As my response to the hyperlocal commission from Arts&CultureExeter I made a set of 9 square visual poems, using the first 9 square numbers, and found images in square format as the initial constraints. These are hosted on the Arts and Culture website, and will also be uploaded my social media.
Words were drawn from texts I encountered over the weeks of ‘lockdown’, and the images selected from my stack of collage materials. These were edited by erasure, translation, and recombination. The texts respond to their sources, but transpose associations to novel social and political behaviour. The impulse to respond creatively finds itself faced with arguments in favour of action, and a counter rationale for inaction. The poems emerged despite this. Contexts include the work of Louis Zukofsky, Hannah Weiner, OuLiPo, and Bernadette Mayer.
I have reviewed two recent publications by James Davies for Stride magazine. Published by Ma Bibliothèque in their Good Reader series, The Ten Superstrata of Stockport J. Middleton, performs a series of ten variations on the opening page of Philip K. Dick’s 1965 novel, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. The sequence Forty-Four Poems and a Volta, published by Red Ceilings Press, is composed of forty-five short texts, each centered on its page, each of two parts, the second of which is in parentheses.
Both of Davies’ sequences work at the business of language, at its use in naming or making distinctions, separating same from different, the operation of the word as label, the functioning of a textual instance as example or test. Here Wittgenstein’s language games, language as function and operation, meet scanning errors and search results, language as sortable or reordered matter. Two books to read both for the (fragmentary) narratives they tell, and for the (novel) ways they deploy the stuff of writing.
I am excited to have been selected as one of 10 artists for a hyperlocal commission from Arts and Culture Exeter; I plan to work on a set of short poems / visual texts that respond to the limitations and constraints of the current lockdown period.
Echoing the restraints we are all currently having to live by, Mark Leahy will be creating a series of short poems confined to a square format, which will be shared on his social media. The poems draw on Mark’s readings, news and other text entering his local environment over these uncertain weeks.
Influences include Louis Zukofsky’s 80 Flowers, Raymond Queneau’s Exercises in Style, erasure poetry, Oulipo, Tina Darragh’s On the Corner to Off the Corner, and Bernadette Mayer’s Midwinter Day.
As part of my activity during lockdown, I’ve used what is to hand to make some booklets of poems. I have revisited a poetry sequence I wrote that drew on guides and instructions for ‘proper’ speech, rules for social and public behaviour, the 1967 Sexual Offences Act led to the partial decriminalistation of homosexuality, and the policing, control or modification of the body in social media. The text is formatted in Big Caslon, with headings in Copperplate. The cover paper comes from a Soviet era book on the buildings of Prague.
This bear ain’t doin’ nothin’ wrong, pretty boy! Residue prizes produce uniformly the same sensations, buff expanding is where it’s at. Wherever it may be retiring, not coward but cowherd, both pretty trash now tbh. He dances, scissors hands applied palm to palm, hanging down, lips pouted as he whines. Oh, come on!
Parts of this text formed the basis of the score for the performance Threaded Inserts. First performed as part of Tears in Rain, for Plymouth Art Weekender at Plymouth Athenaeum, September 2017. Threaded Inserts was also presented at the Projectivisms symposium, organised by Wanda O’Connor at Cardiff University, May 2018 and at STREAM: a Series of Transdisciplinary Rituals & Experiments in Art & Music at Dartington in September 2018.