Ian Hamilton Finlay

Founder of the periodical Poor. Old. Tired. Horse. whose practice evolved from Concrete Poetry to working directly with the landscape in his own garden.

Ian Hamilton Finlay's associations with the Concrete Poetry movement begin in the early 1960s, around the time that he founded Poor. Old. Tired. Horse. Finlay would go on to become the most important concrete poet in Britain, with work that paid homage to the Japanese haiku, and to the Carolingian scholar-poets, as well as to the Modernist avant-garde. He would also become one of the key promoters of the Concrete Poetry movement in this country, through his publishing and correspondence. The exhibition features a display of printed ephemera by Finlay–including copies of Poor. Old. Tired. Horse.–and two of his concrete poems realised as wall paintings.

Finlay would come to feel confined by the acceptance of the Concrete Poetry movement by a wider public, and would disassociate himself from it in the later 1960s. His own practice was constantly developing, however, and he continued to experiment with the idea of giving form to syntax. In the early 1960s, Finlay made a number of 'poem objects', which frequently took the form of stone pieces, and in 1966 he began to work directly in the landscape at his home in Stonypath, in the hills outside Edinburgh. Finlay's most famous creation is his garden, Little Sparta, a fusion of poetic and sculptural elements with the natural landscape, and which employs the classical, revolutionary and martial imagery that would be a feature of his later work.

Ian Hamilton Finlay was born in the Bahamas in 1925, but spent most of his life in Scotland. He published his first volume of short stories in the early 1950s, and in 1961 he founded the Wild Hawthorn Press, which printed his prolific output of poems, cards and booklets as well as Poor. Old. Tired. Horse. His career was long and varied, and included a solo exhibition at the ICA in 1992. Finlay died in 2006.

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