Order and Doubt
Order and Doubt
Ian Hamilton Finlay
The Edinburgh-based poet Ian Hamilton Finlay was both the first publisher of concrete poetry and the first published concrete poet in Britain. But his interaction with the movement was relatively brief, beginning in the spring of 1962 when he discovered the international style through Edwin Morgan, and coming to an end by the late 1960s. Finlay initially seized on concrete poetry as a means of extending the dimensions of poetry beyond linear verse. He utilised concrete poetry’s capacity to combine linguistic and non-linguistic composition to establish or enrich metaphorical links between disparate objects, phenomena, and cultural contexts. This approach, indebted to classical concrete, reflected both his opposition to the restrictions of Scottish literary culture during the 1960s, and a sense of the value of aesthetic order which had ideological and biographical connotations. But his interaction with the concrete movement quickly became fraught, reflecting both the inbuilt constraints of the style and his opposition to its perceived co-option by the sixties counter-culture. Through his production of card and booklet-poems, followed by poems in glass, wood and stone, and finally, three-dimensional poems set in the landscape around his home at Little Sparta, Finlay moved gradually but decisively away from concrete practice.
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