Preliminary Notes


(as reprinted from Poetry News, summer 1998)


The voyage out...

Sue Hubbard, Poetry Places Public Art Poet, considers the links between poetry and the visual arts


'If we retained an element of dream in our memories,' writes Gaston Bachelard in The Poetics of Space, 'if we have gone beyond merely assembling exact recollections, bit by bit the house that was lost in the mists of time will appear from out the shadow. We do nothing to reorganise it; with intimacy it recovers its entity, in the mellowness and imprecision of the inner life. It is as though something fluid had collected our memories and we ourselves were dissolved in this fluid of the past.'

All genuine creativity starts as a meditative act. A Proustian moment of remembrance and observation, a longing to fashion internal chaos into some ordered external manifestation. Since the inception of modernism 'the act of becoming', 'the voyage out' as Virginia Woolf called it, has become as important as the artefact created. Poetry is the most private expression of this dynamic. A mood, an emotion is 'shaped, 'moulded' and brought into being through the 'medium' of language. The word, with all its inherent fallibility for slippage and failure, is the raw material that fills and fashions the void, the empty space that will become the 'object' that is the poem. This process closely mirrors the act of painting whereby the hesitant, intuitive, yet thoughtful gesture, the mark that echoes the rhythms and flow of the body, is equivalent to the beat or metre of a stanza, or the enjambment or dislocation of a line ending.

Both painting and poetry are essentially private, expressionist maps, diagrams of 'becoming'. In these dog days of the late twentieth century, there seems an unnamed hunger - for art in the broadest sense - to give expression to this longing, to name what cannot be named, to fill the void of postmodernity. Public art should not be confused with the civic and monumental. It must integrate itself tactfully, subliminally, surprisingly, lovingly, humourously into the public arena and concious. It too must be a map that guides us collectively back to a centred selfhood, encourages us in 'this world so full of care', to find the 'time to stand and stare'.

This new residency of Public Art Poet is an experiment. It is a residency as yet without a home. Its basis is conceptual; a chance to bring together two different theoretical and aesthetic discourses. The sharp divergence between the visual and the literary is the result laregely of an education system where beaux arts and belles lettres became split between art school and university. At other times this had not been the case. Baudelaire wrote about art. Surrealism started as a literary movement. Whatever tangible projects this residency might achieve - and all are still embryonic - the debate between the visual, plastic arts and poetics, between private and public creativity, between what is internal and external space, will have begun.

- Sue Hubbard