Len Lye: <i>Poems</i>

Len Lye: Poems

Book of Len Lye’s poems released

22 Nov 2021

The first collection of poetry by the internationally recognised pioneering filmmaker and kinetic artist Len Lye has been published by the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Foundation.

Marking the 120th anniversary of the birth of Len Lye (1901-1980), the publication captures poetry written by “the least boring person who ever existed,” as once described by British poet Alistair Reid. Poems span the course of Lye’s life and career with the last poem penned in the artist’s final days. 

As a schoolboy in Aotearoa New Zealand, Lye declared poetry “a lot of romanticised junk.” But after moving to London in 1926 he “woke up” to poetry, befriending many famous poets of the day including Norman Cameron, Dylan Thomas, Robert Graves, Laura Riding and Gertrude Stein. Seeing something very original in his quirky style of speech, these poets offered encouragement to the young Lye, who in response turned his hand to writing.

Lye’s poems range widely, with lyrical memories of people and places, love poems, experiences as a film-maker, an intriguing myth about how human beings first learned to see, and an amusing vision of the vivid sex life of sea creatures.

The 42 poems provide an overview of the literary centre of Lye’s practice, carefully selected and introduced by the artist’s biographer, Len Lye Foundation Trustee and University of Auckland Emeritus Professor Roger Horrocks.

“This collection of Lye’s poetry gives us access to his rich imagination and his creation of myth-type images and stories. He writes about the challenge of making films and many other experiences,” says Horrocks, who also edited the publication.

“The book reflects his intense interest in movement, his sensuous response to the natural world, his love for his wife Ann, and his whimsical sense of humour.”

The book builds on the collection of publishing of and on Len Lye, and has been welcomed by Govett-Brewster Art Gallery / Len Lye Centre Director Dr Zara Stanhope as further supporting the sharing, discovery and understanding of Lye’s art and life. 

“This intriguing and joyful element of Len Lye’s world is now permanently accessible in this new publication. Len’s poetry gives delight and depth to contemporary appreciation of an often overlooked art form, and helps extend our knowledge and appreciation of Lye as a multimedia artist decades before his time,” Stanhope says. 

Poems can be purchased online through the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery shop here. 

“This intriguing and joyful element of Len Lye’s world is now permanently accessible in this new publication. Len’s poetry gives delight and depth to contemporary appreciation of an often overlooked art form, and helps extend our knowledge and appreciation of Lye as a multimedia artist decades before his time,” Stanhope says.

Len Lye: <i>Poems</i>

Len Lye: Poems