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Poets who do art: interview with Ira Lightman

A chicken or the egg question, were you a poet first and an artist next, or vice versa?

Poet


How do you work with both? Do you allocate specific time or do you find they manifest themselves to you?

I usually make art (or song) out of poetry drafts that stall. But sometimes just play with making marks, maybe two or three times a year.


Who are your influences today, have they radically changed over time?

Probably writers who design or otherwise add to their writing with art, and exhibitions I've seen that have stunned me, and poets whose work is distinctive visually on the page (not just with an eye for design, but odd line breaks and unusual clustering of vowels and consonants; and not just abstruse vocabulary but unusual combinations, complex collages as it were from a simple dictionary: Paul Magrs, David Bowie, Allen Fisher, Hannah Weiner, Jenny Holzer, Rebecca Horn, Kurt Cobain's journals, Emily Dickinson in her original hand, Thom and Anders Gunn's Positives, Mary Oliver's memoir of her partner, Francesca Woodman, Kiki Smith, Johanna Drucker, Kamau Braithwaite, Stockhausen, Cage, Apollinaire. I've recently acquired Women in Concrete Poetry 1950-1979, which really inspired me.


Let's talk about the, for want of a better term, "covid era". It seems to have made some people super creative & productive and others less so - how has it impacted on your own work?

I couldn't say. I like collaborating, but also enjoy solitude. I've stopped being a full on parent of infants only decades ago, and Covid has brought its own full on qualities again, with home schooling etc. So the old me who could snatch time and formulate quickly has just risen up to the top again to help. I'm certainly interested in how everyone is behaving, and thinking about the out of sight out of mind bullishness of the Thatcherite and Reaganite monetarism I've grown up with (my teens began as the eighties did). It seems to be hitting the buffers and exposing its stupid and murderous balloon game, as the loaded revolver lands in the hands of those who thought they were only spectators and not playing Margaret and Ron's Russian Roulette.


Do you listen to music when you create? Which type?

Depends. Not often. But I may launch FROM music, especially music I had on to get through my academic journal proofreading with which I earn my crust.


What can you tell me about the artwork you shared - how did it come about?

This was from a call out or a commission (i can't remember) asking for interpretations and translations of Apollinaire's Les Fenêtres poem, particularly in the context of its use in opening a Delaunay exhibition. I made pins on a map for all the locations named in this globe trotting poem, then cut up the job using digital tools. Then ran my own translation haphazardly around the lines and borders of the fragments.


What are you working on next?

I'm thinking right now of how to cover a couple of Bowie albums, to do Low like Heathen, and Heathen like Blood on the Tracks, and do a version of Blind Willie McTell that rebukes Dylan for his rendition at the Scorcese tribute concert. I'm also acquiring a white denim jacket and jeans for my artist stepchild to tie die them with a blue paisley pattern and make a tartan type shirt with D'YE KEN on it, in order to do a performance tour of something touching on problems with Conceptual Writing. I more often am visually artistic when commissioned to be. Either for public art commissions, or, oddly, for radio pieces for the Verb. I'm also thinking about how to influence the design a book I've just had accepted.


About Ira Lightman

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