press free press RESPOND
A monthly series of active reading.
Liliane Lijn, 'A for Elm' & 'Jewel in the Woods'
Giles Goodland, 'Hand Made Poem'
(This month, press free press RESPOND to two works from the Poetry Library's current exhibition of visual poetics, running until 14 April 2013)
The freedom of these works to take the form of any object and the admission of objectness that poetry books often conceal. To jump forward again, the next question seems to be does text need to be part of an object. Lijn's 'koans' could be transferred to a virtual space - in a way seeing them in a glass case is a virtual experience. But the digital virtual space brings a new succession of possibilities that is ongoing, including the question of connecting between virtual and physical space.
Repetition as an action in the visual poetic form, both build the visual through repetition of text and not of object. Text then becomes a textured experience, a textured reading experience of building a whole. This sense of wholeness is important in each, both are attempting to create a whole; we view it and read it. I’m interested in whether we view or read these objects. View in terms of I am looking at, read in terms of I am actively reading. Each is making me look and read but in different ways. I question my response to each object as I look and read them; looking becomes aesthetic, reading less so; looking before reading, or reading and then looking – how does this shift my relationship to the object?
The physical rupture of materiality is in both. There is a building of texture through an awareness and engagement with the materiality of text and object. How this builds a relationship of difference is interesting. Difference in how we engage. I am drawn to the physicality of the hand of how it is formed as an action or re-action to the text and how we engage with it in more physical terms. Both poets are making me form a bodily interaction. This physical construction of text is important. The physical becomes a way to rupture the text & our experience of it, a breaking of it. Yet this can happen in a book, in a non visual poem, all poems are visual, but these foreground this by engaging with materiality.
A for Elm also offers an interesting reading/looking experience. I picked out the word HEATHER which is broken so that as the koan comes round one may first read HEATH and then a split second later read HEATHER - shifting pronunciation. This kind of act connects to questions that come out of reading poetry, especially where repetition is used as an aural strategy. The koan is constantly offering another chance to read or ‘hear’ again as the eye darts differently over the moving surface each time.
but for me the distinction between text and materiality was also important in the Goodland. On the one hand (!) we have the act of putting on and removing a plastic glove, with red paint as intermediary material, on the other there is the process of writing which is determined by received cultural linguistic associations, all around the word 'hand' - there is also the uniting act of laying out the text, printing it onto acetate and incorporating it with the glove. The glove is a text of its own, bringing in references to blood and hygiene - it is also not a real hand but the idea of a hand.
Earlier you ask about the need for text in these objects and I go back to that. Or rather u question what text is in each and its status. So we need each object to inform each text or vice versa. Status of text in the visual and whether it becomes merely visual is important. Both of these pieces make us read, this is important, whereas they could easily not engage us in terms of text as language. Thinking about wholeness as an object and whether this is achieved in each; does the visual win? Does the language win? Does there need to be a balance?
The repetition of these multiple hands and how this continues to build associations between the visual & language as an enactment of doing and production is important to me. It is an ongoing engagement with materiality, form and language. Both poets build on these, use the materiality, the form, the language, to build 'wholes' which question their status as object and allows us to question our interaction with them. The visual is not a footnote here, the visual is not an aside but rather a way to form the poem, to write the poem and to read the poem.
What about a book where every page is a Giles Goodman hand? What about this in reproduction- harder to conceive with the Lilian Lijn pieces but a virtual space connecting these cones could be constructed – maybe even an e-book. I noticed that Phaidon have produced a book where every page is a different Ed Ruscha painting – are these works always and inevitably in dialogue with the idea of a book? As poets beginning a project do we need to consider the full spectrum of possibilities afforded by the meeting of object and text, of object materiality and text materiality?
Liliane Lijn, website
Giles Goodland, Shearsman Books
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