Translator's notes

The Blacktip Ragwort

By Guy Vaes

Throughout his written work and photography, Guy Vaes displays an eagle eye for detail of places, especially those whose physical appearance often cues strange and unse ling experiences of a kind that may lead us beyond ordinary perception and toward a greater revelation of the world and our lives within it. A consummate flâneur, he was particularly attached to London, Edinburgh and Dublin, on which he wrote several essays celebrating their distinctive character and atmosphere. He believed those capitals to be the places most in tune with his emotional being as well as corresponding best to his aesthetic and philosophical ideas. 

I was drawn to the seven poems with accompanying photos that form the suite I have translated as The Blacktip Ragwort. This collection may be read as a microcosmic version of his essays on those cities, but one composed in lyric verse, a literary form that he seldom practised. I was eager to discover how he expressed aspects of his identification with the cities in a manner uncommon for him. The photos date from his visits between the 1960s and 1980s, while the texts are new; the whole set having been published in a limited black-box edition following their exhibition at the Antwerp Museum of Photography in 1996. The poems take their lead from the photos but are not historically bound in any way, though ‘Paternoster Row’ reflects on the legacy of the blitzkrieg in London, and ‘Westminster’ is chillingly prescient in the light of the present day.

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