I’m adopted. It’s almost silly, it feels like, to even say this now that I’m in my 50s. But one’s status of having been adopted remains with one as a constant tapping on the shoulder. This reminder that you will always be collected, cut from, pasted in.
So you can see where this is going. My birth certificate says I was born of John and Pat Gallaher. I wasn’t, but I was, legally, when I was four. That knowledge has stuck with me all my life, that these relationships, entanglements, are in language. We go through what we go through, but, in the end, whatever happens becomes what we say about it. We’re all collage.
It’s been my compositional practice in writing all along. Bits and pieces here and there, seeing how they fit. I’ve used magazines and books textually for years, but I only used the pictures as a kind of pre-writing exercise, never bothering to affix them. Now, I’ve decided to keep them, make them more permanent.
“Permanent” is a pretty loaded phrase, and kind of laughable, but there it is anyway. Paper is fragile. Glue rots. Sun is the enemy of ink. So my guess is these collages will last a few years and then, in some way or another, dissolve.
When putting a collage together, I think narratively. I want to give these figures a kind of story, a plausible life or counter-life, as most of the images I use are from old magazines and books, where most of the people pictured are likely dead. But here, in this context, they get one more story. Maybe it’s a kind of afterlife I’m imagining, in the way the final scene of The Shining reveals the caretaker (Jack Nicholson) in a new/old context. I like this idea very much.
~ John Gallahar
John Gallaher is the author of several books of poetry, most recently, In a Landscape (BOA Editions, 2014) and the forthcoming Brand New Spacesuit (BOA Editions, 2020). He lives in rural Missouri and co-edits the literary journal The Laurel Review.