About the Body and Likeness by Sophie Collins

Thursday, August 9, 2018 - 10:05

Earlier this year we commissioned three writers, poets Sophie Collins and Momtaza Mehri and novelist Ned Beauman, to produce works in response to Hayward Gallery’s exhibition of the artist, Lee Bul. Here we present the third of those works, Sophie Collins’ poem, About the Body and Likeness.

Sophie Collins is co-editor of tender, an online arts quarterly, and editor of Currently & Emotion (Test Centre, 2016), an anthology of contemporary poetry translations. small white monkeys, a text on self-expression, self-help and shame, was published by Book Works in November 2017 as part of a commissioned residency at Glasgow Women’s Library. Her debut collection of poems, Who Is Mary Sue? has just been published by Faber & Faber.


About the Body and Likeness

a response to an exhibition of the work of Lee Bul




It all begins in the gut
where shards (indigestible)
tear open the walls. When blood spills
there is no mess. There is no bodily mess
save in tumefactive sludge


I would like to doze off inside a gleaming basophil
regular vibrations relaxing proprioception
as we glide
past a fragment of bone sunk in plasma
the spectacle of lymphocytes
deeply staining, eccentric



a bunker, an event, dust, some neighbours...
By now fish are deadly land animals
quadrupeds with colour-coded mating rituals
The tarry landscape is hostile to ungulates
who develop subterranean features


Erection of countless town models. The dogged work of preservation
supersedes embodiment. Men’s corpses are embalmed
made up for display
while women who wish to live
must gain the written endorsementof their male companions

(Medical records, like mutating cells, are subject to damage
may be lost or copied twice)




A lauded teacher of letters once made a drawing of a cephalopod
for his students. Women, jabbing
he said, are more like this. More like this
than men are
by which he meant to say
nothing happens to me




Octopuses eat their own limbs when chronically


What is frightening about this body
is its judicial disregard



Lee Bul: Crashing continues at Hayward Gallery until 19 August.

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Hayward Gallery is open 11am - 7pm daily (except Tuesdays), with late opening ‘til 9pm on Thursdays.

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