A collection of ekphrastic poems in response to a significant exhibition of portraits held at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. in 2011
A collection of lyric and prose poems written in response to an important exhibition of portraits of and by artists identified as gay, lesbian or transgender.
This project sought to develop insights and expand techniques present in my most recent collection of poetry, Finger of a Frenchman (Carcanet, 2011). Towards the end of that book I evolved a hybrid form of critically inflected lyric prose which – as I argued in the ‘Afterword’ and an accompanying critical article– was the only form adequate to a reflection on sophisticated examples of late twentieth century art. The portrait project outlined above was conceived initially as a crucible for further experimentation and as a way of asking what this type of ekphrasis might add to our understanding of the visual representation of and by lesbian, gay and transgendered individuals. As the sequence developed, however, lyric forms reasserted themselves and resulted in the creative subversion of my own intentions. The exhibition in question –the first in America to focus on queer art and culture from the late 19th century to the present– offered an insight into what Eve Kossofsky Sedgwick called ‘the fractal intricacies’ of identity formation and dissolution over the course of the twentieth century and my project attempts to present how I sought to uncover and deploy the rhetorical strategies most appropriate to its verbal translation. As the publications associated with this project make clear the major key finding was the evolution of a type of lyric that translates major European poems while simultaneously acting as an ekphrasis of portraits in the exhibition.
The full collection of poems -In Search of Dustie-Fute- was published by Carcanet Press, Manchester in 2017.
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