December 11, 2019

Is poetry bone deep?

Jenni Fagan, 42

I was thinking about myself as an artist. How poetry feels bone deep in me. If my bones were transparent I like to think of them as having words tattooed all over them. I began to consider oracle bones. 3000 years ago in China, questions of the day were inscribed onto bones. It was thought the spirit world would divine answers. I sourced bones at Summerhall in their old attic. I began engrave them using a Dremel. The smell was awful. I learnt to clean the different layers. Carve out space. I painted them black. I used gold and the nib of a pen to build up droplets. I wrote poetry onto the bones. They became a collection. The gold should be lit by candle in a dimly lit space so you can feel what it is the bones have to say. This is similar to the Japanese tradition of kintsugi. I love these bones. Painting & engraving altered their aesthetic. I see the swoop of a shoulder more clearly. Poetry is bone deep. I believe this. I wanted to find a way to physically make it show.

The Bone Library, 2019Bone, poetry, sculpture, engraving.There are around forty bones, each varies in size, the largest is about the size of an adult thigh.