Intervista a Tim Gaze
by Steven J. Fowler
1 considering the variety of styles in Selected Scribbling and
Scrawling, do you create in waves of similar work? Do you deliberately
try not to repeat yourself?
I think I’m trying to consider the method of scribbling or the mode of scrawling, the hand-line, as an entire form, or creative universe. Something that is not an adjunct of poetry or text art but a way of making poems that one might spend a lifetime refining. I’d like to teach a course on scribbling. It would be more therapeutic than one about writing poems. So the selections for the book are from different periods of time, where differing concepts were prominent in my writing and so absolutely your question is well considered, these are bursts re-ordered, re-considered post facto. My favourite works are the intricate scribs, done usually on trains in London, with an hour journey given to each line, and then reworked over weeks. But others were done walking in Gdansk, upright with my eyes closed, for example.
2 how did you get into making things which are completely left of the
field of vision of many readers who think they’re into poetry?
Pure chance, no childhood influences, parents who still don’t know what poetry is, working class people who didn’t even read for pleasure, and then in my early adulthood, randomly. This is the greatest gift to me, that I was already a half formed human before considering what poetry is and what it isn’t. And that I am still, 9 years in, plagued by questions unasked by most in the field but still strange and unanswerable to me. For example, surely, to separate poetry from text or conversation or opinion or prose or fiction, a poem needs only be language referent and then to seeking an answer to a self-situated paradoxical question. A poem aims then to be stating or saying the inexpressible. This seems the beginning of the medium to me. Why would just say something in a poem if we can say it anywhere else? Anytime, in any language chunk, any conversation? Advertising does this, speeches – why poem at all if one is going to state or lecture? From this comes many hundreds of natural follow up questions. Why are almost no poems published handwritten? Is there no meaning in the handwritten letter? Only if letters and words are secondary to emotion and opinion. But if this is the case then why poem? I bore myself saying this stuff.
3 is there an ideal reader who really “gets” what you’re doing, or is
any response a good response?
Definitely the latter. I hope for negative aesthetics and so negative reactions, as we need to allow for that in what we’re doing, and I wouldn’t ever presume to know the endless strange idiosyncratic contents of another mind and therefore what they might think of the irrelevant doodles I throw out. That they respond at all is all.
4 have you shown your work to people who can read other writing systems: Chinese, Korean, Arabic, Hebrew & so on, & had any interesting reactions?
By accident. I don’t share my work with my students but some of them have picked up these asemic / poem brut books, and many of them have knowledge of logographic languages. Moreover, away from my own work, I include Arabic writing art and Chinese calligraphy in my poetry course at Kingston University. Contemporary poets like Adonis, Wang Huaiqing, Tan Ping, Leah Lihua Wong are exciting for the students but it’s also a way of me making a case for the history of abstract poetry practise across the world, and relating it specifically to language cultures. Zhang Xu, square kufic, lost manuscripts, undeciphered languages – this kind of exploration has influenced me for sure. I worked for seven years at British Museum, it’s had a knock on effect in my thinking.
5 expanding on question 2, do you remember the first scribble you deliberately made, & what made you decide to do it?
This is a difficult question to answer. As is often the case, the answer might be equally truthful when given pragmatically as well as perhaps more introspectively. I was undoubtedly copying someone, probably Henri Michaux or Christian Dotremont. I found it way after I started actively Scribbling, that is being aware I was doing it, seeing it as a poetry, but David Maclagan’s book Line Let Loose: Scribbling, Doodling and Automatic Drawing was a moment of concrete realisation for me. I found it in Wellcome Library, where I was doing a residency.
More introspectively, if there’s two things I realise I’m trying to do in everything I make, but most especially asemic poetry and scrawling art, it’s to embrace of the paradox of the process. That it is mysterious and instinctual and yet I want to formulate it, maybe just cognitively. Be aware of what I’m doing right up unto the moment I’m not. Secondly, be on my own path. Accept that not being herd-like in one’s creative mentality, in poetry and art, like in life, means accepting your work is the result of a vast conglomeration of strange influences and ideas, that you then, and I say this hopefully without its implied melodrama, refuse to make more palatable, if indeed it’s not. When these strange internal ideas mingle, and then meet the weird instinct of making, I just try to then not think of others, just let the mash fall where it may. With the scribbling pieces this is so immediate, so obvious, because it’s something defined by its ephemerality, its association with children or lack of concentration or attention in the ‘normal’ mind.
6 colour is used differently in Aletta Ocean’s Empire, I fear my best work behind me & Selected Scribbling & Scrawling. Also, the works in each book seem to have been made with different materials. Are they delvings into different states of mind?
This was quite definitive to me, but I only realised after the making of each book how much so. I had no understanding of colour. I have no formal artistic training, or creative training of any kind. So I had to think through colour, had to research. And naturally I felt like I was always going to be negotiating my own ignorance and lack of general skill and knowledge. Again on instinct the books took on differing characters, because of what I declared they were about. Aletta being about sex and pornography and I fear being about time and anger, the concept of calming, and scribbles being about memory and consciousness. This then informed my choice of materials, where I made the books, and then how they were edited down from many works, until they had, retrospectively and definitively, a sure cohesion. I’m not sure I had different states of mind, but intention for sure, and the works from different books were not made ever on the same days.
7 are the works in some books slower to make & possibly for a reader to read than others?
I believe this to be relative to the reader. Some are inevitably more detailed and so are about that detail, perhaps an ironic nod on my part, knowing how generally talentless, impatient and untrained I am, that these are the works with the tiny note of skill, or investment, which I know pleases a lot of people, in their stomachs.
8 what books do you have currently in production, & what kind of work will they contain?
I have just had a thing out with the brilliant Penteract Press, a small fold out of calligrams, made for kids I suppose, of animals. Later this year I have another clearly Brut book out with Hesterglock press, entitled Memmoirs of a Hypocrite, about Spain, Stendhal and bread coloured paper. I am coming close to finishing a book entirely created with crayons too.
9 is there a network of poets, publishers, galleries & so on, sympathetic to your kind of work?
I think so. I think I’ve tried to inculcate one with the live events I’ve run under the Poem Brut banner www.poembrut.com and certainly some amazing folk like Michael Jacobson have been in touch from North America. In Europe, where so much of my interest is, this kind of work seems to have a completely different standing and understanding. I’ve found so many poets there who would shrug at the notion of this kind of hand-aired work being unusual. And from my open call for poem brut work on 3am magazine I’ve had poems sent in from across the globe. Everywhere from Angola to India to Japan. And I get around 15 works sent in a day. It’s a global community.
10 do you have kindred spirits from the past & present?
Henri Michaux has been a terrible influence on me, in so much as I can’t escape his shadow. I’m actually doing a short exhibition in London where a small series of my works will be exhibited alongside one of his original works. It’s a literal kindredness. His balance of humour, exploration, literary chops alongside art concepts make him something utterly unique and important to me. But I’d also throw nearly all of the CoBrA group into this spirit world. And many others known primarily in the visual art world.
11 is there anything you’re working against?
An interesting question as it knowingly implies a negative framework. There is, absolutely, but also not seriously. I’ve done loads of thinking to try and move myself away from this mindset. I try not to work against. Though righteousness and intellectual reductiveness is something I’m trying to find a way to confound in tiny miniscule shadow moments, I suppose. But with scribbles? I’m failing, so I’m trying not to go against anything.