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Ilona Yusuf

I wrote ‘listen’ after reading in depth about the complex set of motions that filter sound within the human ear, and looking at the patterns formed by waves of sound. Having set out to make artists’ books, a way of combining text and image, the work evolved to include a series of prints and small artworks to accompany the poem in the form of a unique book. Some of these are reproduced here.

Note: artists’ books can be unique, single editions, or limited editions ranging from ten or twenty five to two hundred.


the mechanics of hearing




three bones

and a membrane

sandwiched midway along

a concealed tunnel

minuscule bones working

in the harmony

of sequential movement

strike the tympanum

-membrane stretched taut

across a hollow body

to receive a myriad

chromatic inflexions—

past the cone of light

in and out

back and forth

to and fro

the little hammer

pushes waves

past anvil and stirrup

past a forest of fibre swaying

liquid in the labyrinth

of chamber on spiral chamber

inland sea sounding

within a shell—

filtering translating

kaleidoscopes of sound

so that amidst cacophony

a single clear note

cuts through the air

filling it with pure sound


the mechanics of silence

and then there is


a wilful act

to close the ear

to sounds it does not wish

to perceive or hear

to rub away voice

to stiffen the amaranthine flexing

of this assembly of moving parts

to dull the movement of




against the tympanum

that it loses elasticity

that it idles untuned

that it unlearns

the shape of words

the reading of sound

the exercise of speech

that it rubs away voice

that it ossifies in silence


listen i: the mechanics of hearing (collagraph on Somerset paper)

listen i: the mechanics of hearing (smoke and graphite on Somerset paper)

From the second part of the poem (dry point etching, smoke on paper, burnt edges)

All images courtesy of the author.


Ilona Yusuf is an artist, poet and Associate Editor (print) at The Aleph Review.


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