Thursday, February 5, 2009

This is a visual poem.

On Harriet... much debate again, thanks to the Tony Fitzpatrick portfolio in the February Poetry, about whether a visual poem is a poem.

Well, pictured here is a work called "Five Columns for the Kröller-Müller." It's a visual poem. Yes?

Here is a quote, ca. 1983, from its creator, the late Scottish poet Ian Hamilton Finlay, who spoke of "the sound of the real wind in the real trees" -

"IHF: The fact is, that it is the ‘pluralist democracies’ – the states with a small ‘s’ which have reduced the art critic, art editor (etc.), to functionaries of the state. And the so-called ‘avant-garde’ is simply democratic state art. What I am saying is, that your question cannot be answered (just now) because it conceals too many other questions; and these are the questions which there is a general agreement – general as regards the Arts Council, the artists, the press, the culture as a whole – to suppress. Inadequately, one can say that there is a total and as yet unacknowledged contradiction between the idea of pluralist democracy and the state-aided art. And that this contradiction reveals itself in the characteristic feeling of an absence of necessity in exhibitions today.

PH: What are the major influences behind your work and how, once these bureaucratic interruptions are over, do you see your work progressing

IHF: The ‘bureaucratic interruptions’ are part of my work, in the sense that they arise from the nature of my work, and are not resolved because the culture is unable to move from the incoherent or emblematic statement of the event (as such), to the conscious statement , in terms of thought. I am interested, therefore, in changing the culture. Till one actually does this, one is merely challenging it. I am extremely concerned with the details of Art – that things should be properly and professionally done: at the same time, I am personally impatient of the categories of ‘artist’, ‘poet’, ‘sculptor’, ‘gardener’ and so on.: these are useful and essential categories but I see that gardening, for instance, easily passes into politics – and this is factually confirmed by the history of gardening, as witness Stowe, or Girardin’s Ermenoville (where Rousseau died); it is in this perspective that I regard my Five Columns for the Kroller-Muller or Corot-Saint-Just.

PH: Your work unites language and image, or language and matter, in a very precise way. Do you see the two as indivisible?

IHF: My relation with language is extremely difficult. I have never understood the ‘easy’ relation with language of other (present day) Scottish writers. Language is an aspect of being, and as there is no single kind of being (qualitatively speaking) so there is no single ‘being of language’. I understand language (in my work, as opposed to correspondence, casual conversation, and so on) as an effort to find a mode of language which is true to a relevant mode of being. In fact (practically speaking) , it always turns out that the temporary resolution of the language difficulty occurs through a temporary intuition of a suitable form. The influence of my work is the Western Tradition (unacknowledged, as one knows, by Strathclyde Region, which is in essence one of the most barbarous and backward states in the USSR). I am particularly interested in the Pre-Socratic Greeks. And for some time I have felt inspired by the neoclassical triumvirate of Robespierre, Saint-Just, and J-L David. These three created that astonishing idealist pastoral, The French Revolution (whose Virgil was Rousseau). Presumably my work will ‘progress’ towards my being in prison, unless the necessity of revolution (a return to Western Traditions) is understood first."

Full interview (with Peter Hill) here.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Finlay's strange and great. There is some material about him at Jacket, too.

Kent

troylloyd said...

jammin' apples, yes, Finlay was quite radical -- i think he broke free off the page moreso than any other poet i know of -- thanx for the interview link, interesting.

also interesting is a short article by Mark Scroggins:

The Piety of Terror:

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