Peter Machen


A book of words and images by Peter Machen



The Corduroy Man is repulsed by polyester

In a world threatened by lycra he feels alone

The Corduroy Man is awash with misconceptions

There’s so much he doesn’t understand.



i got damaged by photographs

got fractured by song

diminished by cinema

and broken by books and hearts.


but in all these things,

pain is growth, growth is love

and we are smitten and shrunken small

so that we may grow  to be giants in our own lives.





Exhibition Proposal for The Corduroy Man




The Corduroy Man is a book of words and images which I intend publishing early next year. I would have exhibited the contents of the book, both as a means of publicising it, and also because I have a nagging suspicion that people – non poetry readers for the most part – are more likely to read poems on a gallery wall than on paper. Thus poetry, which remains one of modernity’s most peripheral art forms, is brought into the public space, and in this case is accompanied by visuals which complement the words but seldom offer a direct correlate.




The Corduroy Man – consisting of words and images – is in a sense a documentary. But while the genre usually involves the artist or photographer or writer documenting something external to themselves, this particular exercise, which extends over more than ten years, documents my own consciousness. As such, objectivity, that other holy tenet of the documentary maker, falls by the wayside.

But I have long been convinced, through reading, observation and the processing of simple thoughts, that it is subjectivity and not objectivity that is the pathway (in as much as there a pathway) to universality. In the same way that Van Gogh’s impressionist windswept fields give the viewer a greater sense of  the actual experience of being there than supposed photorealism ever could, the verbal fragments and often blurry and impressionistic visuals of the Corduroy Man, give a clearer view of my own consciousness than careful scripting and perfect focus ever could.

As for the apparently solipsistic notion of dealing with the self – or the life of the self – I would suggest that it’s all any artist or documenter is capable of doing. It’s just that usually the self is refracted through an exterior world.
So this is a journey, one that is doused in sentiment but hopefully precludes any notion of sentimentality. And it is one that exists without any beginning or end. There is a degree of arbitrariness to the juxtapositions of the various images and words. Although they have been juggled around to some extent, in most cases the original and random order is the one that speaks the loudest and accesses my own subconscious intentions most lucidly.

Here the Burroughsian notion of the involvement of the subconscious in the artistic process stands tall. Nearly all of these words came to me in sporadic moments, as if through that thing that I might call god. Not once did I sit down to write a poem; all these words were culled from scraps of paper written during a car journey, on a train ticket or a napkin tinged with coffee stains. And in most case, years of occasional editing have resulted in few changes, the only predicate being that any changes executed must bring the work closer to that strange and intangible thing called “truth”, or which I prefer to consider as “emotional correctness”.

The photographic works have a slightly greater degree of prevarication. In one or two instances they were set up or planned. But mostly they correlate with the poetic construction, quickly grasped fragments of a barely visible world whose contents shift and evaporate in seconds.


  • peter machen_1

The Phallus of the Grocery Store



For me, March never ended.  The Endless possibilities of what might have happened.


I saw yoghurt the other day and I thought of you.

Shining across the grocery store - image transfixed -

I loved you.

Usually I love you at more appropriate times,


Picking up a fresh head of lettuce I no longer thought

of you.  A good head of lettuce is a hard thing to

find in this town - a definite certain skill in

acquiring one.  A good leafy lettuce thats not hollow

on the inside



The tremors and shimmers and passions that flow

through our lives.  And the banality.  Especially that.


I saw yoghurt the other day and I thought of you.

i got damaged by photographs

got fractured by song

diminished by cinema

and broken by books and hearts


but in all these things,

pain is growth, growth is love

and we are smitten and shrunken small

so that we may grow  to be giants in our own lives

Verlaine and Rimbaud Would Never Make It Now



in a dated way,

will you be my beat poet tonight,

scrawl endless embarrassing trivials

across my chest,

never leaving literature to the test

of publishers

and critics

and the new pop star potentiality

of anyone with a famous looking face


will you craft some openness

upon my breast.

with a penknife please.

avoid the messiness of ink

that bleeds

into mere paper

and avoid the indecisions

of deciding on appropriate typesets


my type is set,

embarassingly so.

Too Shy



the corduroy man’s discretion

is too discrete

for the way this fast world works

a slow sullen glance

gets lost in the dance

and remains always incomplete.

the cinema



enjoy your

romantic comedy

and ill enjoy

my war film.

[they might be

the same movie]

but I severely

hope not

in flickering


the corduroy man



the corduroy man is repulsed by polyster

in a world threatened by lycra he feels alone

the corduroy man is awash with misconceptions

theres so much he doesnt understand

Down into Black



How the dusk flew

out of his eyes back

into the night sky.

There are no more


the days turn

abruptly into night




Roger doesn’t dive in September

he says the swells are too big

so he goes to Capetown

Last time he went for three weeks

returning two months later

hair cropped, freshly europeanised, drinking coffee

He said Ill get you some crayfish

but I dont eat seafood so I declined.


Roger says Foucault died of aids related symptoms. 

I knew that.  I have a mental list of those who should have stayed and those I hope will not pass from this world too soon.  A friend of mine is getting far too thin.


We drive together around the harbour

bright, rainy streaked irridescence everywhere

covers the drive ways

and all that stark industrial beauty.

Roger goes off too buy hotdogs

while I stand staring from Vetchies Pier

at our dirty city.

I wonder if Ill stay,

and I think of all the people

Ive never met

who I could stand embracing

here in this cold wind.