A new pamphlet, The Shooting Gallery, is coming out from Verve Poetry Press in October!
The last weekend of March 2019, my husband Trevor Lillistone and I went to Prague for my birthday weekend, as Prague is one of my favourite cities. As we've visited a number of times before, we decided to focus on art this time, visiting Gallerie Futura, the Kampa Museum, and the National Gallery (we'd been to DOX on a previous visit). At the Kampa, in an exhibition on Czech surrealism, I was repeatedly attracted to work by an artist I'd never heard of before, Toyen. I saw more of Toyen's work at the National Gallery, and on return to England, I began researching his work. I say his because although Toyen was born Marie Čermínová, in his twenties Marie took the name Toyen and repeatedly used the masculine singular version of painter when referring to his work.
Toyen's "The Shooting Gallery XI"
I wrote a handful of poems in response to Toyen's paintings and drawings in the spring and continued to research his work into the summer and autumn. That's when I encountered a series of twelve drawings Toyen completed in 1939-40, "The Shooting Gallery." They bring together images of childhood and violence, alluding to the war. As I began writing prose poems on the drawings in "The Shooting Gallery," I realised that what I thought of when considering the conjunction of childhood and violence was US school and university shootings.
I began researching US school and university shootings and looking at photos from the news stories. From that work arose a series of prose poems I'm still working on, that look at these shootings as though they were surrealist drawings. That is to say, drawing on the information and imagery from the news articles about these events, I composed (or tried to) surrealist paintings in prose.
I'd been talking to Stuart Bartholomew at Verve Poetry Press for at least a year about publishing a pamphlet with the press and proposed this manuscript, with some of the finished poems, and I'm delighted to say they'll be publishing it this October. As soon as pre-orders are available, I'll let you know!