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Austin Osman Spare and Poetry.
The particular influence of William Blake, W.B. Yeats and John Gray.

- Stephen Pochin



“Words, words, words, however used – whatever they symbolise, request, or tell – say
more! – showing in between, the antics of all motives! Yes, word rendering offers the quickest of deaths to flabby ideas, and also the most poignant, suggestive, contagious substitutive, and lasting means known to convey anything. Most deadly virus! most potent abcreation, and magic subtley... even your erasure has you believing... We are overstuffed with words – now a veritable systole and diastole of mind: whether or not we correctly articulate, we suffer post-prandial torpor.”

– Austin Osman Spare, ‘Micrologus’, (Number 7) c.1952. (1)

“Words are the most poignant, suggestive, contagious substitutive and lasting means to convey anything... even your erasures reveal your believing by their persuasive influence and their magic.”
– Austin Osman Spare, ‘The Logomachy’, (Number 163) c.1952.


In this short study I would like to address the poetic impetus behind Austin Osman Spare’s written work and the ways in which this leaks into and informs his visual production. So it is a survey of scope and influence, rather than a close reading of specific texts.
The quotes above reveal the artist wrestling, late in life, with words in order to convey what he sees as written language’s shortcomings. He did not pretend to be a writer, his strengths of course lay with the visual media. But he did describe himself as a poet. (3) He is somewhat more eloquent and authoritative when attempting to enumerate the conditions of creativity and art:

“To know the fundamentals of Art is to know the path of all wisdom.” (Number 39)

“We find in Art experiences missed in life.” (Number 44)

“All artistic creation is subjective in that it relates to lesser known experiences.” (Number 46)

– Austin Osman Spare, ‘The Logomachy.’ (4)



1. Austin Osman Spare, Micrologus, Number 7. Ethos, Mandrake Press. p.17

2. Austin Osman Spare,The Logomachy of ZOS, Number 163, ZOS Speaks! Encounters with AOS. Fulgur, 1998. p.159.

3. Art & Letter: Word & Sign, Austin Osman Spare & Vera Wainwright, Mandrake Press, 2003, p.238.

4. Austin Osman Spare,The Logomachy of ZOS, Number 39/44/46, ZOS Speaks! Encounters with AOS. Fulgur, 1998.



Stephen Pochin, 2007


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