Author Archives: admin

Two creative-critical essays

Both of these are in The Restless Compendium (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016) and can be freely downloaded.

So Even the Tree has its Yolk


This creative-critical work draws on the archives of the Pioneer Health Centre, also known as the Peckham Experiment, held at the Wellcome Library. The Centre was established between the wars both to provide the conditions for, and to investigate, health rather than illness. The ways in which personal and group forms of vitality were conceptualized, valorized and put to work allowed poet and writer James Wilkes to think through the link between individual and societal relationships to leisure, work and health. However, the archive also holds many other strands of thinking – esoteric, biological, quasi-anarchist – and the choice of fiction as a form of writing provides a way of holding these dispersive, messy ingredients together – a way of working restlessly with restless materials.

Published open access (free download): click here

The Poetics of Descriptive Experience Sampling


James Wilkes and Holly Pester, both poets, write here about their engagement with the descriptive experience sampling (DES) method, which stemmed from an interdisciplinary encounter with the psychologist Russell Hurlburt, and their experience of being trained as subjects in this technique. This chapter considers how DES can be used in unexpected ways to think through vexed questions in poetics about the relationship between experience and language, and the material ways in which experience might be captured. James and Holly consider the deployment of DES in the context of a poetry reading, which emerges as a space of multiple, distributed and distractable attention.

Published open access (free download): click here.

The Restless Compendium


This interdisciplinary book contains 22 essays and interventions on rest and restlessness, silence and noise, relaxation and work. It draws together approaches from artists, literary scholars, psychologists, activists, historians, geographers and sociologists who challenge assumptions about how rest operates across mind, bodies, and practices. Rest’s presence or absence affects everyone. Nevertheless, defining rest is problematic: both its meaning and what it feels like are affected by many socio-political, economic and cultural factors. The authors open up unexplored corners and experimental pathways into this complex topic, with contributions ranging from investigations of daydreaming and mindwandering, through histories of therapeutic relaxation and laziness, and creative-critical pieces on lullabies and the Sabbath, to experimental methods to measure aircraft noise and track somatic vigilance in urban space. The essays are grouped by scale of enquiry, into mind, body and practice, allowing readers to draw new connections across apparently distinct phenomena.

Published open access (free to download): click here.

The Lathe Had Melted

Vinyls 1

Vinyl 2

vinyl 3

vinyl 4

Vinyl window texts, exhibited at Rest & its discontents, Mile End Art Pavilion, 30 September – 30 October 2016.

This series of four installed vinyls drew on my archival research into the Peckham Experiment, a community centre based in South London between the wars, which aimed to observe human health and activity in its environmental context.

The texts incorporate and depart from fragments taken from books, manuscripts and letters by the founders of the Peckham Experiment, Innes Hope Pearse and George Scott Williamson. The themes of these short stories range from industrial workplaces and ruins to biological development and experiment, tied by a common focus on rhythm and the movement between states of activity and rest.

Moving between past and present, and drawing on the strange mix of biology, esoteric spiritualism, vitalism and anarchism to be found in the Experiment’s archives, the texts also incorporate references to the history of the Mile End Art Pavilion, which is built on the site of a wood veneer factory.

Graphic design by Lina Hakim.

Photographs: Daniela Cascella (1), Peter Kidd (2-4).

Poetry and Neuroscience: An Interdisciplinary Conversation

An article co-authored by me and neuroscientist Sophie Scott.


Dialogues and collaborations between scientists and non-scientists are now widely understood as important elements of scientific research and public engagement with science. In recognition of this, the authors, a neuroscientist and a poet, use a dialogical approach to extend questions and ideas first shared during a lab-based poetry residency. They recorded a conversation and then expanded it into an essayistic form, allowing divergent disciplinary understandings and uses of experiment, noise, voice and emotion to be articulated, shared and questioned.

This is published open access and can be freely downloaded: click here for pdf

‘And I remember a feeling of tightness on the skin…’

James Wilkes, And I remember a feeling of tightness on the skin…, 2016. Performed by Emma Bennett, Ella Finer and James Wilkes. Image Charlotte SowerbyImage: Charlotte Sowerby

A work for three voices, based on transcripts of interviews about three people’s experiences of a poetry reading. The transcripts have been organised into a score that explores the ways in which speech elaborates moments of experience, bringing them into being through the work of the voice and through a kind of digestion, of chewing over, which is shared, public and provisional.

Commissioned for the Voicings live performance series at the exhibition ‘This is a Voice’, Wellcome Collection, 7-12 June 2016.

Thanks to Emma Bennett and Ella Finer for their collaboration in developing the work for performance. Thanks also to Russell Hurlburt, whose Descriptive Experience Sampling technique provided the framework for gathering the descriptions and who conducted the sampling and the interviews.

‘A New Valve’

Aarhus, Denmark, 2 December 2015

This hour-long performance for Where Were We – On Intimacy, Writing, Body explored aspects of inner voice in an interaction with an ‘experimental system’ of live projected images, recordings and readings. The performance circled around ongoing research interests including ideas of translation, limestone imaginaries, Renaissance chansons and the archives of the Peckham Experiment, an interwar health centre based in South London.


Photo credit: Barbara Katzin

Ora 21: Rest

A live discussion with Daniela Cascella and Salomé Voegelin on the topic of rest – considering rest as interval, rest as social code and habit, rest as pause in reading and writing, and rest as critical device. Broadcast 28 May 2015 on Resonance 104.4fm.

Audio here