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from Hariot Double

Gavin Selerie

Hariot Double involves a pairing of the lives and work of Thomas Hariot, mathematician, astronomer and adventurer, and Joe Harriott, Jamaican saxophonist, with focus on the New World and London. Hariot’s navigational expertise led him to participate in early expeditions to Virginia (now North Carolina), where he documented both natural resources and the behaviour of the inhabitants. Harriott travelled in the opposite direction to immerse himself in the London jazz scene. Both were pioneers of their respective crafts, made more complex through cross-cultural shifts.

The sections included here are from the third part, focusing on Thomas Hariot. ‘Addes’ (cf. adze) is based largely on Hariot’s notes about ship construction, stimulated by his friend and employer Ralegh’s plans for exploration. ‘Devills alphabet’ draws on the phonetic alphabet which Hariot contrived for the Algonquian language. John Aubrey describes this scheme as looking ‘like Devills’, possibly a reference to the strangeness of the symbols. Hariot probably took charge of the two Indians who came back to London in 1584. ‘Eare witnesse’ is based on a later study, A Key into the Language of America, by Roger Williams (1643). ‘Thames scull-impique’ (cf. Olympic) features another pair of Indians who took part in a Royal Progress – or pageant – on the Thames.

Since the 1970s I’ve written several books which, in different ways, constitute ‘long poems’. I seem naturally drawn to structures which involve cumulative and twisting elements. This reflects the influence of modernist epic, which offers an escape from closure while still allowing progression.

from Hariot Double


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