22 October 2015

Poetry Thursday - Alec Finlay's infra-extraordinariness

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from: Alec Finlay Question your teaspoons: Stonypathian memories (Dunbar: Calder Wood Press, 2012)
reviewed here (Glasgow Review of Books, 2013)

One of those things you come across when you're looking for something else ... and it resonates.

The review starts in a resonant way, too -
This is how space begins, with words only, signs traced on the blank page. To describe space: to name it, to trace it, like those portolano-makers who saturated the coastlines with the names of harbours, the names of capes, the names of inlets, until in the end the land was only separated from the sea by a continuous ribbon of text. Is the aleph, that place in Borges from which the entire world is visible simultaneously, anything other than an alphabet?
Georges Perec, Species of Spaces (1974)
Alec Finlay – whose Question your teaspoons borrows its title from Perec – has long been something of a portolano-maker, using poetry as a means to explore space – ‘to name it, to trace it’ – and in so doing, to inhabit it."

Portolan lines, you've seen them on old charts, gridding the seas. Here they are again, in the ceiling of the courtyard at maritime museum, Amsterdam -

Alec Finlay was born in 1966. Stonypath, his childhood home, is better known today as poetry garden Little Sparta. His father is artist Ian Hamilton Finlay, who made that garden as well as Wild Hawthorn Press.

Finlay is more than "just" a poet - his work takes various forms and media, including sculpture, collage, audio-visual, neon, and new technologies; often it reflects on human engagement with landscape.

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