Poetics of Still Life: A Collage
Robert Vas Dias

Poetics of Still Life: A Collage, is a cross-disciplinary exploration of still life from the earliest times to the present. It combines colour images of 65 still lifes, commentaries by art historians, critics, curators, and writers, and poems and prose poems by Vas Dias.

The book is the first of its kind: there have been other books which combine poetry and images, but none which present a comprehensive picture of a genre of art from the standpoint of a poetic sensibility.

Still life has undergone astonishing changes is style, approach, and purpose over the centuries. Until the 19th century, it was considered by the French Academy the lowest in the hierarchy of genres, but by the time of the cubists in the early 20th century, it became of major importance. This book traces the course of the genre over time.

“Robert Vas Dias’s beautiful, richly illustrated Poetics of Still Life is rightly subtitled A Collage in that it is a blend of art historical scholarship, personal memories and inventions, and, above all, meditations – mostly in verse – on the nature of what is put before us by various artists through the ages, presenting us with a multidimensional way of drawing the poetry from apparently mundane objects: a way of understanding the mysteries of art, poetry, objects, and ourselves at once.”
– George Szirtes

“Baudelaire’s view – that the most rewarding response to a work of art is another work of art – is the perfect justification for Vas Dias’s book. The beauty of the book is that the texts warrant just such close attention as is demanded by a still life, and in that process of looking and reading, image and text merge in the mind, as happens when there is a voice in the ear as the eye looks at a picture, especially when what is spoken pertains to the picture, and shapes the eye’s movement, and the mind’s.”
– Mel Gooding

Introduction by Mel Gooding
Cover image by Josefa de Óbidos, 1630-1684
Designed, and typography, by Neil Crawford
Edition: 150, numbered and signed
2020, ISBN 978-0-9052582-5-6
65 colour reproductions
Paperback, 156 pages,
Perfect bound in heavy card cover with flaps
This publication is available from Permanent Press


Syntax of Bridges
Julia Farrer and Robert Vas Dias

Syntax of Bridges, a collaboration by the prominent British painter, printmaker, and book artist Julia Farrer, with text by Robert Vas Dias, is an example of book art, that is, an artist's book that is an art object in itself. It is a product of the artist's direct involvement in its concept, design, and production, from the sketches, roughs, and dummies, to the plate-making, printing and binding: the artist is in control as architect, contractor, builder, project manager. Laurence Noga in Saturation Point ( writes,"The book is constructed in an intriguing eight-fold leporello format with three hand-coloured cut-out etchings. Farrer's helical forms are slowly revealed as the book opens, concealing and revealing a prose poem by the poet Robert Vas Dias. The text locks us in to the associations of the image, with their depths of connotation. The syntax is always partly visible through the precise cut-outs, giving us the sense of a unique place, or site, through the architectural elements of the work. We are deeply aware of a metaphysical understanding." Syntax of Bridges has been purchased for the collections of the National Art Library at the V&A and the Yale Center for British Art.

Published by Ki Press, 2014
Edition of 15 with 5 artist's proofs
8 fold Leporello with 3 hand coloured, cut out etchings, 26.5 x 59cm
Type designed, set and printed by Kelvyn Laurence Smith
Binding by Charles Gledhill
This publication is available through Eagle Gallery EMH Arts


Arrivals & Departures: Prose Poems
Robert Vas Dias

This chapbook of prose poems brings together a series of 26 new and uncollected prose poems. The poet and editor David Caddy writes: "[It] effectively uses the literary device of arrivals and departures for a pared down and celebratory poetry. It is at once joyful and thwart with potential danger, and sustains a wonderful balance between narrative voice and literary effects.The sequence works on the binaries of things lost and found, presence and absence, meetings and disappearance. There is an abiding sense of mishap not far from joyfulness within relationships and social life. Vas Dias, though, elevates the binaries through the use of fresh language and unpredictable detours leavened with humour. It is necessary reading for anyone following contemporary developments in the prose poem."

Cover painting, Arrivals & Departures, by Julia Farrer, watercolour and gouache, 2014
Published by Shearsman Books, 2014
ISBN 978 1 84861 365 2

This publication is available from Shearsman Online Store,,, The Book Depository (UK ), Barnes and Noble (USA)


Robert Vas Dias

"stalker" is part of the p.o.w. (poetry / oppose / war) series of broadsheet poems inspired by the futura series published by edition hansjörg mayer in the 1960s. The poem, which is folded into eight sections, was designed by the editor/publisher of the series, the artist and concrete poet Antonio Claudio Carvalho. The poet Chris McCabe, writes: "This is Robert Vas Dias' stalker and it is an incredibly powerful piece. The poem works through repetition of the colloquial word "say" – "say I'm", "say you're", "say we" – in the context of a kind of ménage-ŕ-trois between two people and the government. In the context of the poem the stalking of the individuals by the government is looked at from different perspectives until we seem to be caught inside a vortex of paranoia. The text is slowly reduced in size suggesting the impossibility of a personal relationship under the constraints of government surveillance."

Published by unit4art
Edition of 500 copies

This publication is available from bookartbookshop, London, and from Studio Bookshop, Brighton,


Still • Life & Other Poems [CD]
Robert Vas Dias

A two-disc set of Robert Vas Dias reading his poetry from five books – a virtual Selected Poems over a period of some 40 years.

Recorded by Optic Nerve in 2010

This CD is available from Optic Nerve and Permanent Press

"Every Wall Has Two Sides"
Robert Vas Dias

Every Wall Has Two Sides, a poem in two parts, was originally made as a large poster for the "Bethlehem Unwrapped" festival at St. James's Church Piccadilly, over the 2013-14 Christmas and New Year period. There were many thousands of visitors to the installation – a 26ft-high replica of the variously named wall/barrier/security fence in Bethlehem; the poster poem was placed in front and to one side of the wall. See As the first part of a series, "Black Book I, 1& 2" was subsequently published in the magazine Tears in the Fence, No. 61.

This publication is available from Tears in the Fence

London Cityscape Sijo

London Cityscape Sijo and Other Poems
Robert Vas Dias

In this fascinating new collection, Vas Dias envisages the often bewildering variety of London experiences through the lens of Sijo, the classical Korean three-line poetry form. Bizarre, droll, satirical, and melancholy by turns, both the Sijo and the Poems Integrating Quoted Text that succeed them generate a witty, freshly minted reflection on contemporary urban life.

The American poet and critic Michael Heller writes: “The poems are terrific, deep, comic, witty and energetic. The Sijo are marvellous, as though your sensibility found its perfect objective correlative in those odd turns and observations. I was deeply touched by the other poems, especially 'All play their part awkwardly', which gripped me, and which seems to enunciate your poetics, your warm, compassionate stance. Loved 'Black Rain' and the moving poem to [David] Chaloner. 'Life of Bones' beautiful, and 'Waves.' The book is a tour de force.”

Published by Perdika Press, April 2012
No. 17 in Perdika Press Editions
ISBN 9781 905649 16 7
This publication available from Perdika Press

Still Life

Still · Life and Other Poems of Art and Artifice
Robert Vas Dias

In this generous selection of work from the past ten years, the Anglo-American poet Robert Vas Dias explores meanings and resonances inherent in art and the suggestive implications of objects which both make up the quotidian and help to define us. This is a poetry of 'domestic tranquility' as well as chaos, of the absurd and the numinous, of the serious and comedic. Michael Bartholomew-Biggs writes in the online cultural magazine London Grip: “Still · Life is Robert Vas Dias's ninth collection and it includes new poems alongside some which have been selected from other publications over the last ten years; the book as a whole fits very well and enjoyably together. Vas Dias clearly settled on his poetic voice some time ago; but it is pleasing to be able to say that he has retained freshness and variety in using it.”

Cover from a detail of a painting by Stephen Chambers RA
Published by Shearsman Books, May 2010
ISBN 978 1 84861 121 4

This publication is available from Shearsman Online Store,,, The Book Depository (UK ), Barnes and Noble (USA) >

Entailing Happiness
Entailing Happiness
Friends of Robert Vas Dias

This handsomely designed and produced book is a festschrift by 35 friends for Robert Vas Dias in celebration of his 80th birthday. Among the contributors are Jane Augustine, Linda Black, Alan Brownjohn, Angela Cleland, Allen Fisher, Roy Fisher, Lee Harwood, Michael Heller, Mimi Khalvati, Toby Olson, Anthony Rudolf, Hugh Seidman, Gavin Selerie, John Taggart, Barry Wallenstein, John Welch, and Tamar Yoseloff.
This publication is available from Permanent Press >

Leaping Down to Earth

Leaping Down to Earth
Robert Vas Dias
Images by Stephen Chambers and Tom Hammick

Leaping Down to Earth is a response in poetry to twelve pictures, six each by the British artists Stephen Chambers and Tom Hammick, all of which are reproduced in colour. The poems are not about art and don’t aim to describe the images, but, as Vas Dias writes in the Preface, “convey what’s on my mind after I’ve lived with the images a while.” The design, in which each poem is printed on a semi-transparent sheet over its accompanying image, displays the integral connection between poem and image and yet allows each work to stand on its own. Leaping Down to Earth, writes Lee Harwood, “is a collection of poems that are some of the best Vas Dias has ever written. There’s a wit and liveliness to them that often makes me laugh out loud. But also more serious and moving threads weave through these poems. They can be sexy and funny and also include a subtle understanding of the complexities and struggles in human relationships.” Nicholas Usherwood writes in Galleries: “The call and response between the three of them is edgy, witty and often extremely touching, making this one of the most genuinely satisfying collaborations of its kind I’ve come across.”

“The visual-verbal interplay can be a fertile dialogue, and so it proves here….There is real depth here: perhaps most powerfully evident in ‘Outside Your Kitchen Window,’ the final poem-image pairing in the book.”

    Richard Aronowitz, The London Magazine

Leaping Down to Earth…is a beautiful book to hold and absorb. The poems are fun, lively and vibrant as well as being thought-provoking and effortlessly draw the reader into the world of the poems.”

    David Caddy, Tears in the Fence

This publication is available from Permanent Press >

The Lascaux Variations

The Lascaux Variations
Robert Vas Dias, John Wright, Julia Farrer, Neil Crawford

The Lascaux Variations: Fractals of Being represents the combined effort by four people working in different disciplines - poetry, painting, text integration and design, and typography - to find a book format that reflects and recapitulates the concerns of the four-part poem, which explores questions about art and artifice, imagination and reality, line and space, the abstract and the non-objective, the enduring and transitional. The book is thus frankly experimental in concept and execution, harking back to the little collaborative books by the Russian Futurists of the early 19th century in which text and image were closely correlated, sometimes with text appearing as integral elements of the image itself, as happens in this book.

Both poet and artist had been inspired by separate visits to the paleolithic friezes of the Lascaux caves. Starting with early notes and drafts of the poem and with preliminary sketches by the artist John Wright, the project unfolded over a year, culminating in the finished poem and sixteen pastel-and-charcoal semi-abstract drawings by Wright. The painter-printmaker Julia Farrer then integrated words, phrases and sentences from the poem into scans of the images, which were then subjected to final typographical realisation by Neil Crawford, the professional typographer. After the total design was approved by both artists and the writer, the pages were printed by colour lithography and assembled loose-leaf in a pocket portfolio.

This is the poem’s first appearance in book form after its initial publication in The Warwick Review in the spring of 2009.

“John [Wright’s] images are so perfectly in sync with the feel of the poetry, its moods of reflection and love, of questioning. And the structure, the separate but not separate leaves, the flow of the images and words leading to the poems – unifying but in a way I haven't seen before. The intelligence of the production has a completely different feel from the usual art/poetry book as beautiful artifact. One has the experience of completeness, of a thoroughness to the design, more than a fusion--hard to put into words the way it all seems to work together for me.”

    Michael Heller

The images work very well with the words and it is a beautiful production.”

    Maggi Hambling

This publication is available from Permanent Press >

Select Things
Robert Vas Dias

Folded broadside sheet, containing eight poems, in a format borrowed from Michael Carlson’s Northern Lights Series, London.

“Anything that includes the subject of a junky car gets a thumbs up from this editor, unless it’s a piece-a-crap Ford.”

    Mark Spitzer, Exquisite Corpse 9, Summer 2001.

Cover drawing for "Plastic Potters Melamine Plate" by Patrick Caulfield RA

This publication is available from Permanent Press >

Body-Part Word Sonnets
Using Expressions, Idioms, and Clichés
Robert Vas Dias

Poems printed on Japan mounted in folders containing two poems each, hand-bound in antique and contemporary marbled papers.

This publication is available from Permanent Press >

Making Faces

Making Faces
Robert Vas Dias

The first book by Vas Dias published in Britain. Contains poems which first appeared in Encounter, Partisan Review, and Poetry Review, among others.

Cover illustration and design by David Chaloner
Joe DiMaggio Press, London

“For those who have known Robert Vas Dias and his work for many years, a real occasion. This is a book of great subtlety and range, an exuberant, funny, touching, and frightening experience.”

    Toby Olson

This publication is available from and>

Red Car Blues

Speech Acts & Happenings
Robert Vas Dias

Of this, Vas Dias’s first major collection, the poet Paul Blackburn writes in his foreword: “This is a step. This is a step forwards. This is a foreword. No one knows why there must be a foreword to a peopled and perfectly capable book of poems, capable of speaking for itself numerous times (there are 70 poems in the book, does that help?), but they tell you there’s a reason. There must be a good one. I have thought of one; I thought of it at the beginning of this paragraph. This is a step for words. It surely is.”

Cover painting and design by R. B. Hart
The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Indianapolis & New York
Hardbound and paperback editions

“What I most liked was the very easygoing play of your intelligence into its serious concerns – and your attentive composition, responsive thruout to what the poem was saying in its saying. What means most to me is how at once humorous (alive to the humors of what was going on in the expression – re-creation – of feeling) and personally engaged you keep the poem.”

    Robert Duncan

“These poems of yours are real, brimming with life. The spirit that animates them knows how to dance.”

    Stanley Kunitz

“‘makes real more life than it loses’ Jerry Rothenberg putting it well. ‘Spouts life’ he might have said, thinking of a fountain. A book to value.”

    George Oppen

“For Vas Dias is a modern poet in that he is a craftsman. The impact of his writing comes from that paring down, that edging, which is one mark of the 20th-century poet.”

    Linda W. Wagner

“A truly excellent book of wide-ranging work.”

    Lee Harwood

This publication is available from and >

Red Car Blues

Time Exposures
Robert Vas Dias

A pamphlet comprising twelve poems, some of which were previously published in Margin, Oasis, and Stand.

1999 ISBN 1 900996 07 3
Oasis Books, London

“a fine distillation of a mature poetic talent, one that is philosophical, enquiring and conversational.”

    Poetry Quarterly Review

This publication is available from Permanent Press >

Red Car Blues

Inside Outer Space: New Poems of the Space Age
Edited and with an Introduction by Robert Vas Dias

An anthology of poems by 105 American, Canadian, and British poets presenting “different kinds of response to outer space and to space exploration and discovery – the images and terms, the language associated with it, its technology….The space-derived image is the unifying element of these poems; a number utilise the language and terms of astrophysics and astro-engineering, or depend on the information that has become available as a result of space-age science and technology; a few go beyond even this sort of dependency to employ a construct that stems directly from mathematics, statistical probability, and relativity theory.” (From the Introduction)

Among the poets represented are W H Auden, Amiri Baraka, Paul Blackburn, William Bronk, Cid Corman, Robert Creeley, Larry Eigner, Theodore Enslin, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Kelly, Stanley Kunitz, Jackson Mac Low, Michael McClure, Charles Olson, George Oppen, Al Purdy, Carl Rakosi, Adrienne Rich, Jerome Rothenberg, Armand Schwerner, Anne Sexton, Gary Snyder, May Swenson, D.M. Thomas, William Carlos Williams, and Louis Zukofsky.

Cover painting by Allan D’Arcangelo
A Doubleday Anchor Original
Garden City, New York, Doubleday & Company

“It's worth reading simply as a poetry anthology, as you're sure to find something that will appeal to you & make you think. But it's also compelling as social & cultural history – if you want to get a real flavor of those times, it's best to ignore the handful of popular clichés that attempt to sum up any era, and go to neglected treasures like this one instead. It might even make you look up at the night skies in wonder again ...”

    Review on

This publication is available from and >

Red Car Blues

Red Car Blues
Robert Vas Dias

Poem, with original images digitally realised from a photograph by the author, printed on Somerset acid-free paper on a six-colour inkjet using pigmented inks, bound by hand as an accordion-fold book. Produced at Pratt Contemporary Art, Ightham, Sevenoaks, Kent.

This publication is available from Permanent Press >

The Guts of Shadows

The Guts of Shadows
Robert Vas Dias
Images by John Wright

Sixteen poems by Robert Vas Dias and fourteen images by the British artist John Wright. Each image and facing poem is printed in an individual folder on a six-colour inkjet using pigmented inks on Somerset Velvet Enhanced 255 GSM, each folder gathered and hand-bound in G F Smith Colourplan 350 GSM. Printed and bound by Pratt Contemporary Art, Ightham, Sevenoaks, Kent. Exhibited at the London Artists Book Fair 2003, 2004, 2005.

“It’s a compelling combination of word and image which I only wish we could see more often.”

    Helen Smithson

This publication is available from Permanent Press >

A Concise History of Chaos

A Concise History of Chaos:
Fremontodendron Californicum and the Doctrine of Manifest Destiny

Robert Vas Dias

A Concise History of Chaos is a composition for two voices reflecting the two kinds of text in it: a poem sequence which functions as pictorial description and narrative, and boxes containing informational prose reminiscent of the panels mounted on museum walls ‘explaining’ or giving background information; this voice is reproduced by typographical means to suggest nineteenth-century cards and advertisements and reflects, on the one hand, the eponymous hero of the texts, General John C. Frémont, a colourful explorer, adventurer, botanist, and failed politician and military leader who was associated with America’s expansionist policy of Manifest Destiny, and on the other, the flowering bush Fremontodendron californicum. The writing is otherwise a depiction of a garden in twenty-first century London.

This publication is available from Permanent Press >

White on White

White on White
Robert Vas Dias
Original print by Ian Tyson

Poem by Robert Vas Dias realised by Ian Tyson with a four-colour original silkscreen print on heavy paper.

This publication is available from Permanent Press >

Every Wall Has Two Sides

1 2
let us consider the forming of walls, the mortar
of words I use to form my walls, to make my side
a better side, the other side is where the other side
resides, I'm on the right side and you are not, the
side you're on is undesirable and my side is right
because I am right and you are wrong, you disturb
my side with your words, your words spread fear
and mine bind my wall with the mortar of reason
you're unreasonable, you disturb me, raise un-
reasonable questions about sides, your living
space, my living space which is mine by right and
yours which is not yours by right, you have no
right to be where you are, because I am here and
because I am here you cannot be, you cannot be,
you're on my other side, the other side of me.
I didn't know I was on a side until a wall was built
and then I knew I was on a side, the wrong side
I didn't know I'd created a disturbance until you
told me I was creating a disturbance so then I
decided to create a disturbance because you told
me I lived on the wrong side, I'd always lived on
this side even though I didn't know it was a side
of anything, much less the wrong one, it's wrong
because my side is a wall of shadows, the shadow
side, the wrong side, I shadow you, you who live
on the light side, I'm a disturbance for each one
of you, I am a shadow, I form a wall within you
although you cannot see me I will disturb you
I am here, I am here, and I will never leave you,
you're on my other side, the other side of me.

  Website Alannah Moore