Monday, November 23, 2020

Alec Finlay :

folio : Paul Celan/100


questions & answers

‘What is forgetting?
An unripe apple stabbed by a spear’

Paul Celan


what’s a garden? 

culture & labour producing
an annual surplus of colou


what’s a hut?

four thin walls nailed around a stove


what’s a river?

a flower with its roots in the hills


what’s a beach?

an abacus which counts in lines
powered by the moon



what’s the sea?

if the sea knew what it was
it wouldn’t keep coming back


what is illness?

strangeness felt inside us



what’s a pigeon?

not what, but …
who, whoo



what’s nectar?

a different colour & scent where you enter



what’s an apple?

a dark star within the earth



what’s the moon?

a coin in the high-rise slot machine



what’s a friend?

bare love



what’s love?

day is, day’s us, day was



what’s a park?

walks on grass



what’s a lake?

a glass rinsed by cloud



what’s the sky?

jug of blue



what’s tea?

an old pond to fish in



what’s London?

a shard with its sides
rent by The River



Inspired by Paul Celan’s Romanian poems composed in the manner of Surrealist questions, translated by Julian Semilian and San Agalidi. With contributions from Davy Polmadie and Daisy Lafarge. These poems were realised as nest-boxes with painted text, in Southwark Park, London, commissioned by CGP Gallery, in 2018.

Glossary: bare: very, a lot; rinsed: overused, used up, all gone; ‘what’s tea?’: after IHF, sort of.



Alec Finlay (Scotland, 1966–) is an artist & poet whose work crosses over a range of media and forms. Finlay has recently been awarded the 2020 Cholmondeley award for services to poetry. Recent work includes A Variety of Cultures, a permanent artwork installation at Jupiter Artland; and HUTOPIA for the Fondazione Prada exhibition ‘Machines á penser’ at the Venice Architecture Biennale.


Finlay established morning star publications in 1990. He has published over forty books and won seven Scottish Design Awards, including two Grand Prix Awards (2001, 2015). Recent publications include a far-off land (2018); gathering, published by Hauser & Wirth (2018); th' fleety wud (2017), minnmouth (2017), ebban an’ flowan (2015), and Global Oracle (2014).

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