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6th May 2019

"Much of my writing process is about finding sardonic ways to talk about serious, often deeply personal subject matter" – Allison Gallagher

By Allison Gallagher

Image of "Much of my writing process is about finding sardonic ways to talk about serious, often deeply personal subject matter" – Allison Gallagher

Approaching Duchamp for this project felt as dizzying as one could perhaps expect. Neither entirely unfamiliar nor well acquainted, Duchamp’s body of work appeared to me sprawling and nebulous. At first, I struggled to grapple with how I would translate these pieces – some of which felt deeply embedded in their visual meanings, some of which had their own constructed textual realm with a certain level of impenetrability. Ultimately, I was not able to dwell in that potential minefield of anxiety for too long. The only way out is through, and perhaps it was this that made working with these source materials such a rewarding enterprise.

Much of my writing process is about finding sardonic ways to talk about serious, often deeply personal subject matter. How do I make someone think about empathy, about marginalised bodies, about real life terrifying human intimacy in a way that’s clever, that doesn’t take itself too seriously? Duchamp seems to favour a similar method of communicating the personal – though our subject matter differs.

Writing these poems was a process of pulling apart and putting back together. Much of it felt like collaging, cutting up and rearranging until it all clicks in place to form one big, messy tapestry. Using these writing prompts was about finding cleverness between the lines, not in the ostentatious. Extracting rich gooey language from the ludic mineral deposits buried deep underneath the page. When I knew I was done with a piece, it felt kind of like the satisfaction of picking a lock or cracking a code.

I feel so very grateful to Red Room Poetry for facilitating this opportunity, and to director Tamryn Bennett for the invitation to take part. As a writer who could still classify themselves as emerging – whatever it is that actually means – this felt like an opportunity not just to contribute to a project but to develop and grow as an artist. It was an exercise in pushing my own boundaries, of reconceptualising what poetry could look like for me, and I’m a better writer for getting to experience it.

 

Read Allison's poems responding to the artworks of Marcel Duchamp. These poems were commissioned for Red Room Poetry's event Punch Lines: Poets Play Duchamp, held in May 2019.

 

Liked reading this reflection? Check out our other poets' reflections on Punch Lines: Poets Play Duchamp: