Disappearing Subject

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On Surrealism and Poetry

I first encountered Surrealism as a child; my father had books about Salvador Dalí and Max Ernst, which I would pore over in a trance of wonderment. He gave me a translation of Impressions of Africa when I was sixteen, and not long after, inspired and perhaps a little obsessed, I discovered poets like André Breton, Benjamin Péret and Joyce Mansour. Inevitably, much of my early poetry was indebted to the models provided by poets associated with Surrealism in its heyday. I would like to think that my work today is Surrealist in spirit, without conforming to the habit of style.

The spirit of Surrealism is one of revolt against habit and familiarity, a revolt that goes far beyond the realm of art. Surrealism has always been a febrile rejection of the hegemonic structures that arise habitually in our social and cultural systems, and a celebration of political and artistic forces that promise new beginnings. In my work, I allow intuitive invention to take poetry where it wants to go, untethered from my ego or any desire on my part to dictate meaning. I’m not talking about automatic writing (an approach that risks the blight of habit); more the Surrealist impulse to synthesise, to bring things together in unlikely but strangely necessary combinations. When guided by a spirit of adventure, visual poetry embodies that impulse. The visual poems collected here, from a sprawling project with the working title Moreau’s Doctored Bodies, are a synthesis of images and voices whose origins can be traced to Shakespeare, HG Wells and some horror movies of the 1980s.

Head 1

the head
disconnected in the dark
makes strange music
chiaroscuro of noise & song
we stand around
(what we say)
neither here nor there
the head reconfigures its planes
under our gaze
angles slice air
                          sounds & sweet airs
all this from Orphic memory
travelled, worn

 

Close Horizon

A scribing process
Describing itself,
Set in lines,
Blurred by thin mask
Of frozen water,
Attended by the demiurge
Looking on, hapless, enraptured.
Horizon wept.
Eye and ear in concert,
Rank music of characters and appendages.
Always this wakeful watchfulness,
Never quite apprehending,
But impressionable flesh,
Prints on fingers

                Writing the writer
Cloud body
Ghost fossil

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