Lines for Olivia by Zachary T Cotler

Clare Stephenson

Clare Stephenson, La-Belle-Toute-Savante, screenprint on wood, 108.3 × 61 inches. Courtesy of Sorcha Dallas, Glasgow.

The lines for and of Olivia run a curious parallel between T. Zachary Cotler’s poem and recent monumental silkscreen prints on wood by Clare Stephenson. This cross-current is best elucidated by an elusive presence streaming through both works … . A tenuous breeze curls through the space of Cotler’s Olivia as “the cold, nine-second ladder/in her spine,” perhaps the same chill that rustles the pages of the book, the same breeze lifting the skirts and wraps of Stephenson’s angels-cum-drag queens who teeter asymmetrically at high-heeled-heights. The decadence in both poem and print are rife with a sense of impending decay, literary and aesthetic, which prove to be too much for the characters. Olivia turns away; Stephenson’s troupe wavers flaunted and flawed. What shakes them is their connection to beauty, their reveling and revelation in it. Their responses picture an experience of beauty that attracts and repels.

– Richard J. Goldstein

Lines for Olivia

She calls the cold, nine-second ladder
in her spine amber/elektron.

In humans, a series of trivial pain
sensations, imperceptible
as separate, is
perceived as a unit of physical pleasure, whereas
trivial pleasures in series
don’t synthesize pain—this asymmetry causes her
to drop a book. She runs into
her house
with 19th century windows …
book on the courtyard stairs
with pages blowing at the speed
computers/archangels read. 

Clare Stephenson is an artist based in Glasgow represented by Sorcha Dallas, Glasgow; and Linn Luhn, Cologne. She has exhibited at Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh; Dicksmith, London; and Malmö, Madrid. Most recently, she was featured at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Glasgow’s The Dirty Hands group exhibition.

Richard J. Goldstein is a Brooklyn-based painter and writer.

T. Zachary Cotler’s writings appear in the US and UK, with new poems soon forthcoming in The Paris ReviewThe London Magazine, and Poetry.

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