Alchemy was the Medieval forerunner to chemistry primarily concerned with discovering a process of turning base metals into gold. The term was used by Charles Simic as a metaphor for Josephs Cornell’s process of rummaging through junk shops to accumulate a mass of peculiar objects, which he would use to create curious little compositions in small boxes. In his introduction to ‘Dime-Store Alchemy, The Art of Joseph Cornell’ Simic explains Cornell’s methods then modestly states that in writing about his compositions he ‘hoped to emulate his way of working…’ I would argue that this idea of alchemy is prevalent in all of Simic’s work. Simic’s poems are compositions pieced together from scraps of everyday life, where there is always a familiar artefact, something tangible to which we can relate, though it is not uncommon to see this situated next to some oddity. These peculiarities in Simic’s work, like Cornells have been ‘shuffled… together [until] they composed an image that pleased him’
Poetry at every stage is an uncertain chemical reaction. A combination of elements on a page might take a lot of drafting before the poet is happy with it and then who is to say the elements will come together to create gold when it is read by an audience? This is what they call ‘context’. Poetry, and all art is like alchemy; an imperfect science which is effected heavily by context.
There is a junk shop on Magdalen Street I must have walked past over a hundred times, but never been inside. As a response to the methods of Joseph Cornell and Sohpie Calle, I intend to make my way to said shop using, as much as possible, roads I have never walked down before and try to find a few interesting objects. This is not as a means of imitation, rather using the methods of other artists to try and inspire a written response as opposed to a visual one.