Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Interview in Horizon Review & Poetry at Tate Modern

Issue 3 of Horizon Review has just gone online and includes Michelle McGrane's interview with me, Dreams, Spirits and Visions. Michelle also has two fine poems featured from her forthcoming collection The Suitable Girl which I highly recommend.

Last night was the first session of my Poetry from Art course at Tate Modern. Twenty-seven of us sat in Anselm Kiefer's installation 'Palm Sunday' in the Energy & Process collection and soaked up the uprooted palm tree and its thirty-nine vitrines. I can gaze and gaze into these and always see new things among the ghostly plants and pods bursting from cracked clay, smoke, earth, ash, ladders, flying clothes and scratched words. I handed out a hat containing lines from Paul Celan's poems (huge influence on Kiefer), carefully selected but picked at random to incorporate in a 5 minute quatrain, then asked everyone to introduce themselves by offering the group a gift line from their resulting quatrains. These were poems in themselves. After discussion of Celan's techniques (twisting language to say the unsayable, in his case the aftermath of the holocaust), everyone had ten minutes in which to respond to the installation in a poem, aided by selections from the list of gift lines.

The results were impressive and rather moving, as one by one, each participant stood in front of
'Palm Sunday' and read out their first drafts. The course is launched! I've been planning it for months and thrilled with the results so far, but it never fails to amaze me how people can write to order in such a short time. Perhaps pressure is the key. Next week we are in the John Baldessari: Pure Beauty exhibition and I'm plotting writing games for his extraordinary new ocean installation 'Brain/Cloud', if Tate confirm we can keep the AV on that evening. This is also where we will hold the public reading at the end of the course on November 23rd. Book early if you'd like to come and hear the poems written on the course, entry is free but seating limited.

I've encouraged the poets to email me their works in progress but guess I'll have to respond on the hoof as next Tuesday I'm off to Tel Aviv to take part in the ninth Sha'ar International Poetry Festival, and I get back on Sunday night, just before Week 3 in the Pop Life exhibition, and after that I'm off to do lots of things in the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival, so an exciting time ahead.