My new cycle of visual poems, Bloods Dream, is available now from innovative publisher Beir Bua Press. This little book is important to me, partly because of the new processes I employed in making it, and partly because as a result of one of those processes I accidentally created the most incredible surreal blue, which came to dominate the book’s aesthetic.
First things first. Initial work on what was to become Bloods Dream took the form of some freehand sketches on my iPad, using an Apple Pencil and the Procreate app. These sketches were the direct descendants of some visual poems I made for a collaboration with poet James Roome, biomorphs modelled on the human figure.
However, I was keen to alter the appearance of these pictures, to differentiate them from those I had made for my collaboration with James, so I put them through various apps, randomly applying filters until I found the one that made that gorgeous impossible blue.
I ended up with sixteen images. I don’t attach any specific meaning to them; I always work intuitively, going with what feels right for a project, rather than attempting to impose significance. However, a fascination with bodies and biological processes has been a thread throughout my work for some time, perhaps arising from a squeamish obsession that has resulted in me passing out at the sight of blood! Having created my blue images, I started thinking about my ambivalence towards the human body. As an atheist I identify with my body – I don’t consider it to be distinct from who I am – but paradoxically I still think about it as something alien to me, executing mysterious processes, constantly renewing itself, but of course also gradually ageing and heading towards death. My body may be mine, my body may be me, but I exercise only the most limited, superficial control over it, on a macro level, while on a micro level it does its own thing.
With these thoughts in mind (mind as an activity of an organ, the brain!), I used each image as a springboard for a short piece of writing, executed very quickly, in a manner not dissimilar to automatic writing. I had decided that each piece of writing would go on the right of the image, so that the two formed a diptych. I had also decided that some of the words should be fragmented, obscured or rendered in other ways illegible, not only to disrupt what little meaning might have been lurking there, but also to give each text a pictorial aspect and invite the reader to consider the shapes of letters and words, in parallel with the shape of the biomorph in the adjacent panel: words as pictures, pictures as words.
The writing process took me somewhere slightly unexpected, and I was surprised (and sometimes disturbed) by some of the images and themes that put themselves between my vague intentions and the page (I’ll let other people discover them for themselves). But for me that has always been part of the joy of making poems: every process is an adventure. I might have a general sense of the destination but I follow no map, and I delight in the accidents of apps and the unconscious.
Finally, a word on the title. When you say “Bloods Dream” quickly it sounds like “Bloodstream.” This little book is a stream of blood and dreams. The dreamer is the blood: hot, salty, raging through our veins.
You can find out more about the book in this excerpt from the Beir Bua summer releases launch event:
Bloods Dream is available now from Beir Bua Press.