A Dalinian Weekend in London

This weekend I got see one of my favourite Salvador Dali paintings, ‘The Metamorphosis of Narcissus’, up close at the Freud museum in London. What a moment it was! I’ve written about this painting many times, but like most I’d only ever seen it reproduced in books or through online images etc. The work was all the more impressive as it enables you to see all the tiny intricacies, and Dali really was a master miniaturist. To give an example, ‘The persistence of memory’ is the size of a postcard and yet it has all the depth and intricacy of a painting 10 times the size! The detail on the figures (see some cropped pics below) is sublime, and what strikes me most is his incredible grasp of shadow… it is like he has perfected exactly how a shadow must fall onto every object within a landscape with absolute precision. The paint spats and oozes and circulates in currents of colour making it even more dream-like and psychedelic in reality (Kay Jamison writes about the circumambulatory consistencies in works by the great so-called ‘mad’ or manic-minded painters like Van Gogh and Edvard Munch and so maybe Dali’s tapping something deeper here..). The significance of the painting to The Freud museum also bears mentioning. Dali, like most all the surrealists, worked at the aestheticisation of Freudian psychoanalysis, and so Freud was a hugely significant figure for his life and ideas. Dali met Freud at his London house on July 19th 1938, and brought this painting along with him. Dali took artistic inspiration from their meeting, drawing many pictures of Freud, and even likening Freud’s cranium to the spiralling shell of a snail, using it thenceforth as a symbol for Freud in many subsequent works. Freud was somewhat taken aback by Dali, and called him a ‘mad Spaniard’, but was still deeply impacted by their meeting. Freud later said: “I was inclined to look upon the surrealists, who have apparently chosen me as their patron saint, as absolute cranks. The young Spaniard, however, with his candid fanatical eyes and his undeniable technical mastery, has made me reconsider my opinion”. Not a bad legacy eh? To convince the founder of psychoanalysis that just maybe there’s something to surrealism after all? Breton famously kicked Dali out of the movement, and yet it was Dali, NOT Breton who convinced Freud of their significance. To top the weekend off, on Saturday I presented a conference paper at Birkbeck university on Salvador Dali and decay aesthetics (this can be read after the images from the exhibit below).

 

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me gazing on the Metamorphosis, beside which are the echoing, joyous words of Dali – “the only difference between myself and a madman, is that I am not mad!”

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“In classic paintings, I look for the unconscious – in a surrealist painting, for the conscious” – SIGMUND FREUD
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Freud’s spiralling, conical cranium
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a poem written by Dali to complement the painting
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Freud’s infamous couch and the office where many of the legendary unconscious plunders were undertaken…

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Freud’s totem collection. It is said he often held many of these figures as he spoke to patients, as if trying to draw some ancient, mythic significance from them… the ancient myths and the unconscious mind are seen as somehow deeply intertwined

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Dali paper given at Birkbeck London:

Deciphering Visions of Death and Decay in the Paranoiac Art and Writing of Salvador Dali

The legendary Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dali was an artist who relished the eccentric, the audacious, the dionysian. In youth he was expelled from schools, and in adulthood he was expelled from entire movements – and loved it. His iconic dream-galvanising works bearing spindly-legged elephants and rhinoceri, oozing camembert clocks and death masks, flaming giraffes, giant locusts, anthropomorphic cliffs and rock formations, are at once farcical fantasies and probing explorations of self. Buried beneath these scenes of Rabelaisian absurdity we so often find an overriding sense of desolation and decay: endless crumbling landscapes and wandering spectres; fossilised architectures, and apocalyptic scenes of war and terror. But what do they signify? As a member of the surrealists, a movement borne of the seismic discovery of the Freudian unconscious, his art worked towards the aestheticisation of psychoanalysis; the uprooting and artistic exposition of dream psychology. Psychoanalysis inherently centers around ideas of the decaying psyche: and dreams likewise work at appeasing some repressed urge, some looming, festering obsession or neuroses.

Paranoiac critical method

Dali wrote extensively on his craft and its engagement with such psychoanalytic ideas – appearing alongside the likes of Jacques Lacan in Minotaure in 1931, even meeting Freud himself in 1938, and he developed a revolutionary means of self-analysis which he hailed the ‘paranoiac critical method’. This was a means of designating and systematising the kaleidoscopic cornucopia of his dreams. He described how the method “organizes and objectivizes, in an exclusivist manner, the limitless and unknown possibilities of the systematic association of subjective ‘significance’ in the irrational… it makes the world of delirium pass onto the plane of reality” (from Dali’s 1935 essay ‘The Conquest of the Irrational’). Harnessing the recurrent images of his dreams, he placed himself ‘on the couch’ so to speak, painting a symbolic, ‘manifest’ rendition of his ‘latent’ emotional state. And Once these private fantasies and visions of madness are deciphered, through his recollections of childhood and the key events in his life, there begins to emerge a very precise and evocative rendition of inner thought and feeling.

The great masturbator

Taking one of Dali’s famed earlier works, ‘The Great Masturbator’ (1929), as an example, we can see this manifest-vs-latent composition at work. First and foremost we see the domineering downward facing profile of Dali, the shape of which mirrors a Catalonian rock formation he used to visit alone as a child. So immediately we have this strong sense of childhood shame radiating from the painting. A boy’s  grazed knee in the upper right further reinforces this child-like timidity in the overwhelming angelic presence of Gala, his lifelong love, who is adorned with the image of a drooling lion, symbolising burning lust, as she nuzzles his nethers. Dali had a great phobia of locusts, and so the giant locust covering Dali’s mouth here represents his great looming fear of sex in youth, the antennae recreating his signature sweeping moustache and perhaps representing his adult self. This fear of sex and sexual desire in his youth stemmed (at least in part) from his father, who used to leave out a book with grotesque pictures of sufferers of venereal disease as a warning of what happens to sexual deviants (Secret Life). Ants are a recurrent symbol of death and decay in Dali’s work, this stemming from a vivid childhood memory of a dead bat covered in ants, which he proceeded to bite into for reasons known only to himself. Here then the locust’s abdomen being covered in ants perhaps represents this slow death or ebbing of his fear: in other words, his rising sexual confidence. This is then bolstered by the small egg in the bottom centre, which represents hope and fertility in his work, and the two embracing figures close by who represent this faint and distant hope of a lasting and passionate relationship. Thus, we see how these images work at some hidden logic: the maniacal manifest content cloaks an underlying latency and truth.

Persistence of Memory

Especially important for Dali is this idea of the decay of time, and of memory, and this is something best evoked in what is likely his most famous work, ‘The Persistence of Memory’. The ironic title, contrasted utterly with the oozing clocks which signify the ebbing flow of time and memory, toys with the inherent contradictions of dreams and the inner world; the subconscious as the inverse of the waking mind, which is geared at fabrication; the rebus of the dream. The work can be seen to evoke similar ideas to that which Jean-Paul Sartre explores in his classic existentialist novel, Nausea, in which Antoine Roquentin describes the inevitable corruption of memory as we think on the past: “we only receive the scraps of images, remembered or invented… sometimes I happen to pronounce some of those beautiful names you read in atlases… they engender brand new pictures in me… but for a hundred dead stories there remains only one or two living ones. These I evoke cautiously, occasionally, not too often, for fear of wearing them out” (Nausea, pp. 52-53). The decay of memory here then is equated with the decay of truth: as we reminisce on the past more and more the fabrication of ‘false memories’ ensues, and so it is that Dali’s biography, The Secret Lifeof Salvador Dali, is littered with these self-admitted ‘false memories’ which are something more like the shadows of memories due to their gradual dissipation.

Un chien Andelou

Another of Dali’s most iconic works was in a very different medium: the 1929 silent film ‘Un chien andelou’ or ‘An Andalusian dog’, written with Louis Bunuel. Shot in the vein of a Freudian dream sequence and urging the viewer to free association, it centers loosely around a young woman’s turbulent love life. She ages and meets many different men, but none seem to have the same lasting effect on her as the very first man she meets. This man, oddly enough, is garbed in nuns clothes on their first meeting, and appears violent towards both her and her subsequent lovers (presumably out of jealousy), but nevertheless her love for him supersedes all others. At one point in the film we see a pair of rotten donkey corpses draped over a pair of pianos – this was the image Dali was said to have based the entire film around (Secret Life). They are tied to a piece of rope along with broken tablet pieces bearing the ten commandments, and 2 bewildered priests (one of which is Dali himself), and dragged aggressively toward the woman in what appears to be a symbol of his forcing his religious beliefs upon her. This nightmarish image of the rotten donkeys then, contextualised by the presence of other Christian iconography, seems to evoke the testing of Christian ideals, of one’s faith.

Metamorphosis of Narcissus

Another iconic Dalinian work is the ‘Metamorphosis of Narcissus’, an ekphrastic painting which contains the entirety of Ovid’s myth of Echo and Narcissus in a singular image. The two central images of the figure and the hand clasping an egg essentially denote Narcissus’s changing psychology as he gazes into the water. The left figure image is Narcissus as he famously gazes on himself in the lake’s reflection, and on the right is a metaphorical rendition of what he finds lurking there… he finds self-love, and so the egg, which represents blossoming love and fertility, symbolises how, as he gazes into the watery depths, he falls in love with his own image.. How he drowns in his own image even. The mirror image being a gigantic hand is particularly pertinent in that it represents at once this idea of an aggrandisement of the self (narcissism) but at the same time this idea of how love denotes, in psychoanalytic terms, the ego-ideal: which is the perfected and grossly augmented rendition of self. So through these 2 central mirrored images we have a depiction of both outer world and inner psychology, and the decay of reality through narcissistic self-love.

Millet’s Angelus

But there was one particular image which plagued Dali for much of his life, an image which he described as at once ‘the most troubling of pictorial works, the most enigmatic, the most dense, the richest in unconscious thoughts that has ever existed’ (The Tragic Myth of Millets Angelus). This image was Jean Francois Millet’s Angelus, and it not only appears in a plethora of Dali’s artwork, in various forms, but was also the primary influence for his paranoiac-critical manifesto, The Tragic Myth of Millet’s Angelus (1933). The painting seems to have been for Dali, the very pinnacle of that manifest-latent divide: a kind of mythologised rendition of the very essence of surrealism and psychoanalysis. The grim aspect of the standing figures left Dali no doubt that here were two people mourning a child, and he continued to write his entire Tragic Myth, based on this unproven belief. Many years later he expressed ‘the great mythical theme of the death of the son, an essential sentiment that became apparent in my Tragic Myth, was confirmed once my thesis had been completed, without my having yet been able, until recently, to verify it’ (intro, Tragic Myth). His obsession, reflected by the innumerable allusions and appearances of the Angelus in his artworks, led to this astounding discovery, only verified a century after the work’s conception by modern x-ray technology. Hidden deep beneath the many layers of soil and paint, there lay the unquestionable outline of a small coffin, the size of which would suit only a child… Dali was right all along… 

Dali’s angelus / conclusion

The image is above all, a symbol of lurking truth behind all obsessions, all repressions; the kernel of trauma, the origin or source point which Freud seeks to locate and uproot. But the Angelus also seems to act as a symbol of Dali’s own buried childhood, the haunting by his youth, and the curse of age. The decaying landscapes which are overlooked by these looming seers of the Angelus are transformed under their gaze. They are statues: solid, unfaltering monuments of the object, manifest world, lost and misplaced totems in the vast and eternal dreamscapes of unknown latency… 

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THANKS FOR READING!

 

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‘Journey to the West’ inspired poems

I had my World Literature undergraduate class write some poetry yesterday which I thought I’d share. But first to contextualise.. This week we were looking at Wu Cheng’en’s (1500-1582) Journey to the West (sometimes called just Monkey or Monkey King), which is considered one of the great classics of Chinese literature. It’s a greatly entertaining read, and unlike anything I’ve read before… part fantasy, folk lore, allegory, history, philosophy (Confucian and Buddhist) based on the great pilgrimage by the monk Xuan Zang (602-664) who travelled all over Asia to share Buddhist teachings. It tells of Tripitaka’s (the English name for the central character) journey to find enlightenment, after being instructed by Buddha to find the sacred scrolls and bring them back to China. Along the way he meets various other legendary figures, including Pigsy (a pig-faced outcast who represents primal urges), Sandy (a quiet and contemplative river ogre), and most notably of all the inimitable Monkey King. The Monkey King, or Sun Wu Kong (which means ‘awakened to emptiness’ – the Buddhist creed in essence), is an all-powerful simian trickster god who rejects heaven for its rigid, governmental structure (as well as simply for its being so unbearably boring). He is blessed with the ability to transform any single one of his copious bodily hairs into anything he can imagine on a whim, and is a symbol of the combined power of madness and genius within the novel. After many demon battles, hardships and glorious adventures, the group eventually retrieve the sacred scrolls, only to find that they are blank – symbolising this fundamental Buddhist idea of finding enlightenment by way of some deeper inner truth, inner acceptance, independence. In its original form the novel was written alongside a great many Buddhist poems: beautifully serene and tranquil fragments akin to meditations, which are fundamental to the philosophical underlay of the novel and evoking its true meaning. Here are a few examples:

‘One white rainbow arching
A thousand strands of flying snow
Unbroken by the sea winds
Still there under the moon …
A noble waterfall cascades
Hanging suspended like a curtain’

and more…

Emerald moss piled up in heaps of blue
White clouds like drifting jade
While the light flickered amongst wisps of mist
A quiet house with peaceful windows…
Exotic blooms all around

The most famous and still the most widely circulated English translation of Journey to the West, Arthur Waley’s 1942 translation, callously cuts out every one of these poems, neutering this so crucial aspect. Though forty years later a number of translators reintegrated the poems in a similar vein to the original. In class we’d been discussing these prose vs poetic form translations, and the idea more broadly, and so I decided it might work to test the act of poeticising parts of the novel. Time for my class to get in touch with their ‘Zen side’. I led the class outside under the shade of our big majestic tree in the central quad of our building, and we recreated some of the scenes of the novel in Zen Buddhist-style poetry. We also listened to a calming Zen soundtrack to set the mood and feel more at one with the world. Here are the poems:

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A stone stood atop great spire
Shrouded in misty skies
Circumference visible to all
The great father rests
so tall as to touch the heavens
As earth revolves around his mount
He contemplates the cosmos.
At its summit, nine great palaces
Surrounded by glowing magic fungus,
Sweeping beds of orchids.
For all eternity the stone listens
Hearing whispers of truth
Watching the beauty upon the earth
Until the stone developed a womb
And from it came a stone egg

**

“Relinquish your fear
Leap into the waiting embrace
Of the lotus leaf”
That simian Great Sage
Divested of his weapon
Disappears in a streak of light.
Through Buddha’s wisened lens,
Who witnessed the Monkey King’s toil
Fruitful, and yet in vain,
Smiled that gentle, all-seeing smile…

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Painting with words – J. G. Ballard and Salvador Dali inspired text/art/poetry

Some time late last year I designed what you might categorise as a kind of text-art / concrete poem which emulates a painting by Salvador Dali. I designed this piece using a similar style to that used by the dystopian author J. G. Ballard, who created a series of unusual billboards in the 50s which were made up of only text. The ads were in stark contrast to the others with their highly visual, eye-catching ads bearing sleek new cars and big breasted women, and instead turned the well-known methods of advertising on their head. Ballard’s were more like a strange encrypted message for the masses, which would make people stop and think. Each person who viewed them would draw their own unique logic in deciphering these works, much in the same vein as the surrealists. In short, Ballard’s ads were working at empowering the consumer, which is very different to most every other ad, which has one overriding goal… MAKE. THEM. BUY. In the first year of my literature PhD I came accross these billboards and wanted to try and work out what they were. I couldn’t simply go along with the vast majority of critics who, because they could not decipher them, concluded that they must be meaningless. The odd thing is, the words and terms that these billboards were made up of are clearly not meaningless, in fact they are very meticulously placed, planned and designed. Many are characters and scenes and objects and memories and other fragments which could be found in a great many of his other works, as if he was providing clues. One day, whilst researching Ballard’s influence by Dali, I started to think on what a Dali painting might look like if it were made purely of words. All of these fragmentary characters and scenes and dream-like dialogues, and then it seemed plausible that Ballard might have been trying somthing similar with his billboards. This was a method also used by Magritte in a small few of his paintings, Magritte being another key influence on Ballard, and so this did not seem too far a stretch. In fact it made a lot of sense. I began scouring Dali’s work to see if there was any works which might fit the bill. I focused on the central ‘image’ in Ballard’s billboard, ‘mr f is mr f’ (below), and, as I knew ‘mr f is mr f’ is a surrealist story about a man who slowly devolves, and is absorbed back into his mother’s womb (weird I know), I started to look for something similar in Dali’s images, until, lo and behold, I was reminded of ‘Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of New Man’ (1943), which similarly has this huge centralised image of Dali being absorbed into a globe-womb form. Viewinf the image as a ‘textual narrative’ it was just like Ballard’s image. When I placed the billboard and the painting next to each other, I saw that there was far more coinciding elements at play (see my previous blog post here and Guardian article here for more background / examples of crossovers). So could they then be encoded Salvador Dali paintings? What better way to undermine the consumer spectacle than to inundate it with surrealist paintings, paintings which work at reinvigorating the imagination? ALL POWER TO THE IMAGINATION! As the famed May’ 68 slogan went.

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one of J. G. Ballard’s billboards from the 1958 ‘Project for a New Novel’ series

Ballard hailed Dali as the greatest painter of the twentieth century and often expressed how his own literary work was heavily influenced by both the surrealist movement and especially Dali’s work and methods. He constantly repeated in interviews how he had always dreamed of being a painter rather than a writer, but never had the artistic skill to do so, which is probably why he decided to create a new method which would enable him to create art using the medium he knew best… the medium of words. So some time last year I decided to try it for myself and create my own billboard/artwork/poem using a Dali painting as the framework. So I decided to use on of my favourite Salvador Dali paintings, ‘Metamorphosis of Narcissus’ (1937), as the underlying artwork.

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Dali – ‘Metamorphosis of Narcissus’ (1937)

The amazing thing about this painting is how it manages to contain the entire Narcissus myth as told by Ovid in a singular image. This by way of a mergence of mythic imagery and his own personal symbology which recurs throughout his work (Dali’s autobiography, The Secret Life of Salvador Dali, is a kind of codex for all of these symbols and images which appear and reappear in his paintings). The two central images of the figure and the hand clasping an egg essentially denote Narcissus’s changing psychology as he gazes into the water. The left figure image is Narcissus as he famously gazes on himself in the lake’s reflection, and on the right is a metaphorical rendition of what he finds lurking there: he finds self-love, and so the egg, which represents blossoming love and fertility in Dali’s work, symbolises how, as he gazes into the watery depths, he falls in love with his own image. How he drowns in his own image. The mirror image being a gigantic hand is particularly pertinent in that it represents at once this idea of an aggrandisement of the self (i.e. narcissism) but at the same time this idea of how love denotes, in psychoanalytic terms, what Lacan called the ego-ideal; the perfect and grossly augmented rendition of self (see Lacan’s definition of love here for more clarity). So through these 2 central mirrored image we have a depiction of both outer world and inner psychology. In the distance to the left of the image are the cliffs, the cliffs into which famously the nymph Echo would be transformed, cursed for all time to only mimic the voices of others. But now onto my own Ballard influenced billboard.

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a Ballard style version of Dali’s ‘Metamorphosis of Narcissus’

So what was my method here and what do these words mean in relation to the Dali image? As Ballard does in his own billboards, I first limited myself to using only text, and then attempted to recreate Dali’s painting using allusive fragmentary headlines (many based on Ballard’s stories and characters) and scientific journal excerpts (in this case from a marine biology journal – i.e. ‘drowned world’ – as does Ballard), using the spacing and squared blocks of text to shape out the image. Let me begin to describe the various fragments of text and what they denote. In the top left appears ‘ravenous’ which is partially severed. There are multiple reasons for this and other truncated portions of text. Firstly, so as to urge the viewer to fill the linguistic or narrative void: the fact that the ‘R’ is partially cut-off suggests that there is part of the word missing, the full word being ‘intravenous’. The word itself contains, in homophonic terms, the word ‘ravine’, which is why it is situated in the same location as the ravine or gorge in Dali’s painting (the letter ‘V’ is dead centre within the word thus mirroring the shape of the ravine itself). It could also be seen to emulate the word ‘ravenous’ as in extreme huger, denoting the idea of either Narcissus’s hunger for himself of Echo’s hunger for Narcissus (as in Ovid’s classic myth). The use of truncated text in Ballard’s billboards often serves to emphasise the limitation in the viewer’s visual field and so is emulated here. The purpose of this is to imitate the effect when one views a painting, whereby the viewer, though limited to the framed image before them, nevertheless assumes the depicted image to go beyond this frame of reference (e.g. when a distant mountain range continues off the edge of a landscape painting). The jarring severance of text here also serves to emulate the overarching theme of mirrors, reflection and self-absorption.

So here like Ballard I’m able to generate a multitude of overlapping concepts through a single word, when I acknowledge it as one which stands in the void between language and image. A little down and to the right of where ‘RAVENOUS’, appears ‘The Drowned’ which could refer to The Drowned World or Ballard’s short story ‘The Drowned Giant’ (note the serif text – Ballard uses serif text when he’s alluding to specific short stories). I liked the idea of leaving the final word empty so that the specification of the story is ‘drowned’ in a sense. You’ll notice further down I use the word ‘giant’, this clearly referencing the story, which has been flipped upside down so as to emulate the reflection of the surface of the water. What this achieves is to recreate the duality rendered in Dali’s painting, in which we at once see a giant humanoid (Narcissus) hunched over the water and the hand of a giant figure underwater (i.e. why i use ‘the drowned giant’). The sense of scale in the painting is constantly shifting, in flux, much in the same way that I use text (‘THE DROWNED giant’), using capitalisation and rescaling. You might expect ‘THE DROWNED’ to be situated beneath the water, and ‘giant’ to be located above, but as we know from Dali’s work, the true ‘giant’ is located exactly where expected; beneath the water, exposing, in Freudian logic, the grossly aggrandised ego, or as Lacan would have it, the ego-ideal, the self-obsession which goes far beyond the scale of the painting itself.

To the left of ‘giant’ appears the words ‘SALINE: UTERINE’ which at once represents the location of the pool of water, but also tackles the Freudian implications of Dali’s painting: a narcissist gazes into the uterine depths longingly, this representing the dislocation of the self-obsessive’s ‘lack’. The ‘uterine’ thus designates the mother, the womb, which has been replaced with the self, this leading to a narcissistic self-love. But it also reinforces this presiding duality within Dali’s painting, especially between the inner and outer world, and the distortion between the gaze of the self and other. Above water, externality, otherness – below water, the self, the uterine truths. On the opposite side of the billboard, mirroring saline/uterine, is ‘canine’, situated in the same location as the dog in Dali’s painting, emulating Ballard’s method of locating certain objects and structures to create an overarching sense of the image. To the right of the centre, rotated 90 degrees clockwise, are the words ‘metacarpal antimatter’ denoting the fragmentation of the pieces of the hand in Dali’s image, in a similar vein to the many atomic themed images by Dali, created at a time when particle physics was a hot topic in scientific circles. The ‘0’ in ‘0.314…’ represents the egg, whilst the incorporation of pi is meant to represent the sense of inconsistent repetition which we see in Dali’s painting; note that in the distance of Dali’s painting, between the snow-capped mountains can be seen the image of another hand clasping an egg in an ‘echo’ of the central hand. The incorporation of pi here was also because I not only got a strong sense of the mathematical from the image, particular by way of the repetitions and the chess-board, but also the Greek statue on the right in front of the mountains, which I saw as harking back to Pythagorean devotion in some sense. As I explored with this method of creating art using using words, exploring this point of intersection between words and images, it became apparent just how many endless possibilities there were. Ballard saw that first. 

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Thrills with Daffodils – A Wordsworthian lovesong for Jeff (Warning: silly and exlpicit)

Earlier this year I went on a fantastic, unforgettable trip to France and Switzerland as part of an MA Romanticism course. As a group we gelled almost immediately, and one night, after a long day of roaming the Grasmere hills and reading and reciting Wordsworth’s genteel poetry, we got drunk and decided to write some of our own… needless to say our take on Wordsworth was a little more explicit than the original. We decided it should revolve around Jeff, who was our fantastic and friendly tour guide through Wordsworth’s life and work, whom we all liked and liked to have a laugh with. So here I give you our collective masterpiece by a bunch of drunk Romantic literature students.

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‘Thrills with Daffodils – A Wordsworthian Lovesong for Jeff’ by a bunch of drunk Romantic Literature students

Oh Wordsworth, you surely cannot know what
your words are worth to me?
Was it for this?
Or was it for John Carter?
But know this, my Jeffrey:
When I read the prelude,
I feel the need to get nude,
to let loose, in the reclusion of you…
Surely there is no manuscript
without you and I?
And twere there a shortage of pages
I need only your sodden, emptied clothes
for this, my lovesong for the ages..
The way you so tenderly touch the books spine
O’ twas sublime! Might you do the same with mine?
And Lo! On a gentle Grasmere peak
I wandered lonely as a cloud
You made my dick stand tall and proud…
As a curator, you conserve the past,
and so I wonder how long you’d last…
would it be dream-like slow or rapid fast?
And wherefore would our clothes be cast?
In the midst of pleasure when you said “go harder”!
I cried back “NO! Pray but think on John Carter!”
I could arrange the objects in your museum
In a way that will make you cum…
We might near that beauteous Elysium,
If you’d but do me up the bum?
O’ Come inside my Dove Cottage!
Bind me! Stitch me! Hold me hostage!
Dorothy and William let us follow…
let us pick up those fallen pieces
and stitch them together, like you didst to me.
Oh Jeff pray take rest, I shall be your scribe..
As you share your love of Will
May I play with your quill?
But give me a moment, I need to refill.
You folded me over in every direction
Will you help me sustain this massive erection?
The way you unfolded the map
To my heart, twas but a trap…
I remember in the room that tranquil breeze
But rejoice in knowing it was only you I seek to please.
I worked oh so hard to form a quarto
But alas! all I could get was an erecto.
Your homemade ink hast left a stain upon my heart,
While these manuscripts of such delicacy,
Set my heart aflutter like a feathered quill.
I’m bamboozled by your love,
Oh Jeff, you make me feel like a first edition…

You ask questions aplenty, to make us smarter
But the answer of course, is e’er John Carter.
You impressed me with such erudition,
And ere with your permission
didst I move the book-bearing box,
and pray as not to make you cross.
You taught me to count,
Just know that you can count on me,
And while I know how much you like rough edges
To these gentle hands one pledges.
Grab the needle and stitch me,
Make surest that thy hands are clean,
and be my needle, tend my seem.
And with your permission, John Carter,
We shall get dirty after class,
Shalt thou take me up the Mer de Glace?!
O Pluck my dainty daffodil!
And know that ten thousand daffodils dancing
Cannot compare with the tender rhythm of our humping.
I think often on when you showed me the prelude manuscripts
and freely weep,
As we bang on sweeping hilltops like horny sheep.
Feed me your Grasmere gingerbread
Whilst you go about giving me head.
And when you taketh me to bed
Twould be no struggle to get Jerwood.
Ah, let it be known the Grasmere trust
Didst nothing but stoke the flames of my lust,
Why we could together wipe the dust from Will’s bust,
Then fuck, ever so thoroughly we must..
Through time we shall travel,
The deepest mysteries of your body must I unravel.
I will write you a lyrical ballad,
whilst you gently toss me like a salad.

Lancaster fireworks (concrete-sound poem)

..- – Pop booom pop- ..-
..- — Potpourriiiiii of light —..
..– – Spraying colours spryly spiralling skyward — -..
..- Sonic boooms smoky shadows sprites dancing irises iridescences – ..
..– streeeaking ‘splosionss stratospheric silver sliversss –…
-.- -Violet Plumes and violent BOOOOMs and soaring sapphire flares — .-
– ..- Crackling crimson inklings sprinkling castle spires afire-.. –
–.. -. -conjuring cosmic corpuscles – ..–. –
–.. -Tonight ceaseless stars– ..-.
..–Momentarily- –..
.. dwindle.. .
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On a Halloween night in the 80s… (a poem)

As time dissolved at the arcade
All through the night he played and played
Through pixel dungeons fought and flayed
til the owner pulled the plug

his neon kingdom overthrown
Astride his bike he heads for home
The roads are dark he’s all alone
the trick or treaters dreaming

Pumpkins line the streets for miles
Crinkled faces, seedy smiles
Sharpened teeth like crocodiles
So soon they’ll start to rot…

Through the graveyard theres a quick route home
With ominous oaktrees, paths overgrown
He manoeuvres softly o’er gravel and bone
So as not to break the silence

Then he hears a whisper close and slight
Lets loose a whimper- cocooned in fright
he pedals so hard his bike takes flight
and he falls into a grave..

he hits his head and vision swirled
and stumbles on some underworld
then before his eyes great wings unfurled
Nevermore! Nevermore! Nevermore!

and when he rose from that grave place
with body stiff and blood-streaked face
he smiled and felt the nights embrace
and went to find a victim…

***

The surreal graffiti-poetry of Jean-Michel Basquiat

SAMO, Jean-Michel Basquiat’s early alter ego, once wrote ‘graffiti is a poem the city writes to itself’. Though he’s best known for his iconic grafitti art – which sort of blends 80 neon, cave/wall art and tiki masks – his origin you might say was words. SAMOs words plastered and invigorated the New York city streets of the late 70s. Dwindling democracy, rife racial discrimination, violent capitalism and rampant poverty.. these topics were the rocket fuel to his booming creative engine. His words, like his art, were simple and yet pierced to the bone, they grappled with the deeper, underlying truths which were not to be found anywhere else. They made the unspoken not only visible, but beautiful. though already well on his way to the history books and stardom, in 1980 he was befriended by Andy Warhol who immediately saw his artistic genius and even bought some of his work.. Basquiat was made. Later he would collaborate with Warhol, though Warhol himself, one of the most iconic artists who ever lived, was disconcerted by just how easily his own work became lost, drowned out and utterly overshadowed when put anywhere near the sheer aesthetic immensity, originality and gravitational pull of Basquiat’s art. Jean-Michel died tragically of a drug overdose at just 27, but he was prolific, and created thousands of sketches, and hundreds of larger paintings which continue to hold great power and significance.

Below is a series of fragments taken from Basquiat’s early notebooks (ed. Larry Warsh), which I’ve rearranged to make a series of poems. Many of the words and phrases appear again and again in his grafitti/art/poetry – a hoard of words and images that he cut and pasted here and there, not unlike that method used by William Burroughs, an author who he greatly admired. Many of the phrases in the books are crossed out, and it is not known for certain why.. It could have been that he did not like these fragments, or maybe because he had already used them out on the streets. If the latter is true he’d have been something like an 80s NY version of Wordsworth: wandering about with his notepad and spraycans, jotting down ideas and poetic fancies as he went about on his odyssey, through streets thrumming and overflowing with energy and vibrancy. A sense-blitz, in which his creative mind was set alight by the scenes all around him. Many of these fragments, as you’ll see, are so vivid and poetic they could easily have come straight out of the pages of the Beat poets. They’re simple, raw and cut to the core. Here is

 

((___POEMZ“__by____Basquiat©____))

***

THE DREAM WILL NEVER DIE

ACCEPT THE REALITY OF LIVING

RUSHED INTO A LIMO BY SECRET SERVICE

IN A FRONTAL ATTACK

***

MILLING IN THE CROWD

TODAY HE ADMITTED TO BEING FOOLISH

RAN INTO THE TRAIN TO BEAT OUT THE FLAMES

THEY HAD TO

THEY FALLEN ASLEEP AND WERE INHALING THE SMOKE

SLIGHT CRACK IN THE GAS LINE

***

EMPTY AND MISRABLE

THIS LIFE IS AN OPEN SORE FESTERING

BRICK RUINS

TOMB HOLLOW MORTURARIES

VOICES OF AUTHORITY MAKE MAJOR CLAIMS

OTHERS   FROM THE EAST

GATHER AROUND THEM

SHO…

***

THE BAR WAS REALLY RED WITH CHINESE PAPER CUTOUTS

AND WOOD PANELING

THERE WAS A GLASS ARGUMENT AT THE POOL TABLE

IN THE BACK

“THAT’LL BE EIGHTY CENTS POP”

6 OR 7 OLD PUGS IN FELT

SHE LOOKED LIKE A VILLAN FROM TERRY AND THE PIRATES

***

I FEEL LIKE A CITIZEN

IT’S TIME TO GO AND

 

COME BACK A DRIFTER

***

LEAPSICKNESS

THE LAW OF LIQUIDS

THAT THORN IN MY HEAD NAGGING

MY FISTS CLOSED

VICTIMS OF EMBELLISHED HISTORY

THE SPORES FLOATED ON EVERTHIN

***

COLONIES OF BLACK RODENTS

FAKE SANDPAPER

SLEDGEHAMMER EYES

ROAD DINER

PLAY THE PART FOR HIS OWN REASONS

***

A MARBLE IN A SHOTGLASS

AFTER BREAKFAST HE STEALS A WALLET

FROM DAY OLD DRUNK ON SATURDAY MORNING—–

KERNELS OF CORN AS A FINAL OFFER FOR DEFECTIVE RIFLES

***

A YOUTH WITH “CROW” SYNDROME:

(AN ATRACTION TO SHINY OBJECTS)

SEES THE STONE AROUND HER NECK

FAT MONKEY

***

THE JIG IS UP

SO SAY GOODBYE TO THE NIGHTMARE

ON AUTOMATIC PILOT

***

FLICK OF THE WRISK

JAPANESE ARCHITECTS

AREA CODE OF ST. LOUIS

***

HE WAS PASTY WHITE

NO HE WAS SWARTHY, DARK AND SEXY—

NO HE WAS PASTY WHITE X—

***

A PRAYER

NICOTINE WALKS ON EGGSHELLS

MEDICATED

THE EARTH WAS FORMLESS VOID

DARKNESS

FACE OF THE DEEP

SPIRIT MOVED ACCROSS THE

WATER AND THERE WAS LIGHT

“IT WAS GOOD”©

BREATHING INTO HIS LUNGS

2000 YEARS OF ASBESTOS.

***