Of all the interviews we’ve had with our brilliant Overhear writers, this was the most difficult to arrange, taking no fewer than three weeks, two postponements and a ludicrous number of emails to organise. It seems only fitting then that Elisabeth Charis – the writer in question – has provided us with such a beautiful poem on taking a moment to disengage from the hectivity of everyday life and savouring the experience of where you are right now – especially if that happens to be her venue, Loki Wines. We stopped a while to talk to her about making time, tasting wine and understanding ourselves in relation to place.
‘I first heard about Overhear when Tom got in touch asking for expressions of interest,’ Elisabeth tells us, ‘I think the app is a great idea – ahead of the curve, really – because augmented reality is becoming a bigger and bigger part of our lives and how people are connecting with each other and experiencing the world. It’s a way of connecting our digital evolution to our existence in the real world and a nice way of making poetry accessible and contemporary.’
‘For me, understanding the location-specific element added a layer of interest because I think a lot of my own work explores relationships to places,’ she says, ‘but I probably would have gotten involved even if that wasn’t the case! I’m always keen to take on commissions because I really enjoy the different kinds of challenges they present. I like having a reason to write in a particular form or about a particular thing. It gives nice boundaries to the writing process and makes it more interesting for me.’
Not all of the challenges presented by the project were ones Elisabeth relished however: ‘I found it really difficult to make time to visit Loki Wines within my hectic schedule with work and my kids. I’m not usually a big wine drinker either, so it was quite weird for me to be heading there on a Friday afternoon for a couple of drinks but it turned out to be a pleasant experience!’ – and one that heavily influenced the final piece, as she goes on to say:
‘That journey of actually getting to the venue: being in the city, walking through that very busy part of town during a Friday lunchtime and then stepping into the Arcade ended up very much feeding into the poem,’ she tells us. ‘There was a definite contrast, a shift in the atmosphere when you moved from one to the other. While I was sat there and got chatting to a few people, I really got the sense that they were putting things down for a bit. Whether it was their shopping or their nine-to-five, it felt very much: this is the end of the week, this is where we stop.’
It was not just the atmosphere but also the language of Loki Wines that interested Elisabeth during her visit.
‘While I was there I talked quite a bit to the guy who was hosting at the time – serving the wine and guiding
people – and listening to him talk other people,’ she says, ‘and I got really fascinated by the way they were talking about wine. There’s almost that same smack of the lips and suck of the cheeks when they’re talking about wine as when they’re tasting that first little sip. There’s a real kind of… swishing the words around in the mouth, a definite pleasure being taken in the speaking, in using the language that I find really intriguing.’
‘Afterwards, I got my hands on some wine magazines to get a bit more of a feel for that kind of language. Because I don’t know about wine, I thought it would be ridiculously ambitious of me to try to talk about flavours with any of that authority – I think it would be obvious very quickly to anyone who was even slightly more into that world!’ She laughs. ‘Instead, I’ve tried to talk about the experience of being there in the language of wine, using their terminology for those sensory experiences, and the relationship people have with that space because that’s what I really connected to.’
Elisabeth goes on to expand on writing relationships to space: ‘Place is fundamental in my writing. I feel I almost can’t say much about that because it’s too essential. It doesn’t just have a role in the work, it is the work: You only see a character in relation to their setting, you only feel an emotion in relation to where you are in that moment. Space is the context in which we all exist,’ she says, ‘without understanding that context, there’s no understanding the internal, there’s no emotion and there’s no writing.’
To connect a little more to the space around you and take a moment to taste the language of wine alongside the drink itself collect Elisabeth’s poem Taste from Loki Wines from October 4th using the Overhear app.
Elisabeth can be found on her website http://echaris.co.uk/