Museum of Lost and Broken Things, Lauren Terry
Leafe Press, 2020 £6.00
Like one of the boxes of Joseph Cornell
Although the poems in Lauren Terry’s debut pamphlet are short, some very short indeed, they take no prisoners. They know about cubism and surrealism. They are familiar with assemblage art and the philosophy of Gaston Bachelard. I felt a bit daunted at first. But after a while the images began to haunt me. I knew there was something interesting going on.
Museum of Lost and Broken Things describes a series of objects that could be the sort of ephemera the artist Joseph Cornell collected for his strange, glass-fronted shadow boxes. Three of the poems reference Cornell directly, so he is clearly an influence. I began to think of the whole pamphlet as a Cornell-style box and each of the poems as a compartment within the box, containing an object for examination.
As with Cornell’s boxes, the objects are random: vacuum cleaner, teddy bear, stuffed birds, a child’s chatter telephone, a soft-boiled egg, the remnants of a red balloon. Each poem focuses closely on the object and stays there. The language is impersonal, almost robotic at times. There is no back-story. The poet simply says, Look at this. And this. Look.
Sometimes objects are described in unpunctuated word streams. These are the opening lines of ‘Bagless Cylinder Vacuum’:
feed it pins for the gullet is crush-proof lurching its vociferous cordless
tempest space of devoid matter flat square head tonguing cat hair and the
gullet is choke-proof feed it coins confetti disks and hold lock button to lift
dust cup to easy empty gut of human skin or hosiery space devoid of
Every so often a short, haiku-like poem is inserted, having as its title, a catalogue number, for example:
Catalogue item: 24
bear with glass eyes
cataracts are a sure sign of age
The final poem (numbered 1) seemed to me like an invitation to go and start my own collection:
Catalogue item: 1
It’s an intriguing pamphlet. Why not see what you think?