Blackbox Manifold

Issue 12: David Kennedy

Rocks Near The Caves above the Chateau Noir (1904)

The eye’s motor motors,

activates the figures

of when and what

seeding then boiling

each other into steam

that, condensing, falls

as the poverty

or thickness

of the next moment

that bobs somewhere

always ahead of the hand

and the brush

that together rewrite

the history of their moves

in the physique of sight

as a new history

of the eye’s motor

activating the forms

of fleeting solids

and heavy light

as tectonic plates

of colour that remember

how once boulders boiled

though now their what

is the trees’ when.

Still Life with Cherries and Peaches (1885-87)

—mad scrunched spectacle,

white cloth pushing

boiling cherries, restless,

writhing stalks,

up against the fourth wall

out of vibrating


a shadow world,

partly back-lit,

of glazed green jug

and blue silk drapes

whose gold flecks and flashes

hum quietly in the peaches’

dull orange, dull ochre suede,

vibrating artifice

and nature, the peaches’

lumpy, clod-like peachness

against the cherries’

restless ‘what about me?’

highlights, against, in turn,

the painting’s underwatery

backstage, the eye chases

the thread or the thread

chases the eye round and round,

the drama never stops

vibrating, outside October gusts,

leaves shatter light,

catch it, juggle it—

Bathers and More Bathers

‘For in truth nature is our first language. Our bodies remember!’

Jacques Lecoq, Le Corps Poétique

In the age of the engineer | take the body out of the studio | in the republic of straight lines| take it outside | naked flesh | the play of light on it | joins the language | of water | grass | trees | sky | light on water | shadow on leaf

naked flesh | the play of light on it |allows the body | the same geometry | as everything else | limbs |torsos | standing or sprawled | the interplay | of crooked arms | bent knees | curved backs | are forms | answering to | forms

these bodies | at rest | could fuck | or wrestle | but wear desire | like they wear light and shade | these bodies at rest | are ancient ease | or ideal future | naked flesh | the play of light on it | another way | of getting nature | to reveal itself


Note: The phrases about engineers and straight lines are taken from Cézanne by Joachim Gasquet

Pendule au Marbre Noir (c.1870)

The traditional lemon’s

a joke: this isn’t still life

but a big, ballsy, ‘so what’

collection of wrongness.

Black marble clock with no hands,

the stiff white cloth that rises

under its own starch, scored,

grooved, in repeating panels,

cunty conch, jug that’s either

glass or metal (who cares?),

man-size cup and saucer –

bloke’s salon, man cave comforts

of the mineral, opposite

of a flower arrangement.

Black marble clock!

Now imagine who would have

(black marble clock!)

this picture in his wallet.

David Kennedy was born in Leicester in 1959. He co-edited The New Poetry and is the author of New Relations: The Refashioning of British Poetry 1980-1994. He edited the magazine of innovative poetry and poetics The Paper from 2000 to 2004 and publishes widely on contemporary British and Irish poetry. His publications include three collections with Salt; The Dice Cup, translations of Max Jacob's prose poems with Christopher Pilling; the collaboration Eight Excursions with Rupert Loydell; and monographs on Douglas Dunn, on elegy, and on ekphrasis in contemporary British poetry. David lives in Sheffield with his wife, the artist and poet Christine Kennedy.