Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Standing Poem

If a piece of card is folded once, an astonishing thing happens – the card can stand up ! It has an air of self-possession about it. It holds its place.

If the words are then printed on the front of the card, rather than inside, something equally miraculous occurs – poetry moves from the private into the public realm ! Instead of being assigned to a secluded, literary space, it enters the ordinary, everyday world, taking part in the occasion.

The words are not painted on a wall or carved in stone. The card is a modest format. It sits quietly within the situation, making a difference, suggesting another possibility.

Our relation to literary products is usually voluntary; you go to the shelf to find the book to look up the poem. By contrast, a card is available at a glance. You can forget it for days or weeks and then come into a room and discover it again. It takes you by surprise.

The model fishing boat in the photograph was made by Ian Hamilton Finlay who, in 1965, invented the ‘standing poem’.