All Things Bright and Beautiful

Posted on 5th January 2013 in Commissions

A sequence of my poems featured at 20-21 Visual Arts Centre, Scunthorpe alongside a number of other artists’ works.  The exhibition, curated by and featuring the work of Paul Evans, ran from December 2012 until the middle of January 2013. The event included photographs, paintings and drawings, a sound installation, digital and video artworks each accompanied by new poems. The other artists involved in the project were Karl Hurst, Chloe Brown, Humanstudio, Hondartza Fraga, and Tony Kemplen.

The exhibition as a whole used as its starting point the Victorian hymn ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ which expounds the intrinsic notion that ‘God made [us] high and lowly’, and made hierarchies around all the creatures of the planet.  The artworks and poems on show explored how this principle was fundamentally questioned by post-Darwinist thinking.

I wrote the following poem for ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’ after contemplating this rather spectral, haunting photograph by Karl Hurst.

Recapitulation Theory

surmises we begin as fish
then wriggle out with features like a frog’s,
a lizard’s, before the mammal in us surfaces.

These creatures sniff the air for something,
clawing at the light that keeps them pinned,
a lost terrain contoured on their skin.

They’ve burrowed up from deep inside our heads,
a swerve we cannot shake.  We ask
of them the hardest things: to feel, to speak.