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From Under Austerity Rubble, Ancestral Bird Folk Lay Future Eggs

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Simon Perril: On his Collage Practice

I started making collages in 2001, relatively suddenly, and with no prior visual training. There was just a need to work beyond words. It was liberating. In the last decade collage has become a significant part of my poetic practice: it’s a physical act achieved with scissors and Pritt Stick, but also a semi-improvisational act of thinking. The resulting images are in dialogue with my poems, though not simply illustrations of them. They are almost acts of conduction where the physical acts of cutting, re-arranging and sticking harness ideas and moods in a visual, spatial form. In 1921 Max Ernst made a breakthrough collage called The Preparation of Glue from Bones. His title is a meditation upon collage itself and its capacity to loosen fixed structures (bones) and to re-assemble them with the glue of poetic attention (a capacity I’ve always described in my own work as “Synaptic foliage”). This exhibition gathers images from a sequence of mine called Under Austerity Rubble Ancestral Bird-Folk Laid Future Eggs that currently runs to 70 plates. For Ernst, collage’s force lies in its moment of conjunction and re-situation: “when one brings two distant realities together on an apparently antipathetic plane … an exchange of energy transpires”. The distant realities I am bringing together run in parallel with a sequence of poems called Newton’s Splinter. V2 rocket technology turned Britain to a lunar crater in the blitz, and took America to the surface of the moon after WWII. But what followed the war in Britain was no less heroic a step into the unknown. The founding of the welfare state was our own space mission; recolonizing post-war Britain as a fair and just society may well have been taking footsteps on the moon. Looking back at this moment, from our own time of austerity, such heroic change seems an alien feat of social imagination.

Simon Perril is Professor of Poetic Practice at De Montfort University. His poetry collection include The Slip (forthcoming Shearsman 2020), In the Final Year of My 40s (Shearsman 2018), Beneath (Shearsman, 2015), Archilochus on the Moon (Shearsman 2013), Newton’s Splinter (Open House Editions 2012); Nitrate (Salt 2010), A Clutch of Odes (Oystercatcher 2009), and Hearing is itself Suddenly a Kind of Singing (Salt 2004).

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