Two Very Different Works of Stephen Emmerson

Title: No Ideas But in Things (also written by Chris Stephenson)



By: Stephen Emmerson


Stephen Emmerson and Chris Stephenson

Publisher:Dark Windows Press


Apple Pie Editions

At first glance Stephen Emmerson’s sense of humour seems dark, and on further inspection it only gets darker. Emmerson’s eye for the intricately desperate puzzles in life is reflected back at the reader as they look at his poems, or poetic objects, and realise that Emmerson’s often stark life-view is horrifically accurate.

The relentless list that ‘No Ideas but in Things’ consists of at first seems funny to the reader…then it briefly becomes annoying…yet when the reader is about to give up on the evenly spaced out list, a revelation suddenly comes to them.

The list is a minature version of life itself.

Life, like the book, is a constant stream of information, objects and events that are often repeative and evely spaced into days (or pages). Of course there are bursts of excitement in the collection, as there are in real life, such as ‘ewok sponsorship’ or ‘broccoli flashdance’. 

None of the pairs of words in the list make logical sense, however instead they still manage to hang onto some kind of illogical sense. They are printed in solid typeface on the page, which somehow makes them seem more convincing. Better than that, the two word combinations are play with your imagination in an appealing way. I can imagine an ‘ewok sponsorship’ board even though I know it can’t possibly exist. Emmerson and Stephenson have a skill of making words fit together, despite being seemingly random.

Although experimental, ‘No Ideas But in Things’, is still a traditionally printed book, complete with pages and a cover. In contrast ‘Pharmacopoetics’ isn’t traditional in any way. Emmerson has brought his dark sense of humour to various 3D projects; amongst them is the work ‘Pharmacopoetics’.

stepehn emmerson

‘Pharmacopoetics’ comes in a convincing, pharmacy-style bag. Already this is enough to gather curiosity. Inside th bag are two pill bottles, each containing pill capsules. One of the bottles has the mysterious message: ‘This capsule contains a demon’ stuck to the outside. There is minimal further explaination of the bottles, printed on the leaflet that comes with them. It reminded me of a mixture of ‘Alice In Wonderland’ and Damien Hirst’s work featuring various pills- called ‘The Void’.

That Emmerson is confident enough to create a piece like this; something simple, yet still with a clear and thought provoking message, is a testament to his poetic wisdom. The piece, although 3D, retains the style of a poem: it short, but powerful with many layers of meaning.




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