Poetry Pamphlet Reviews & Features

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Poetry as Art installation

This is an innovative way of presenting poetry: as an art installation. The poster-sized sheet of paper contains twelve poems and five drawings. There’s a partial horizontal split in the middle which enables the collection to be folded in many different directions and, at its centre, to contain an empty box-like space: the cell.

This origami is a challenge to read because, instead of reading from A to B, the eye meets many distractions: the folds, other poems above and below, liturgical chants, the instructions and the internal spaces. I found the poems easily presented themselves in the ‘wrong’ order but it’s very involving to puzzle this out, turning the paper over and over.

The drawings also offer much food for thought. They’re of naked female torsos with bold black lines, sometimes smudged, showing one body or two bodies intimately overlaid: a   palimpsest of flesh. I was immediately searching for a connection between words and pictures. I’d expected something frailer and smaller, an illustration of the shrinking as the girl suffers. However, when I looked more closely at the drawings, I saw lines and erasures, like false starts, which I interpreted as having a link with the degrading of the body in the cell.

But as the artist told us at the Brighton launch, the drawings were chosen to accompany the poem – not drawn in direct response to it. Some are deliberately at odds with the trajectory of the narrative. She did, however, feel a connection in that the three drawings which didn’t fit into the rectangles allotted to them (an overflowing of the back of a head, the toes of a foot, a knee and a leg) could be seen as a challenge to the idea of containment at the heart of the poem.

What an exciting and defiant idea! That the artist’s images are equal to the words – the drawings bringing something new to the poem and the poem bringing something new to the drawings.        

Marion Tracy