Tradition and sabotage: Alexander mcqueen in poems
By Patrick Benson
My new anthology zine based on the works of Alexander McQueen and the relationship between fashion and poetry. With fashion shows more like theatre than advertisement, McQueen’s work has an accessibility by virtue of not being able to look away. This collection of poems tries to preserve that spirit.
Even if you don’t know much about fashion, you will likely have heard of Lee Alexander McQueen. The man was a dramatist first and a tailor first, he had an unbridled ability to produce both at their absolute best without sacrificing anything at the core of either. He was making suits into stage shows and stage shows into suits, and his theatrics are something rarely seen in any medium. He made dresses out of metalwork, out of flowers that came off to decay when walking, out of fire, out of clingfilm, out of shell, he had this craft. He came bumbling out at the end of each of his shows like he had just walked through the wrong door.
And so, 6 months ago, I decided to write a series of poems, with each one based on a different one of his shows, then published it in a zine. The process was relatively simple: watch a show, then write it down. The poems are a mix of drawing from moods and motifs, and more direct description.
It seems a natural fit, fashion and poetry, there is almost an inherent connection there. To get those titles, i.e. to write words that are called poetry or to make clothes called fashion, there has to be indulgence, or at the very least diversion from the deliberate everyday. Monica McClure puts it far better than I could:
Especially in the Western world, poetry and fashion are relentlessly subjected to mystification by various traditional ideas about beauty, with an expectation that they aggrandize and elevate whatever they touch. It's imperative that they add significance to their subjects, or give function some meaning.
Poetry is identified as language that breaks logic (it doesn't make sense, so it must mean something). Or, put another way, as language that simply registers differently than normal speech — language that's flashy. Similarly, fashion is commonly identified as ostentatious dressing. When language and clothes inspire whimsy, or are just strange enough to spark a dialogue, or seem to align with a pre-existing notion about art, then language and clothing are transformed into poetry and fashion.
Here’s a couple of poems from the collection and one of the amazing drawings done by the fantastic Serafina Lee, based directly on archival McQueen photos. Send a message to https://www.instagram.com/pat.rickj/ on instagram if you’d like to purchase one for £4, with all proceeds split between Southall Black Sisters and the Sarabande Foundation.
AW98 - Joan
because frankly I can’t live without the thought of playing with your buttons again.
But Joan, I’m starting to question whether you were ever here. I swing my lamp just to try and see you in the light flare but you aren’t here now, what is here is vampiric calling itself holy.
I could never sell myself to them but they promised me you, they are slower and look like they could scare. Their tartans don’t match.
But Joan, I am writing you this from inside the fire.
SS01 - Voss
23473 Voss, a main belt asteroid discovered October 11th 1990 by F. Börngen and L. D. Schmadel at the Tautenburg Observatory. May also refer to Voss, a municipality in Vestland County, Norway.
The skirting cushioned so
when they hit their heads it’s a lighter blow.
Crustation is jewelry and this
is the polar sea I once kissed away the birds
now they circle.
Razor clams break
more when she breaks them and shells
are a patter the vicious use as tap shoes.
Let me cut off your hair so your bandages can be as clean as the floor
and all stretch so effortfully
feathers are the delicate
thing on show except for
the berry bush piercing lip
I stained glass fur red
first from the feather and then those
who won’t see your arms outstretched
The fetish artist and the ventilation
moths break walls
to fly to the lit glass
freckles floor laden