I remember to record my moon watching pain.

August 20th: Tent-moon First night on Vlieland, on an island in the sea. The first time I've stayed in a tent since I was a child. It's exciting. I've stayed in a tent as an adult, but not because of a poetry reading, in Holland. The enclosed space is comforting. Nothing can happen to me protecting by cloth, behind which the moon moons.

August 21st: Beach-moon Full day on the island of Vlieland, a beautiful experience in the camp, unlike an english holiday day camp, people seem honest in their happiness and unhappiness, but this is subjective bias. We do a reading in the evening, I find it hard to get away to see the moon, but just lumping over one dune I'm on the beach, walking down the beach, cold, singing, alone. Sorry about the seawind.

August 22nd: Home-moon A long, petty day travelling home. Rail strikes and the length of time it should take to get to South America it takes me to get from orange to white. The English moon awaits me.

August 23rd: Sick moon A lost day. Unable to sleep well even at home, feeling sick and sticky and useless. Multiple cold baths as a heatwave hits London. I make a bath recording, happy to be at home, but can that show through, humming a tune over the sound of the cold water filling the basin? This recording made because I won't leave the house today. I have to just watch the orb from the bathroom window, where it always seems fullest from the house, over the gardens of my neighbours and over the overground rail line which heads south west from Willesden Junction.

August 24th: Waste moon Disagreements today, we only got a short distance down Harrow Road and had to return. I had a tantrum and then exercised it away. I’m a moon baby though working on growth. Does the moon stimulate or retard growth??

August 25th: Forest moon Travelled to the Essex countryside, walked miles around Newport, through ancient forests then back to London and followed the Thames, from 7pm to 11pm, walking home, westerly, watching the moon moon the way. A poem for this seems sensible.

Week Two

August 26th: Music Moon I'm hoping to travel soon but I'll not like it when I do. I use Lunalia as an excuse to exercise, but I'm also using it as an excuse to wait a bit without getting grumpy. I'll have my own backing singers for this poem for you, Maja.

August 27th: Alban Moon A trip to St Albans with Livia. Never been there before. Bourgeois boring English town, a beautiful day, we follow a river into a dead end. We come across teenagers having sex in a forest adjacent to a local park. Later in the day, the moon appears in the afternoon sky, blue moon. The cathedral has an organ, we wait too long to hear it being played so I may record it celebrating the sky. It’s connected to those teenagers

August 28th: Sonday Moon I went out at night to see the moon on the scrubs against my will. I stepped in dogshit and just wanted to talk.

August 29th: Pain Moon A few days of working at my desk, alleviated by some hard training. Jump squat burpees are so awful, hit five sets of 20. 20 takes around a minute, how can something so short be so painful? If anyone walks by they'd leave me be but I'm quite peaceful in between sets looking at the sky. It's clearer than the last three or four days.

August 30th: Milk Moon I can see it from my window today, those moments searching for it I have finished a poem about milk, and how bad cow's milk is for you. It's for something else too, but when they are shocked I associate poppies with heroin and not WWI, I know the poem is for the moon also.

August 31st: Shadow Moon Shadow boxing alone in the scrubs, late at night. Livia says I have to be careful. I've never seen anything strange out here. And I'm barking everytime I punch the air so they should be worried about me.

September 1st: Bata Moon Livia and I go to Essex and walk many miles on a sea wall, she's scared of the adders they have there. We discover Bata factory, the famous modernist wreck in the middle of shitty England. I want to sing on the train home but there's no moon yet.

September 2nd: Belarussian Moon Go to watch the Free Theatre in Soho, forced drownings and pain rituals as a play. Not shocking but I feel jealous - when I do things like this I get in trouble. Walking back through oxford circus trying to see the moon, I think I see it, I should know but there are people everywhere and everyone looking at each other. It's distracting.

Week Three

September 3rd: Teeth Moon Too many hours on youtube, I look for the moon after brushing my teeth, remembering only then I am in Lunalia. I am editing my next poetry book and break off a fragment to use it for the mooon.

September 4th: Travel Moon I got lost walking from Gatwick terminal one to the hotel. Horrible hotel, horrible English people drunk and shouting in the halls. I won't record them for the Lunalia. Nor do I want the sound of planes. Ugly, so I read a poem I wrote under the sheets. Either under sheets or outdoors it feels. They are the eaters of the fake meat, billy bears. I’m 32 and they still get to me. No moon will help.

September 5th: Bergen Moon Sleepless summer hurts. My travelling friend is outside the door. I have a room but I need more privacy. There is a huge skylight in my tiny room though. I am going a little wild from lack of sleep. I see the moon but it's worrying me to see it too much, too close to a permission in the sky that I might use to harm something. A bear will bite an appendage from a weaker thing, maybe just for fun. It's awful to see the clouds come in and rain start falling in one of the wettest cities in the world. No more moon. I'm writing a poem, he's listening to it.

September 6th: Boat Moon I've only slept on a boat three times in my life. We are heading up the west coast of Norway. The storm moves me in my cabin bed like a snooker ball on a tiny table. I will not sleep a single wink. I emerge at 5am to look for the moon, I so want to see it casting a shadow onto the black sea, the north sea. I can't see it, I'm too cold and sick with tiredness to wait more than ten minutes.

September 7th: Mold Moon A collaboration poem is required for my stay here. I have to write about a subject and so I suggest to my partner, why not the moon? He agrees, but why, he asks? No reason I say.

September 8th: Molde Moon We read for our host's father tonight, he's launching his selected poems. I don't have a chance to witness the moon, but I write a poem for him, I've been asked to. Is the poem for him, or for Lunalia. Which am I faithful too, the moon or the man?

September 9th: Norwegian Moon I meet someone in Norway who the next day emails me their dreams. It's full of blood, and is that not connected to the moon? I've not researched this, the cycle, but I assume it's all true "Then it cut to the top of the mountain, but there were no views. And there were bears and children, and other bleeding creatures, like bats for example, who were invisible to everyone else except me. They were chasing some other woman, she could hear them but not see them. I wanted her to use the sharp knives to kill them with but she couldn't for some reason."

Week Four

September 10th: Clean Moon Back in London to my beloved scrubs, to reflect on the links between the Lunalia and the training needed to stop me from butchery.

September 11th: Training Moon I'm a gross moon, a pig moon, a flat moon, a potato moon. Back to jump squat burpees.

September 12th: London Moon I want to remember a song, walking to wormwood scrubs, I've noticed this man waiting by the entrance every night, for his friend? I don't want a conflict, I turn at the gates and try to watch the moon on the way back, singing as I walk. I can't see the bloody moon.

September 13th: Library Moon Then I was in a supermarket and asked a couple (who were looking at some fancy Italian pasta) where they were from and if I could interview them. They were Flemish. They agreed and I thought - do they know they're going to get killed? There was a liquid all over the tiles and people were slipping. Imagine if they took drugs, I thought, imagine what it would do to their blood?

September 14th: Mawl Moon Have to go to the late night laundromat. Amazing I can see the moon from the doorway (or can I really?), the first time I've seen it in three days. I'm trying to hide as I sing I suppose, but people are looking. Trying to remember my walking moon song.

September 15th: Kent Moon I get Livia to read Paul Celan in Romanian on the train.

September 16th Children's Home Moon Back in Devon where I grew up, visiting family. Fine people but I don't like the place, we're up on a hill. I go for a night walk, the moon is obscured by cloud. I walk down the hill into a field, eating. Children are basically things to be fed. It’s a slice of something, healthy food, from the earth. Connected to the moon too.

September 17th: Motorway Moon The moon is grossly swollen with my return. I go for a night walk, welcome is the responsibility to the moon, I skirt a motorway towards a 24 hour supermarket. It's saturday night, lots of people around despite it being desolate, for it being desolate there’s lots of people about. So I want them to have a look at me, think I'm mad, so I have a nice chat to them all, waving.