At the end of 2012, John Lucas contacted me about writing some poems in response to woodcuts by Alan Dixon, whose 73 Woodcuts had appeared through Shoestring Press the previous year.
Dixon’s images, made in the spirit of early 20th century movements like Die Brucke and Dadaism, provoked a variety of responses, ranging from a new nursery rhyme (‘Procession’) to an odd study of ‘Two Heads’, forming some new but yet-to-be-named thought at a Swiss cabaret, and a ‘Complicated Figure’ whose disjointed body anticipates “a coming disorder”.
There are ‘Inquisitors’, a ‘Nocturne’ and – my personal favourites – versions of two songs from Alfred Jarry’s Ubu Cocu that merge the cheerful obscenity of Viz Comic with the violence and gore of b-movies like Cannibal Holocaust: just having an excuse to take a crack at those made the whole exercise worthwhile, and Dixon’s portraits of King Ubu himself, and a non-canonical but very Ubu-esque character named ‘Big Mouth’, were a chance that wasn’t going to come again anytime soon.
The book, now titled Wood & Ink, includes responses to Dixon’s work by Andrew Sant, Helena Nelson, Paul McLoughlin, Jo Shapcott & John Hartley Williams (there’s also one marvellous poem by Alan Dixon himself, placed beside a specially-made woodcut image of its subject). It goes to press today and will be launched next month.
Until then here’s one of the poems from my series that didn’t make the final cut. Consider its appearance here a kind of taster or bonus track in anticipation of the finished publication in September. There’s also a very informative interview with Alan Dixon on Helena Nelson’s Sphinx.
What is understood when we stand together
like the two planes of a fairground mirror
on either side of the darkness in this tight room
is that we are only alike to small degrees.
Your breast is rounded, my ribs a knife,
my arms are lowered, your hand upraised.
On my back I carry this entirely useless roof
you no longer want to build a life beneath.
Two Personages by Alan Dixon appears in 73 Woodcuts (Shoestring Press, 2011) [p.80]