for Jack

There's nothing Jack likes more than to see his writing in print, so every year I sneakily select something that he's written during the past twelve months, and create a small edition for him as a special present. This year, I chose this poem:

Britain’s Missing Top Model

I’ve only got
one hand
I’d like to be

a fashion model
Trying on her jeans
she finds a rip

on the morning
of her interview
with the Agency

This day can only go
uphill from here

nervous to the point
of near-paralysis
she manages to smile

at the brusque no-nonsense
embrace the team

sit quietly while they
critique her
32 23 35

(too hippy)
23 (too old)
and then debate

her fate
cries when they say
they’ll represent her

I need to tell my Mum

Jack's poem was inspired by the final episode of a British reality show we watched when we were staying at a friend's place earlier this year. The show was based on the America's Next Top Model format, except that the contestants all had physical disabilities of one kind or another.  Although the idea was to highlight the need for people to broaden their view of conventional beauty, the show itself was an unsavoury and exploitative production that did nothing to advance the cause for greater inclusivity of disabled people in mainstream culture.

The eventual winner  of the contest was a lovely young woman who had been born with one arm missing below the elbow. It was apparent that she could easily be posed for photo-shoots in such a way that her disability was entirely concealed from view, thereby completely undermining the whole  point of the show, it seemed to us!

In an understated way, I think Jack's poem perfectly captures the monstrosity of the programme, and I wanted to enhance the idea further by making a small edition of ten collaged poems. The design uses more images from the supply of 1950s Ladies Home Journals that I used for the picto-poem Silhouette, also inspired by a reality TV show.
I deliberately selected younger models for this series. I cut off one arm from each girl, and  then I added a couple of disembodied hands to each composition, cut from an old 1940s book, How to Draw Hands. This Dada-inspired detail was designed to signal the manipulation and exploitation of the women by the producers of the show, as well as the naivety of the contestants. It's not subtle, that's for sure! Here are a few examples from the series:

Continuing with the Dada design, I made a special folder for the poems using more illustrations of hands combined with some of the captions from the book:

I added a final hand to the inside back cover:


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