Poem Wall is made in white painted wood and is one of a number of sculptural works that Choucair made from the early 1960s onwards which use the motif of interlocking forms. Prior to this she had made paintings with a similarly abstract aesthetic (see for example, Composition in Blue Module 1947–57, Tate T13308). Choucair made Poem Wall in Beirut, her home town, and its forms suggest an explicit reference to city architecture, amplified by the work’s title. The painted wooden forms sit on top of, and interlock with each other to create a monochrome structure suggestive of a cityscape with a taller building acting as a ‘bookend’ at either end. The forms mutually support each other and are held in a delicate balance.
Choucair’s use of interlocking forms grew out of her interest in her religion Sufism, and its related poetry, in which individual parts are recognized as having their own identity while contributing to the unity of the whole. Choucair used the term ‘sculptural poem’ for many of her works, such as this one, making explicit reference to the structure of Arabic poetry. The work’s title underlines this association. She has stated: ‘The way I organized my sculptural poems, for example, was inspired by Arabic poetry. I wanted rhythm like the poetic meter, to be at once more independent and interlinked, and to have lines like meanings, but plastic meanings.’ (Quoted in Mulhaq al-Nahar, 23 September 1995, p.10.)
Joseph Tarrab, Hala Schoukair, Helen Kahl, Saloua Raouda Choucair: Her Life and Work, Beirut 2002.