Colin Herd on Oskar Kokoschka
About Colin Herd:

Colin Herd was born in Stirling in 1985 and now lives in Edinburgh. His first collection of poems too ok was published by BlazeVOX in 2011. A pamphlet, like, was published by Knives, Forks and Spoons Press in 2011 and a second full-length collection Glovebox, was published by Knives Forks and Spoons Press in 2013. He has published over 60 reviews and articles on art and literature in publications including Aesthetica Magazine, 3:AM Magazine, PN:Review and The Independent. In 2014, the poem 'rug design' was highly commended in the Forward Prizes.

Colin on Kokoschka:

So many of Kokoschka's letters start with something along the lines of, "why are you cross with me and won't reply?" or "if you saw me on horseback, you might not be so cross with me", and finish, "tempestuously hugging you,"; "tenderly, mindful of your strictures," or, "do you still love me? Write and tell me so at great length." By which I mean his writing style is needy, expressive, passionate and slightly nuts. I can’t resist it whatsoever, rolling over and taking whatever pellets he wants to choke me down on without the merest hint of worry or concern. Reading his letters really sucks you into this devastating and delicious storm of emotion, expression and feeling, which is something that his paintings obviously do too. I particularly like his graphics. The famous self-portrait he did as a cover for the periodical Der Sturm in 1910 where he’s surrounded in this blueish dust-like halo all around his stripped-back denuded form. His mouth is smiling (either that or he has a quarter of orange in his gums a la teenage hockey match) but his eyes are sacked by so many rings it’s unreal. I’ve only seen something similar on elephants, and that just from wildlife photographs. His left hand is pointing over his chest towards the right. It’s pointing in a manner I’ve tried to emulate but it’s really uncomfortable to do. You have to get the forefinger sort of in front of the other three fingers. He seems to be pointing at his jutting ribs or maybe at something out of view or maybe the little Bohmerwald that’s sprouting out of his armpit and around his nipple. The rib motif is picked up with four thick black lines on the right hand of the page and the hand-drawn cover-font says “NEUE NUMMER”, which I’m guessing means new issue. And in the bottom right of course he’s initialled it “OK”. But seriously, it’s way more than OK. It’s OTT actually, in this incredible way, and I just realised I was being a bit foolish. He’s not pointing at anything, he’s blotting this little wound like Leonardo Treviglio in Sebastiane, except in a real-life kind of street version with a shaved head.


2 poems from Die Oberwildling, on Kokoschka by Colin Herd

1917- Still Life with Putto and Rabbit

So my half-formed plan is to sedate
Steve, drag him to ASDA and prop
him up next to me inside the booth
they have for 3-D printing. Wearing a
cat onesie in grey and white and customised
by me in purple and orange and soot.
I'll slop him over my knee like a rug in a
nursing home and then I'll press
the flash button or whatever it is
that activates the process. I'm imagining
it like getting a school photo done.
Without the smiling and with shoe-laces
undone. I'm going to get him to hold a sign
handwritten in a Kokoschka scrawl:
PUTTO, and I'll be RABBIT. He'd come
willingly probably but I'm keen on
getting a glazed expression, frosty
and crusted with daze like a great big
pile of date-code-expiring doughnuts
stacked in a crate by the entrance,
for a pound.



1927 - Adele Astaire

Who barks loudest? A stage door.
Serio-comic, post-Pan eyelets on the
depth perception-practicing dog,
the dolls’ fingers that have been trapped
in a door won’t swell but smash.

A danger fish leaping out of an ash tray,
covered in ash and embers,

all because her dress is such a
dive-in-able blue, the damp
walls stilton-splashed and peeling,

and this fish-shaped cushion the future
Lady Charles Cavendish has her elbow on,
this little frog she’s wearing as a ballet pump,

croaking out “stop flirting” and “apple blossoms”
in duet to anyone who’ll listen, which is most of
London and New York, giving all the saddest
lines a gleam of infectious good nature.