A building presenting a poster of an artwork with geometric shapesA building presenting a poster of an artwork with geometric shapesA building presenting a poster of an artwork with geometric shapesA building presenting a poster of an artwork with geometric shapes

Typoetry: Pierrine Poget x Lana Soufeh

Typoetry: Pierrine Poget x Lana Soufeh

May 2022

This poem by Pierrine Poget, designed by Lana Soufeh, can be found at East Ham Library, 328 Barking Road, London E6 2RT and at Our Newham Work, 112-118 The Grove, Stratford, London E15 1NS

We meet the spirit of those who have gone before us, at the very moment when they precede us.

By Pierrine Poget

East Ham Library, 328 Barking Road, London E6 2RT
There are ten libraries across Newham, each offering a range of services and community activities, as well as a fantastic selection of books and other reading material. Learn more.

Our Newham Work, 112-118 The Grove, Stratford, London E15 1NS
Our Newham Work has been designed to help Newham residents into work. Our Newham Work offers a range of advice and guidance including various support services to help Newham residents secure employment. Learn more.

Photography by Calum Douglas

Detail of the artwork. Black and red geometric forms forming the word before

Poet's insights

What were the ideas, feelings or experiences that led to the creation of your poem?

I can’t remember the exact circumstances. For a long time it was part of a larger text. Then it started travelling, getting involved in different sets of poems. All I know is that it occurred to me as I deeply felt the presence of others, eternity of other souls and lives, this long long river, behind and beyond me.

Any thoughts onthe final artwork, how your poem interacts with the design?

Many thoughts. An ever-growing enthusiasm as I discover Lana Soufeh’s work and words. I’ve read in an interview that she is very interested in organized chaos. I can see that. I love the way the poem is followed and preceded by these two black rectangles: where text could be/have been written. Text gone? Text to come? Unspeakable words? And I love that inspite of something very sharp, tall and clear, it took me some time to get BEFORE US PRECEDE US. Poetry is so: dazzling and slow.

Or about the different dimension your work takes when displayed in the public space?

Since I was painting before I started writing, I have often dreamed of going into the streets at night and painting my poems on walls, but never did. A few times, I was lucky enough to meet strange or beautiful words in the street, and it’s been a great joy, a tender company, sometimes a salvation. It’s the perfect place for a poem. Poems can be read a thousand times and are always changing. What Typoetry does is place small pools of water around.

Designer's insights

Swiss Embassy: What in the poem inspired your design? How do the design and the poem interact? What were the first ideas youhad when you saw the poem?

Lana Soufeh: The meaning is what always inspires the design. If there is no meaning or story behind it, if it is just aesthetics, then there will be no real connection between the design work and the viewer.

In Kayona Daley’s poem for example, it focuses around the words and meanings of building a home, a house, and a foundation. She ends the poem with “One brick at a time, we tore it down, and designed a bridge instead”, and through that I was able to slowly visualize, and not just in a literal sense, how to use typography to create these building blocks and from there create my whole image. The letters were designed out of a limited number of shapes to build a modular alphabet as my ‘bricks’.

From there I started using words of the poem to ‘build’ the design onwards. Similar to Pierrine Poget’s Poem, using the same type which could expand into two opposite directions that represent the past ‘before us’ and future ‘precede us’ as the directionality highlighted in her short poem. The words of the poem and the design should represent one another through meaning and visually to have a balanced outcome.

What is the role of the poem’s location in your design?

The poem’s design took shape according to the location it was in. I think the size plays a role in the design while having it stand out from a distance. The intention was to be bold and loud, to be able to spot not just glimpses of the poem as you’re walking or driving around, but almost view and feel the whole composition between the buildings at any moment.

Could you tell us about your creative process?

I begin every project with a pencil and paper of course. It doesn’t necessarily have to be for sketching, but mostly writing. I try to always be as systematic as possible during the process and have a reasoning to every approach. I do that normally by always formulating a question and trying to answer it accordingly. I strongly believe in functionality and simplicity, so holding just even one piece of paper and writing my thoughts on it is my way of approaching any project.

Pierrine Poget is an author and poet born inGeneva, Switzerland. She studied Contemporary French Literature and History ofArt at the University of Geneva. Visual arts, and painting in particular, havedeeply affected her way of writing. Her latest book, Warda s’en va, Carnets du Caire, was selectedfor the Médicis Prize 2021, in the Essay category. She writes mostly in French.

Design by Lana Soufeh, Master Type Design, ECAL/Universityof Art and Design of Lausanne. Learn more: ECAL MATD | ECAL MATD Instagram | Lana Soufeh Instagram

Typoetry is a showcase of poetry and Swiss graphic design. Around 30 works by poets from Switzerland, the UK and Newham are forming artistic trails in the London Borough of Newham from 20 May to 17 July 2022. Learn more.