Mobile Poetry

Jazmine Linklater – Figure a Motion (Guillemot Press, 2020)

Ekphrasis, poetry about visual art, is an unusual form, especially when one has no access to the original artwork. Is it a description of a vacant object? A reconstruction? Or is it something new entirely? Something risen from the world of objects but no longer of them?

In Jazmine Linklater’s new collection, Figure a Motion, we are presented with just such an enigma. Inspired by the Castlefield Gallery’s showcase of works by Ruth Barker and Hannah Leighton-Boyce, two artists who focus primarily on objets d’art, Linklater’s poems hang uncertainly on the peripheries of presence and absence.

Linklater is one of the organisers of “No Matter”; Manchester’s newest experimental poetry night. Her style here cries out to be read aloud. Passages recur, repeat, spin around in the air before us.

Even before we think of visual arts, then, we are on the boundary between printed and spoken word.

“Trip plose stip tup pulse pulse powers,” is a line that requires the active participation of the tongue. Reading it silently in one’s head is impossible.

The same with;

                  She brought the liquid flesh light.

                  Maneuvered, I tarnish plates’ sparkable

                  Unreanimate and the laughing.

Although not, in the second case, due to consonantal complexity as much as the bright weight of images, overpiling and suffocating us on first reading. Physical breath is needed to give these words air, to carry them up and aloft, the better to be appreciated.

To return to art then, it is perhaps best to think of Figure a Motion as an elaborate linguistic mobile. It’s words are fractals of an overall pattern that can only be properly seen when it’s hanging; when it looks like it’s floating.

The original artworks are the spokes and these words are hard and glimmering pieces hanging off them. The breath of air blowing through them is the element that brings them to life.

Joe Darlington

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