The consolation of art: poet who takes walks on the dark side launches selected edition

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She teaches at the Poetry School and at art galleries, exploring the meeting places between poetry and visual art, and occasionally conducts psychogeographical walks around London. But some newcomers to poetry who have benefited from Tamar Yoseloff’s inspirational classes may be startled to hear that there is also a “dark, apocalyptic” quality to many of her own poems, according to fellow poet Martin Crucefix.

Crucefix was introducing Yoseloff – who is originally from the US, and now lives in London - at the launch of A Formula for Night: New and Selected Poems (Seren), culled from four previous full collections, several collaborative editions with artists, and new work. He talked of “uprooted individuals struggling through cityscapes” and said the poems were “true, honest, accurate”, but offered “not much consolation at all”.

Yoseloff then read a short selection from her new book, beginning with ‘Biology’, with its references to “my dog-eared Havelock Ellis, real life stories / of every kind of fetish: shoe sniffing, grown men / in diapers, animals, paedophilia, necrophilia”.

‘The Sea at Aberystwyth’ opens thus: “This is the end / of the world.” ‘Legend’, part of a project about place and landscape with artist David Harker called Nowheres, includes these lines of dislocation: “Years go by. Towns vanish in the creases, / rubbed clean to white; you can’t recall their names.” And with the final poem, commissioned by the Hayward Gallery, with which she concluded the brief reading, ‘The Formula for night’ - well, the clue’s in the title.

But there were other, lighter poems too – catching sight of ‘The Nolans in Japan’, (“their wild red hair streaming”), and ‘Mannequins on 7th  Street’, which she said delightedly had been used by a group of musicians as the name for their band.

Yoseloff also read ‘The Rose’, a poem about a boarded-up London pub, with accompanying picture, from Formerly, her collaborative work with photographer Vici MacDonald that was shortlisted for the 2012 Ted Hughes award for innovation in poetry. She and MacDonald are also the founders of Hercules Editions, a small independent press specialising in beautifully-produced chapbooks.

‘The Rose’ concludes with this nod to TS Eliot: “Hurry up, gentlemen, please, it’s time.” The launch of Yoseloff’s book, dedicated to her late mother, Lauretta, was held at the Redfern Gallery in London, just a stone’s throw from the Royal Academy where she often runs courses.

Greg Freeman

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