Tuesday 21 September 2010

Preview of two poems from Poetry from Art at Tate Modern

Here is a preview of two poems in the Poetry from Art pamphlet anthology, launched at Tate Modern this Saturday 25 September. The poems by Karen McCarthy Woolf and Seraphima Kennedy both respond to installations by Francis Alÿs in his recent exhibition A Story of Deception.

The Tornado Chaser
after Tornado by Francis Alÿs

The tornado chaser is superstitious.
He wears a tornado like a cloak of lightning.  
His dreams are dark tunnels with stars slipping down them.

He can find a tornado blindfolded.
He smells the fresh-torn redbud tree, the earth’s spores offered up to
      the elements.
He catches the vacuum with his bare hands, wrenches sap from flying 

The tornado chaser sleeps with sand in his eyelashes.
His foxbrush hair has been drowned in Florida saltwater.
He has been baked in mud in the Mississippi.
He has tripped through scrubclaw in the Texan panhandle and been 
      thrown to the sides of the orange-dust caldera.

He has seen a tornado unwrap the night sky like a handkerchief.

He has been in red and turquoise and gold tornadoes.
He has been in tornadoes made of ocean.
He knows tornadoes that spin him in different directions above and   
      below his fault lines.
He knows the heart of the sky is the dark back of the mirror, and the 
      space between constellations.

He has known tornadoes shimmer like sirens.
He has known tornadoes slice him open like crazed turbines.
He knows one day a tornado will strip the flesh from his bones.
He will feel his skin split open, his eyes spread out wider than his skull.

He has looked up the length of the tornado in fear.
He has looked up the inside of the tornado in longing.

He has seen the dark vaulted cathedral above the tornado and prayed.

Seraphima Kennedy

Three Inches Closer

after When Faith Moves Mountains by Francis Alÿs

All we want to do is go backwards,
like the toy cars the kids make
from old mantequilla de cerdo cans

but I've got my foot down on the pedal
driving into a mirage that disappears
every time we get nearer; it's a river

not a road, wet and shimmering, white
on the horizon, with unknown currents
that curl around our ankles

and what looks like it's on a loop, no what

feels like it's on a loop isn't, each frame
is very slightly different, so we know

it must be real and having another baby

is a mythic type of effort,
like the five hundred men in white shirts

an artist asks to move a sand dune

three inches closer to the sea, across a desert
with plastic buckets and spades.

Karen McCarthy Woolf

Everyone is invited to the launch  at 6.45–9pm this Saturday 25 September, in the East Room, Level 7, Tate Modern, Bankside SE1 9TG. Free entry, wine, illustrated readings, great views. The booklet contains poems by 24 poets who attended my Poetry from Art summer course in the galleries and costs £4.95. It will be for sale at this event and only available from the Tate Modern bookshop afterwards.

The contributors are  Karen McCarthy Woolf, Naomi Woddis, Malika Booker, Rowyda Amin, Matthew Paul, Anne Welsh, Sarah Salway, Rebecca Farmer, Zillah Bowes, Cath Drake, Rishi Dastidar, Beth Somerford, Roberta James, Cath Kane, Kaye Lee, Lynn Foote, Seraphima Kennedy, Ali Wood, Julie Steward, Elizabeth Horsley, MJ Whistler, Andrea Robinson, Angela Dock, Beatriz Echeverri.