Recent Publications

I have published two books of visual poetry recently. Erased Words: in tempore belli (written in time of war) with Paperview Books, based in Leiria, Portugal, and Songs of Despair and other poems with Trickhouse Press based in Dundee, Scotland.

I am genetically 13% Tatar, probably Volga or Crimean, and the recent invasion of Ukraine has affected been distressing to watch. As a visual artist I responded by making a series of calligraphic drawings, or ‘visual poems’, which I compiled and published in a chapbook entitled Erased Words: in tempore belli.

A chapbook is a simple, short, paper bound book, usually made these days by poets and artists. “Visual poetry” can take many forms but often involves words arranged on the page to be looked at rather than read. The Latin phrase ‘in tempore belli’ means “written in time of war”. It was used by Joseph Haydn as the title of a mass written during the French Revolutionary Wars, and also by the American composer George Crumb on the score of his string quartet ‘Black Angels’, a protest against US involvement in the Vietnam war.

The chapbook consists of eighteen words and phrases, depicting ordinary objects and situations, which were then erased or effaced through various means, wiping them away with a dry cloth, splashing with water, blotting and smearing with a wet brush. They were made at the onset of the war in Ukraine after weeks of military build-up, and represent a regretful poetic response to the unnecessary and self-inflicted violence of military conflict. It is available through the Paperview website.


Songs of Despair and other poems is a more substantial work, in fact it is the product of ten years of work in various media. The main body is composed of three series of photographic triptychs; each series consists of nine works. They are: A Thousand Flowers; This Distance; The Transience of Things. I publish photographic work under my mothers maiden name, Kogalin.

They are followed by other photographic-based visual poems, entitled Fragments (in collaboration with the calligrapher Manny Ling); Lockdown; Pictographs; Indistinctions.

The work concludes with two interviews about my practice and the themes and processes involved, firstly with Helen Alder, secondly with Dan Power, the publisher. The book is available through Trickhouse Press.

A section of the Helen Alder interview:

You talk of poetry and I know you originally called the works ‘visual poems’. How do you define
visual poetry?

I guess any photograph could be called poetic if it leaves space for the viewer’s imagination and isn’t too narrative – I would define it against documentary photography which would be more definitive or perhaps tell a story. Personally I like concise images, ones which are not trying too hard to be poetic or artful, but which are rich in possibilities – which can support a variety of perspectives; that is why I use a Holga camera. Of course here the photographs have been organized into triptychs, which suggests a sequence of images like a poem, and particularly a Chinese poem. Chinese poetry is very visual in character and in fact often self-consciously analogous to painting, so the exchange between text and the visual goes both ways. The work grew initially out of my study of word – image relationships in Chinese art, calligraphy being the classic example. There is a deep connection between word and image in the East, the fact that similar materials are used to produce both writing and painting, that they are judged according to similar criteria and described in similar language, and that text and images are often combined into single works or art. Working in an inter-disciplinary way is an interesting as working in an inter-cultural way for me.

Actually at the start I referred to them as ‘visual haiku’. A haiku is a form of Japanese, rather than Chinese, poetry that is composed of three lines with a set number of characters in each line, traditionally 5, 7 and 5. Poets write haiku in English too, in three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables, which is an approximate translation of the Japanese form. Translating haiku still further into three visual images is just another step on that same road.

The structure is an essential element of the work then…
Yes absolutely; working in triptych format fragments the work but also sets up new relationships and associations. The photographs are in fact all subtly toned which distinguishes them from each other, quite few are blown up fragments of larger images, others from much wider angles, some from grainy, blurred or damaged negatives. However, the formal elements of art, line, texture, form etc., create rhythms and rhymes across the work and structurally link the images. I like the way new and unforeseen meaning arises from unexpected relationships.

I have also made diptychs – two images – and polyptychs – four or more images – but I find triptych the hardest to do and therefore most interesting. It is more complex than a diptych but ‘tighter’ than a polyptych, which can become quite loose and narrative. As I said, my intention is to make the three images connect to each other and cohere visually, but not in an obvious way. The work should have the dynamic balance of a well written Chinese character if you like. If the images are too symmetrical for example, they will lack movement and interest, but if they do not relate to each other sufficiently then the work will not have coherence or tension. I find being creative within formal restrictions the most interesting thing; it’s one of the reasons I like haiku poetry, or indeed calligraphy, it’s the play of openness and closure.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: