Found Haiku: George Orwell's 1984
by Melissa Allen


Artist's Statement:

I suppose what most of us remember when looking back at 1984 is the ideas, the politics--Big Brother, thoughtcrimes, doublespeak—and then the characters--poor Winston Smith and Julia—but rereading it with haiku in mind, what I found striking was the skillfulness with which Orwell conjured up the physical world of his imagined dystopic year 1984. The book's very first sentence, the famous "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen," grounds us completely in the weather, the sights, the sounds of Orwell's world. And it never lets up from there--this isn't, first and foremost, a philosophical or political treatise, it's a record of the very real effects of a repressive political regime on the physical and mental state of human beings. As such, it makes rich soil from which to pluck haiku, which also frequently depend for their effect on a subtle interaction between human beings and their environment and rely on striking concrete imagery to tell us something new about the human condition.

When it came time to put images with the haiku I had found in 1984, I felt drawn to images that, like those in the book, were somewhat stark and somewhat odd; not incomprehensible but slightly off, perhaps; unsettling. These photographs are all my own, mostly of objects in my house, one of a fading autumn Midwestern field I was flying past in a train. I hope they don't directly explicate the poetry that sits with them but instead help us settle deeper into the feeling the poetry evokes.

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