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from Jade

Anna Reckin

I don’t know where this project began: maybe with a favourite antique celadon-coloured bangle that I dropped onto a hardwood floor in a Minneapolis apartment; it broke and bounced back at me in three pieces . . . And then as a sequence of short poems, a dark parallel to a project on perfume that was full of light and air and evanescence. In 2010 I found myself on a poets’ residency in a village partway up a mountain in ‘deep Portugal’. I had thought I would work on perfume, but instead, finding myself isolated in unusually bad weather, amongst mists and mossy boulders, going for walks along steep stony paths, it was the jade drafts that drew me. Jade has strong associations with picturesque landscape, both through its provenance – mined in mountains or found tumbled in river beds – and in some shapes and designs: miniature jade mountains, for example, of the kind described in the final section here, and views of landscapes that are often derived from paintings or prints. It’s particularly intriguing as material metaphor. Despite its hardness, its microscopic structure is felt-like, which means that it cannot be shaped by carving and chipping, only by patient rubbing and abrasion. Some of the most ancient Chinese artefacts are made of jade, among them ritual objects like the bi and the huan, whose significance is still mysterious, as is the process of ageing (‘alteration’) that affects some long-buried pieces, especially those placed in graves. (The section titled ‘Small mountain lyric’ appeared in the Asterisk broadside series (as Number 16, 2013), edited by Jess Mynes.)

from Jade

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