Archive for the ‘poetry events’ Category


Poetry From Art, Poetry With Art

April 29, 2013
Photo by Pascale Petit of the Tate Modern group working from Ebrahim El-Salahi's 'Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams'. Used with permission

Photo by Pascale Petit of the Tate Modern group working from Ebrahim El-Salahi’s ‘Reborn Sounds of Childhood Dreams’. Used with permission

One of the reasons I was excited to take part in the Pistols and Pollinators Project was that I work a lot from Art and I saw this as an opportunity to work with an artist. I’ve been really fortunate in being paired with Hermione Allsopp, as we both had exactly the same reaction to the project brief – we wanted to produce something together that was specific to the site of the installation. There are lots of other valid ways to interpret the brief – so it’s lucky that we had a similar attitude.

Over the last few years, as well as reacting to Art in exhibitions and from the web, I’ve attended Pascale Petit’s workshops at Tate Modern. These are extraordinary courses which allow participants to see exhibits after hours in the gallery and to take part in games and exercises Pascale has devised to encourage writing. One of the important skills in writing from Art is to take the piece or a part of it as a jumping off point – the poems that work well access something in the writer’s experience that is triggered by the art. So the finished poem isn’t a description of the art, and doesn’t necessarily represent the ideas the artist intended to convey in their piece.

Poets can agonise over when they should use “after” and when they shouldn’t. When are the images, ideas or structure provided by the artist so integral to the poem that they should be attributed in this way? For me, typical librarian-come-academic, it’s important to cite, but it’s also important not to mislead a reader of a poem. So it’s absolutely vital that my poem ‘Mappa’ (Tate Online Anthology 2012should be “after Alighiero Boetti” because so much of the imagery comes from his work and my experience viewing it for the first time. On the other hand, my poem ‘The Kiss’ (Envoi 160, November 2011, p. 34) contains nothing of Rodin’s artwork, but came out of a workshop exercise in which Pascale asked us to write about an important first kiss. 

Unsurprisingly, I see writing from Art as a kind of marginalia – the artist has created their work and the poet is responding to it, in much the same way that we respond to text in its margins … and then some of the marginalia grows into its own piece of writing, always owing something to its originating text. It’s a conversation in which the artist makes the opening statement and, unless the poem becomes very well-known, they may never be aware of the poet’s response.

In working with Hermione, the conversation is much more fluid and responsive. In the case of the particular piece on which we are working, sometimes one of us is “speaking” and sometimes the other, and we are listening and responding to each other, growing an artwork together. Right now, the work consists of structures in Hermione’s studio and drafts of text on my MacBook. The result will be a shared idea, poetry with Art, not poetry after it.


Image: Tate Poetry group working from art. Photo by Pascale Petit, used with permission.


Material Connections

April 14, 2013


This week’s meetings with Hermione Allsopp (my partner in the Pistols and Pollinators project) took us to St Leonards, Eastbourne and London. We were able to visit each other in our private workspaces – Hermione’s studio and my UCL office – and also to explore one of the areas of artists’ practice in which we are both interested – the organisation of individual objects to form an artwork – as in Hermione’s piece ‘Field of Dreams‘, on show at the Towner in Eastbourne as part of the East Sussex Open 2013 (website banner above).

Accident & Emergence have been tweeting #artistswhousetext as part of #PandP and this is great in highlighting one aspect of the synergies between poets and artists. I’d suggest that work like ‘Field’ is at the nexus of poetry and art in a different way, as it works on the subliminal and subjective meanings of things – what they mean to the artist; what they mean in conjunction with each other; what they mean to each of us who view them. One of the signs that a poem is working well is that it communicates the emotion / ideas of the poet but invites the reader / audience in to tell their own stories. Arrangements like ‘Field’ perform in the same way, and to that extent are poetic – arguably material poems as well as art.

I’m interested in such arrangements as an extension of the cabinets of curiosity phenomenon. There’s a fantastic history of such arrangements, and one of the many half-written articles on my MacBook presents these as a form of extended mind – the concept that the mind is not entirely internal, but exists in the interaction between the human brain and the external world. We see this in the operation of marginalia and, I will argue one day soon in an academic journal, also in the physical arrangement of possessions in cabinets and, in the case of artists working in this area, in their artworks.

Such arrangements are one element of Hermione’s practice, as described publicly in her artist’s statement:

I make sculptural work by collecting objects and furniture and re-creating them into new forms or compositions.  My use of discarded domestic objects reflects on the interior, the past and memory.  Through the choice of objects, and the techniques I employ, I intend to explore the boundary between repulsion and attraction and ideas of taste.   As sculpture, these re-done, or un-done-up objects begin to exist as something else and raise questions about the value and material nature of every day objects through display.   It is also my intention to reflect on wider topics related to consumerism, psychological and physical interiors and notions of desire.

One of the ways in which Hermione and I are working together is looking at the arrangement of objects, and we have been fortunate enough to have a proposal accepted for the Institute of Making‘s workshop on Friday:

Material Connections and the Extended Mind
Over tea come and share some of the objects that have caught your attention with artist Hermione Allsopp and Lecturer in Information Studies Anne Welsh. Grab a maximum of 5 objects from the shelves and share your story about why you are drawn to them and how you would like to arrange and rearrange them together.

Members of the Institute are drawn from all over UCL and we are really excited to see what some of them make from the objects in the Materials Library. Our meeting with the Institute this week was wonderful, sharing with us stories behind their collections of tuning forks and spoons; the reasons why a cube of material gives more points of comparison than a traditional swatch; and the way in which a lead bell can be made to ring when frozen. We’re looking forward to hearing stories from workshop participants on Friday.


Image: East Sussex Open banner from Towner website, with Hermione Allsopp’s ‘Field of Dreams’ in foreground right.


Pistols and Pollinators 2013

March 8, 2013

Albert This week got off to a busy start, heading over to North London’s Albert Project on Sunday morning for the start of Accident & Emergence’s project Pistols & Pollinators 2013.

It’s a really exciting premise – fifteen artists are paired with fifteen poets to create something (anything – the choice is ours) that will be exhibited in May. A&E coordinated the first PandP in 2010, and some of the resulting artwork can be seen on their website.

Sunday’s event was centered around getting to know each other, and at the end of the day our pairs were announced. I’m really pleased to be working with Hermione Allsopp, whose website shows the range of her work. I’m looking forward to having fun, and also to pushing the boundaries of my writing process by being involved from the start of an artwork, as opposed to simply writing from it. Having met everyone on Sunday, I’m also looking forward to seeing what they make. If you’re curious about that too, keep an eye on the Pistols & Pollinators blog and on twitter #PandP (which also includes some tweets about my favourite novel, Pride and Prejudice).

Many thanks to Katrina Naomi and Accident & Emergence for asking me to take part.


Image: Arriving at the Albert on Sunday morning


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