- Star/Steer, 1966
- Ian Hamilton Finlay
- © The estate of Ian Hamilton Finlay
Poet and artist Ian Hamilton Finlay experimented with the physical possibilities of language – its shape, texture, colour and the way it’s laid out on the page – as well recognising the power of language to shape our the way we see the world.
In 1967 he published his first book of concrete poetry (poetry in which the layout and typography of the words contributes to its overall effect). Look at the similarities between his work and this picture of the original layout of the mouse’s tail in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland:
- Proof sheet of the Mouse’s Tail cut up and re-pasted in a curve, early 1860s
- Charles Dodgson
- Reproduced by kind permission of Christ Church Library and Archive, University of Oxford
Now, try saying the word ‘star’ to yourself over and over again. Say it until it just seems like a sound with no meaning. What is a star? Eventually, the word just sounds like a mixture of letters… talk about forgetting the words!
Twinkle twinkle little bat
How I wonder where you’re at
Up above the world so high
Like a tea tray in the sky