Scott Thurston: Figure Detached Figure Impermanent


Scott Thurston: A note on the text and video.

This poem, and the kinepoetic performance that accompanies it, are taken from my pamphlet Figure Detached Figure Impermanent (Oystercatcher, 2014), a series of thirty prose poems which coincided with my first reading of Dante’s Divine Comedy. Various images and phrases from Dante thread through the series, and, whilst the most obvious reference in this poem (to Hell) is actually derived from Winston Churchill’s famous remark ‘if you’re going through hell, keep going’, the reference to ‘love’s will’ more clearly derives from Dante’s movement into Paradise where, under Beatrice’s guidance, he learns to follow what gives him pleasure as his Will has now been purified by Divine Love.

More specifically, the opening sentence reflects on St Thomas’ discourse to Dante in Paradiso XIII about how Nature imperfectly interacts with Divine Light: ‘light then descends / down to the last potentialities, where it is such that it engenders nothing / but brief contingent things’ (61-64). This is a way of accounting for the variations in human and more-than-human life: ‘Nature always works defectively – / she passes on that light much like an artist / who knows his craft but has a hand that trembles’ (76-78), but also for the rare perfection in the creation of Adam and of Christ: ‘yet where the ardent Love prepares and stamps / the lucid Vision of the primal Power, / a being then acquires complete perfection’ (79-81). The imperative ‘to not be too confident in judgment’ derives from St Thomas’ warning against hasty judgments: ‘So, too, let men not be too confident / in judging’ (130-131) (all translations by Allen Mandelbaum).

The dance here derives from recent solo practice influenced by the Belgian dancer and poet Billie Hanne. The movement is improvised – or live composition might be a better term – in relation to the embodied words of the poem in what I call a kinepoetic dialogue between words and movement, poetry and dance, language and the body.

The dance was recorded on Thursday 28 November 2021 – one of four different realisations of the piece made that day.

from Figure Detached Figure Impermanent

If you step back at the crucial moment do you end up with only rough, temporary things or is this a way to steadily perfect a trajectory? To not be too confident in judgement but sensitive to hidden energies, using whatever comes to hand – ratified by thought’s world – to turn things into another relation. Where love’s will to keep going through hell is what discovers everything.


Scott Thurston is a poet, mover and educator. He has published sixteen books and chapbooks of poetry, including three full-length collections with Shearsman: Hold (2006), Momentum (2008) and Internal Rhyme (2010). More recent work includes Phrases towards a Kinepoetics (Contraband, 2020), We Must Betray Our Potential (The Red Ceilings, 2018), Draft Vicinity (Knives Forks and Spoons, 2018) and Poems for the Dance (Aquifer, 2017). Scott is founding co-editor of open access Journal of British and Irish Innovative Poetry and co-organized the long-running poetry reading series The Other Room in Manchester. Since 2004, he has been developing a poetics integrating dance and poetry which has seen him studying with dancers in Berlin and New York and collaborating with three dancers in the UK. Scott is Reader in English and Creative Writing at the University of Salford where he has taught since 2004.


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