Product of Perception: VI Tristichs

Launched during Belfast Book Festival 2014, and curated by the mighty Geraldine O’Kane, this was a sort of artistic chinese whispers where the invited artists & poets responded (and only had sight of) the piece that had been completed just before their receiving it.

I think it was in or around Easter week when I got Mark Graham’s piece entitled ‘Valium Eye’ and, of course, the email that it came in was sent immediately to the spam folder. So I’m typing now in trepidation. I had a week to respond.

I had already decided to use the ‘Sarah Warsop Exercise’ – take 5 immediate responses, whittle that back to one succint and single-syllabled word and then create a piece that these words moved through. However because V and Eye were prominent I decided my piece was being offered a sixth word.  A tristich is a three line poem and somehow this is how it shook down that it came to be Six (VI) Tristichs (which is incredibly difficult to say even if it seemed like a good idea at the time).

Valium Eye (by Mark Graham)

 VALIUM EYE Mark Graham

While by no means an easy piece, I did find Mark’s piece gave me plenty to respond to. Interestingly, looking at the piece, I can’t remember what the six prompting words were. ‘Blue’, ‘Close’ certainly but the others I can’t tell. In any case, the outcome is a strange six-short-poem piece interlinked through Mark’s painting. My piece was then sent on to graphic artist Dale Mawhinney to make something of!

VI Tristichs

A mechanical filter takes messages with words that begin with

‘V’ and containing the letters ‘I’ and ‘A’ and hides them in a secret folder,

with other remedies that promise to restore a sense of confidence.




Though the label clearly indicates ‘V’, I know

that tablets travel in pairs. I panic at the thought of six –

its lack of centre; the way it’s close, but not close enough, to seven.




Remember that the heavens are light reflective.

This blue is the colour of light that hits the temple like a spreading bruise;

a fluorescent shade that brings to mind addicts but hides the veins.




The eye that searches is a shoreline after an oil spill.

The ordinary pull of the tide – reaching forward, drawing back –

spreads the area of the poison, without lessening its effect.




In this face there is a door that is permanently open by means

of a pharmaceutical solution, and a door that is shut tight.

Both are masks and I feel my progress in this place is monitored.




I am too close to you, with no choice but to hold an impersonal

eye-to-eye focus which has to trigger your fight-or-flight responses.

I look forward to a wider perspective where our ears make contact.


More about Products of Perception

One of the contributors, David Braziel (poet), put together a kind of video log of all the pieces and the idea behind them (and the struggle of having to interpret one piece knowing that there was a thread of thought hanging about out there that we couldn’t gain access to).  You can find that HERE.

The Exhibition Launch

Because I’m very curious by nature and have little patience, I couldn’t wait for the launch to see where on earth our pieces (Mark and mine) might fit in the wider scheme of things. The videos were actually made before anybody (except Geraldine) had seen everything. I think I was momentarily taken off-guard by Dale’s discomfort with my piece (although you could understand it – in retrospect I had been so busy looking at Mark’s piece and trying to translate it into my medium, it hadn’t occurred to me what kind of task I’d be making for the next person) but I could really see what he had seen and it was so interesting to see the rendering process. There was also a dance piece drawn from the written pieces which was again fascinating, after the initial ‘o my goodness’ somebody has had to try to get under this piece to translate it into their own medium. Very thought-provoking exercise all round, to be fair. Thanks to Geraldine for the invitation and co-ordination!

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