Artists talking - Natalie McGrorty

image copyright Natalie McGrorty

Natalie McGrorty:

Notes on the sequence of thoughts that informed my decisions, when reconfiguring the staple-bound 1970s poetry magazine, Poet, into its final form - They Who Take The Word:

"When I first examined Poet, three things caught my attention:


  •        The curious holes, one in each corner, on the library’s card covering sheet.
  •         The red insert, notifying subscribers that the magazine was being discontinued.
  •      A phrase in the original text that said: ‘This magazine is concerned with poets and their readers. It is more of a structure for pinning poems to than a critical entity.’




I read through the poems and editorials in the magazine but didn't find inspiration. That being the case, I decided to begin deconstructing the poems so that I could perhaps use the lines of words to create other poems or sequences. At this stage, I had in mind creating a ‘structure for pinning [the] poems to.

image copyright Natalie McGrorty
I carefully cut out each of the poems, line by line, in a way that left the pages in tact and I was particularly taken with the apertures that were left. For each poem, I constructed envelopes out of transparent velum, to house the lines of text. This process of filing the poems into envelopes felt in keeping with the message on the red insert, as if I was packing away the words, now that the life of the magazine had ended.

My decision to cut the poems line by line, as opposed to reducing them to individual words, was largely aesthetic but I also wanted to retain elements of the original works. For each poem, I made a page that matched the original dimensions of the magazine.

Inspired by the curious holes in the original card cover, I decided to make this new incarnation of the book unbound, with each individual page punched with a whole at each corner. I liked the idea of it becoming a structure held together by four pins, in this case stainless steel bolts.

At this stage, I intended to use the apertures as stencils, to make Pochoir prints and spent time strengthening the cut edges with clear and white tape. I thought I could interweave the prints with the pages containing the envelopes, thereby including traces of their original format. Thinking that I would discard these pages afterwards, I was not too careful or particularly measured in this process and scribbled the names of the poems on each aperture, as a guide for later.

work in progress - Natalie McGrorty
However, when I came to make the prints I realised that using a liquid medium would likely lead to trouble. Instead, I laid Japanese paper over the apertures and took rubbings. Whilst I liked these rubbings, they didn’t quite give me what I was looking for. I found myself preferring the apertures, which bore the history of my working process…but could I use these? On their own they looked a bit scrappy in contrast to the pages I had carefully crafted with the envelopes. Equally, the carefully crafted pages did not feel like they could stand alone.

Pondering what to do, I began layering the pages, first the apertures and then adding the Japanese papers. Something was beginning to work. The layered pages complimented each other and together gave me what I was looking for. The mismatched apertures and rubbings from different poems combined to created subtle compositions, with parts of text and traces of the working process peeking through the smooth layer of rubbings.

They Who Take the Word - Natalie McGrorty
In the final construction of the piece, I included both the original card cover and the original front page of the magazine and the colours and papers used, reflect the original document. The first section of the piece contains the layered aperture pages, sequenced according to the original page numbers. The red insert then precedes the second section of the piece, where the poems are packed away in their envelopes. Perhaps they will remain here, or maybe they will find a new lease of life in the hands of the reader?

They Who Take the Word - Natalie McGrorty
The title of one of the poems: They Who Take The Word did not make it to the pages but instead has become the new title of the piece. I felt it reflected the ideas I had been working with, both in my having taken the words of the original magazine and also the act of writing poetry itself, which involves ‘taking words’ from imagination or life experience and weaving them together."



Natalie McGrorty. September 2012.

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