Girls on the Run: A Poem

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This work is a poem loosely based on the works of the outsider artist Henry Darger (1892-1972), a recluse who toiled for decades at an enormous illustrated novel about the adventures of a plucky band of little girls. The Vivians are threatened by human tormentors, supernatural demons and cataclysmic storms; their calmer moments are passed in Edenic landscapes. Darger traced the figures from comic strips, colouring books and other ephemeral sources, filling in the backgrounds with luscious watercolour. John Ashbery's Girls on the Run creates a similar childlike world of dreamy landscapes, lurking terror and veiled eroticism. Its fractured narrative mode almost (but never quite) coalesces into a surrealist adventure story.