Today is World Poetry Day. A date marked onto calendars by UNESCO in 1999, the 21st of March promotes the art of poetry as both an ancient and modern form of linguistic and human expression. Poetry traverses geographical and political boundaries, it is, in the words of the UN, a '...powerful catalyst for dialogue and peace'. The date was also established to support the interwoven relationships between poetry and other art forms, such as music, art, theatre, and of course, fashion.
Poetry has made its way onto the runway on numerous occasions. From the 1920s, with the artist Sonia Delaunay's 'robes poèmes' which featured words by Dadaist poets including Tristan Tzara, through to Vivienne Westwood, Raf Simons, Rei Kawakubo, Takahiromiyashita The Soloist, John Alexander Skelton, and even Alexander McQueen's Dante (A/W 96), poetry and fashion have been cross-pollinating for decades.
In 2019, Grace Wales Bonner's exhibition at The Serpentine explored mysticism alongside poetry; the designer called upon London-based poet James Massiah who lent his voice to one of the show's installations. In 2019, Pierpaolo Piccioli called upon four poets whose words were embroidered onto the gowns which floated down the Valentino runway, and were also disseminated via Valentino On Love, an anthology of poetry gifted to show guests. That same season, the US poet laureate Amanda Gorman sat front row at Prada - before she became the name on everyone's lips following the US presidential inauguration.
The bond between fashion and poetry is one which SHOWstudio have long respected, so this year we invited the poet Sonny Hall to respond to the recent fashion collections which most moved him via the art form he holds most dear, kickstarting SHOWstudio's new project Poetry In Motion.
Calling upon one of his most talented contemporaries, the New York-based poet Nicole della Costa, the pair have both responded to the best fashion moments from the past year of digital runways, carefully selected by SHOWstudio. Each responded to the fashion looks which moved them most, choosing to depict creations by Miu Miu, John Galliano's Maison Margiela and Comme des Garçons Hommes Plus.
Ahead of the takeover, Hetty Mahlich found out what it is about poetry that makes a poet tick, and why poetry and fashion each continue to be fascinated by the other.
Sonny Hall is a poet and born in south London. He released his first book, 'The Blues Comes With Good News' in 2019, and founded the publishing house Blue Beggar Books a year later. They launched their first publication earlier this year.
Hetty Mahlich: What's your first memory of poetry?
Sonny Hall: Reading Tupac Shakur's words in 'The Rose That Grew From Concrete' when I was 14 .
HM: Can you describe your style of writing in 3 words?
SH: Confessional, Warfare, Lining
HM: What makes a poet today?
SH: Their need to understand themselves and the next. I think any person is a poet as long as they want to grasp the divine and the disastrous with equal appetite. As long as they can see it both in themselves and in whatever comes along.
HM: Do you think poetry and fashion are interconnected, and if so, how do they both resonate with one another, in your opinion?
SH: Yes, there are many expressive and emotive elements to fashion, as in poetry. Many great dreamers and artists exist making fashion also.
HM: Why did you select Maison Margiela, and Comme des Garçons Homme Plus?
SH: I am always mostly drawn to these designers. They create neat disruption and always make me feel something...
Nicole Della Costa is a poet and multimedia artist practising in writing, performance and video. Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Della Costa currently lives and works in New York City, NY. She has self-published two books of poetry, 'En+Theos' (2018) and 'Ask Me About the Secret Poetry Club' (2016). Her collection of poems 'As Serious as a Hiccup' was announced for publication by Pois é in 2021.
Hetty Mahlich: What's your first memory of poetry?
Nicola Della Costa: My first memory is reading Michel Melamed's Regurgitofagia as a child, then later the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, that was the moment it clicked. His simple, but energetic, loaded verses set the ground for me. The film Viajo Porque Preciso, Volto Porque Te Amo (I travel because I have to, I come back because I love you) by Marcelo Gomes and Karim Aïnouz, was really important as well. It is a road film that follows the narrator, a geologist driving in an isolated area in the Northeast of Brazil. The film is guided by non-stop music coming from the radio, becoming one of its lead characters. The text is just beautiful and heartfelt, you can already notice its power by the film’s title. The film showed me how poetry can be accompanied and supported by image and sound, and that is something I intend to do in my future work.
HM: Can you describe your poetry in 3 words?
NDC: This is a very hard task! What I can give you is: I’m keen to say a lot by not saying much. I am keen on simplicity becoming something so very powerful. At the end of the day, the medium for poetry is paper and pen yet it does so much.
HM: What makes a poet?
NDC: I actually asked this question to my poetry teacher once in college, he laughed at me and could not give me an answer. I think just write? And read! Write without self-judgment, find your favourite poets, use them as ghost mentors (they are probably dead or living in Connecticut), pay attention to the weather, to your surroundings, to music, to film, to stranger’s conversations, write them down, carry a journal and a pen everywhere you go! I think that could make you a poet?
HM: What drew you to working on this project, and why did you select Miu Miu?
NDC: I was heavily inspired by the show as a whole and the pieces designed for protection. It led me to think about various aspects of the history of knitting and the balaclava, which is reclaimed in this collection to its original purpose as a utility piece for defence. The positioning of the models at the end, their gathering around the bonfire, led me to the shape, word, and concept of Zero/O. A placeholder, a start, something out of nothing– it took me to the homophones play at the end of the poem, knot, not, naught, nought– the latter two means the digit Zero and Nothing!