The pause - VISUAL

VISUAL Centre for Contemporary Art &
The George Bernard Shaw Theatre

The pause

Award-winning poet Jo Burns responds to Elizabeth Cope's exhibition with a specially commissioned poem. Focusing her attention on one particular work, titled Sybil with Underground Map / Venus Has Left the Building (Diptych), Burns reflects on the experience of the female body as it ages and the shifts in self-perception that take place over a lifetime.

One day you’re a blue-eyed, fast tracker in a network
of artists, movements of one act to the next, a cycle of moons
and the world is a glamourous maze of palimpsests.

              Years flicker by on the canvas, the houses and moments,
              kids leave. You’re a faceless body, bound

in a library you built for yourself, above the city’s youth
and panache. You have never been able to stop
the pull of time, nor the body’s inevitable turn

              on itself, how we turn to face ourselves as we age,
              how we reinvent from muse to author.

The pictures adorning walls are young pink flesh,
a newborn’s cheek on a breast. Now moods and ebbs,
you know that love is not to be savoured.

              The way women love is dangerous,
              psychotic; a child is your heart, is your life, is your art.

It gulps (think of mayflies consumed by vinegar,
helpless to the invasion of self). In the imminence
of the bloodless years, prone to omnipotent clamour,

              you feel the further you are from the flow,
              the more and more you have to say.

Born in Northern Ireland, Jo Burns lives in Germany and her poems have appeared in Oxford Poetry, Poetry Ireland Review, The Stinging Fly, The Tangerine, Magma and elsewhere. She has won numerous awards including the McClure Poetry Prize, the Magma Poetry Competition and the Hamish Canham Prize. Her first two collections, White Horses and Brink, are published by Turas Press, Dublin. You can follow her on Instagram at @joburnspoems

Elizabeth Cope, The Palpable Bump at the Bridge of the Nose runs at VISUAL Carlow from 23 September 2022 – 8 January 2023