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“A glimpse of one’s own exile”: The poems of Derek Jarman

Jarman cover


A glimpse of ones own exile
radiating across green lawns
passing geometric laughter
someone had painted the oak yellow

2014 is the twentieth anniversary of the death of Derek Jarman, artist and queer activist. Derek Jarman was one of those artists without boundaries, simultaneously pursuing filmmaking, painting, writing, creative gardening, set design, and more. His astounding notebooks, which look like overstuffed scrapbooks, were filled with collages, calligraphy, poetry, objects, drawings, and pasted images of all sorts.  As part of the celebrations taking place under the auspices of Jarman 2014, London’s Test Centre has reissued Jarman’s only published book of poetry. What’s especially interesting about A Finger in the Fishes Mouth is the fact that every poem is paired with an image from a postcard that Jarman collected. Read more

Susi Bechhöfer Talk in Birmingham


British readers may be interested to know that Susi Bechöfer, whose life provided the major model for Sebald’s character Jacques Austerlitz, is making a public appearance at Aston University on Thursday February 13, 2014. Read more

Photography-Embedded Fiction & Poetry 2013

Here is my list of works of fiction and poetry published in 2013 containing embedded photographs.  You can see all of my previous lists via the drop-down menu “Photo-Embedded Literature” at the top of this page.  I’ve updated a number of the annual lists recently, usually thanks to readers who point me in the direction of books I’ve overlooked.  If you know of a book from any year that I might not have mentioned, please let me know in a comment. [Updated with new titles February 5, 2013, March 5, 2014.]


 S.D. Chrostowska. Permission. Champaign: Dalkey Archive Press, 2013. Contains a number of mostly uncredited photographs. Read more

Writing with Images

Writing with images screen

Art historian James Elkins is engaged in an extensive study on the practice of writing with images, and he is doing this in a very public way by posting drafts of chapters on two blogs and using his Facebook account to solicit ideas and get feedback. It’s a form of live writing with a touch of crowdsourcing thrown in. At his first blog, Writing with Images, Elkins describes his overall project like this:

I have been exploring the history, theory, and possibilities of writing with images. By “writing” I mean fiction (modernist, experimental, conceptual, unclassifiable) and nonfiction (including some art history, art criticism, cultural criticism, visual studies, and art theory). By “images” I mean principally photographs (but also charts, diagrams, maps, photocopies, and other graphics) and sometimes drawings and paintings. Read more

Recently Read – January 25, 2013


Three recent books from my Kindle.

1. Javier Marias. The Infatuations. Knopf, 2013. For the moment at least, The Infatuations is my favorite book by Javier Marias. While it doesn’t have the scope of the three-volume series Your Face Tomorrow, it benefits from an unwavering intensity of focus that is both exhilarating and harrowing at times. With five main characters and a noirish murder mystery plot, The Infatuations focuses in on the psychology of the characters and minutely examines the social and interpersonal dance of their interactions. Read more

Found – Midway on Life’s Journey


This is the last of my trio of posts on recent books that consist of found or appropriated texts and photographs. Elisabeth Tonnard’s In this Dark Wood (J and L Books, 2013) pairs ninety different translations of the opening tercet from Dante’s Inferno with a similar number of photographs from the archive of Joseph Selle, housed at the Visual Studies Workshop, Rochester NY. Elisabeth Tonnard is Dutch-based artist and poet who has made a number of artist’s books that often fuse existing texts and photographs. The Man of the Crowd (2102), for example, combined photographs of a man walking through Paris with a reworked version of Edgar Allen Poe’s short story “A Man of the Crowd,”while other books have payed playful homage to several of of Ed Ruscha’s classic artist’s books. Read more

Conversation with Uwe Schütte


Uwe Schütte is a Reader in German at Aston University, where he has taught since 1999. He has a PhD. from the University of East Anglia, where he studied under W.G. Sebald. His new book about the poetry of W.G. Sebald has just been published by Edition Isele in Eggingen, Germany, at the very affordable price of 16 Euros.

Vertigo: Your new book Figurationen is a study of Sebald’s poetical writings. Why did you decide to write about this aspect of Sebald’s work?

Schütte: The book actually came about by chance. For a long while I meant to write an essay on Über das Land und das Wasser (2008), the collection of Sebald’s poetry edited by Sven Meyer, but I never really got round to doing it. Then the opportunity arose to present a paper on Sebald’s poetry at a conference in Cardiff, Wales. I actually couldn’t attend due to illness but nevertheless wrote the essay for inclusion in the conference proceedings volume.

Taking a closer look at the poems, which I had so far only considered to be appendixes to the prose texts, I discovered that they have considerable merits independent of the prose books. In connection with my research, I came across some articles by the Swedish scholar Axel Englund which contained incisive close readings of several poems that stimulated my interest further. Another factor were the often eye-opening explanatory notes provided by Iain Galbraith, the translator and editor of Across the Water and The Land (2011), the English version of the poetry collection. Read more

Found – in the Mountain

Coal Mountain Elementary

One of the things that can happen – perhaps uniquely – with poetry that appropriates existing texts is that this repositioning of a text into a poem can also dramatically redirect our understanding of that text back within its original source. Mark Nowak’s Coal Mountain Elementary (Coffee House Press, 2009) does exactly that. Coal Mountain Elementary is a kind of activist poetry comprised of preexisting texts that have been combined with color photographs by Nowak and British photojournalist Ian Teh. Read more

Draining the Sea

Marcom Draining the Sea

I am a man collects corpses. I eat photographs and I am a dead man also. A tired man; a whorish man; a man who does not look back, I have only the future in front of me, no present; I am a man without history; and I am a man of despair…

Micheline Aharonian Marcom’s Draining the Sea (Riverhead Books, 2008) is the third in a trio of books that included Three Apples Fell from Heaven (2001) and The Daydreaming Boy (2004). Not quite a trilogy, the three novels each have their roots in the Armenian Holocaust. Read more

Found – in the Desert

Lost and cover

I am queuing up three posts on recent books of “found” poetry and photographs. Each book represents a different approach to re-using extant texts, as well as distinctly different types of photography. Read more


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