By Emma N. Tarle Translated by Ann Lee
Taipei-based English writer Mark Caltonhill's most recent book, "Malarkey's Amusement Park", was published to accompany his first exhibition of art, which opened at the Community Services Center in Tienmu on March 1. Taiwan Fun asked him about his sources of inspiration.
MC: For anyone living in a foreign country with a culture so different from one's own, there is obviously a constant source of inspiration. Not that Taiwan, or being an Englishman in Taiwan, figures strongly. "Sorry, I'm busy" is about cross-cultural dating, "They don't let dogs on the MRT" is, obviously, about my dog and Taipei transportation, and there are a couple of Buddhism-inspired poems, but mostly the influence is more subtle.
TF: In fact, several of the stories take place in Heatherington in northern England, so presumably your hometown still exerts an influence, too.
MC: Well, Heatherington is fictitious, but sometimes I find it helpful to have a place in mind when I'm writing. There is something about living away from home that makes me more English as the years pass, however. I have potato cakes and tea for breakfast, and often fish and chips for dinner. In fact, "Malarkey's" comes from the name of the fish and chips restaurant I plan to open one day.
TF: And "Amusement Park"? There don't seem to be a lot of jokes in the book.
MC: Black humor, perhaps, and word play. Though I do have a penchant for light verse. Or my Muse does. I take what I can get. Actually, the word "amusement" derives from "Muse", which is really what it refers to.
TF: And how does the book connect to the art exhibition?
MC: Well, the exhibition, "A Double Dose of Malarkey", is actually two sets of work. One set are some of my English poems Photoshop-ed onto photographs, which I guess is a bit Hallmark-ish, making them look like words on a newspaper, tattoos on my body, or leaves on a tree. The second are photographs of Chinese script used to compose spring couplet-style scrolls. These cover a variety of themes, ranging from philosophy, religion and love, to foreigners' experiences of living and traveling in Taiwan.
"A Double Dose of Malarkey", photopoems and poems-on-photos, is on display throughout March at the Community Services Center (25, Lane 290, ZhongShan N Rd, Sec 6, Taipei).
"Malarkey's Amusement Park" is available from the Center or JiYue Publications. Price NT$260.