Formerly is an excellent multi-media collaboration between photographer Vici MacDonald and poet Tamar Yoseloff. The collection of pictures and their accompanying poems show unassuming, unknown places in London. I say unassuming in regards to the photos only; the poems, however, assume quite a bit about the subjects of the photos. While reading this collection my curiosity was peaked; I wanted to know what these places in the photos actually were in comparison to what the poems implied. The photos and poems I found most intriguing were ‘Quickie Heel Bar’ and “Capacity House”.
Quickie Heel Bar is a raunchy, raw poem written by Tamar Yoseloff. It begins with a disturbing sense of honesty that doesn’t mince words. “Ladies, here’s the shit: / your skirt’s so tight you can barely walk…” It continues on to embody the term in the sign ‘quickie’: “I can go all night like the Duracell Bunny… I’ll make you ring a ding ding”. There is a somewhat grimy, cheap feeling accompanying this poem that matches the sign in the picture. Yoseloff got her inspiration for the poem from the sexual slang meaning of the word ‘quickie’, and also ‘bar’. Yoseloff says in her field notes that she meant her poem to invoke a sense of the “cheap, fast, throwaway”.
Several of MacDonald’s and Yoseloff’s field notes tell us what we are seeing in the picture as opposed to the artistic interpretation in the poem but the only information was on the building’s renovation into a store, specifically a “House of Fashion and Mobile Accessories”. I found the following picture on Google street view.
After multiple searches on google and through the London yellow pages, I found that the “Quickie Heel Bar” was, for years until 2002, a shoe repair shop. Rather a strange juxtaposition: a picture of a shoe repair shop and a raunchy, suggestive poem.
Tamar Yoseloff and Vici MacDonald are writing London in a way that echoes what I discussed in my post about City of the Mind: architectonic time. Like Matthew Halland, these two women are seeing a remnant of a former London and Yoseloff is imagining and writing a scene that might have happened there long ago.
This collection of poetry helped me to gain a better understanding of Englishness simply because not only did I learn little tidbits of social practices through the poems, it compelled me to do my own research. Fact is, this book provided me with more questions than answers so instead of taking things at face value, I dug deeper and discovered more to find the answers.