Sophie Essex is the author of the first publication, which is now sold out, though I see you’ve reprinted another twenty copies. Did you see her three poems as a sort of prototype of what you had in mind for the Pyramids, or did your idea come first and her poems later?
I actually had the idea before Sophie submitted, but her poems very perfectly, so adroitly, slotted into that idea. I personally don’t enjoy writing single poems. I like reading sequences. I like sustained, sequenced engagement with an idea or theme or history. I also love detail and specificity. Sophie’s poems focus around sexual objectification and sexuality, about the sexualised body, and the poems offer – in a very well controlled voice – these different angles, sub and dom, liberation and threat. Sophie's poems confirmed what I was doing. And people have really clicked with them. That's why we're printing 20 more (they're on their way as we speak to my place).
I’m interested in the Pyramid concept. Three poems that talk to each other, that have a relationship. It could almost become a genre in itself, don’t you think?
Oh man I hope so. Like I said, I love sequences. Okay, we have Anne Carson’s ‘The Glass Essay’ or Toby Martinez de las Rivas Terror, and so on. A sequence is a very compelling and powerful instrument in poetry. Like Claudia Rankine’s Citizen, from last year. It’s a vessel for carrying a particular ‘argument’. And that can work at the small and large scale. The triptych was used in sacral, religious art to play on the idea of there being the ‘sacred, profane, and evil’. Three ontologies which overlap because they share the same set of signifiers. They’re in conversation around something, something important. Okay we’re not worried about god and hell much anymore. There are other questions.
I enjoy specificity. I studied Russian literary theory and have been interested in the thinking of Viktor Shklovsky, who’s Zoo and Fourth Factory expanded on this concept of ‘ostranenie’, or estrangement. The idea was that by looking, formally, at a thing – in a weird way you see the actual thing better. You understand how a thing works by looking at it differently. It's a skewing of Plato, isnt it? Look at the shadows on the wall, and actually obsess with and accentuate those shadows. Really mess around with them. Make insane shadows. And that, that’s how you get at the form of the thing.
In Sophie’s pamphlet we’re looking at sex and the sexed body, not in these teleological ways as in ‘his body’ and ‘her body’ and one object penetrating another leading to some sort of climax. No – Sophie’s poems are a crushing of these things together. We’re watching sex both from a great height and also microscopically. It’s watching an erotic film in a hall of mirrors.