Farmer has been working on this book for the last year as part of a joint commission from Sound and Music and Forestry Commission England. It was developed during a series of week-long residential trips to Grizedale Forest, Cumbria, where Farmer resided in a log cabin and spent time walking the forested area between Coniston Water and Lake Windermere. This direct relationship between the forest and the book is veiled, though the underlying presence is integral to its makeup.
Yew Grotesque completes a series of works, comprising Farmer’s previous books try i bark and wild horses think of nothing else the sea. Together the three books offer both a direct and indirect textual engagement with listening. The relationship between these publications is typified by the words of Jack Spicer, a poet who felt that his own works “echo and re-echo against each other”, “create resonances” and can’t “live alone anymore than we can”.
The undertow of Farmer’s preceding books, found in the knots and temporary dichotomies of the external and internal, now find their opposite in the publication of Yew Grotesque. The new book’s underlying personality and its observation of the many divergent angles and qualities of listening was prevalent from its conception, but its role in sealing and joining the three books together was only made apparent towards its end. It is a perverse book of praise that attempts to lay itself out flat by concerning itself with the tools that can make the object, rather than the object itself.
Yew Grotesque opens on the morning of a symposium, observing the protagonist as he moves through a series of exercises in a hotel room, whilst intently listening to his inner speech rehearse a speculative conversation between two dead artists.