A Study of Chairs by Martin Monahan

1. Robin Day Polyprop chair 1963


A polypropylene butterfly. Light 

as a TV guide, strong as a delivery ramp. 


With a seat in any colour of bold-blocks, 

singularly moulded (optionally apertured), 

secured to rod legs, it can be configured 

in rows, spirals, rectilinear links, or dotted 


about halls, canteens, and waiting rooms.


Its belly gum-barnacled. Its face biro-tagged 

with love fusings or pop-band-blazons 

or that vast, vatic, phallus implausible.

(It’s also stackable.)


2.  Lilly Reich and Mies van der Rohe The Barcelona chair 1929


Long before its contemporaries 

were MOMAfied, it was designed 

to be exhibited, admired, paced 

around, then tried. Sleekly

efficient (like money) at all possible 

angles, next to a glass bricked wall; 

please take photographs for mechanical

reproduction in corporate advertisements. 

Its meaning is, well: ‘nothing at all’.

It is a suit. It is a wallet—

for the world has absorbed its other to

order the ugliness you deserve.




3. Gerrit Rietveld The Red/Blue Chair 1921


Designed ostensibly when experiments laboured

over dowelled jointing, little is hidden. Theo

worked the blueprint for its upholstery! Yellow

edged, blue seat; red-backed; on a black base 

linear enclosure with objecting diagonal. 




4. Arne Jacobsen Egg chair 1958


 An ovum nicked open, scooped out,

then pedestalled: overly impractical

though oh-so-fun. Allowing for oodles 

of outré opportunities in a portal of oogamy— 

or onanistic spermatozoa on ovoid polyester.


5. Michael Thonet Model no. 14 chair 1859


It will arrive in five neat pieces. 

Not quite as presented in the catalogue.

A salesman from the company 

will kaffeeklatsch with ambitious waiters

until they order ten crates.


The new café will be called chez Adrien or Jerome or Rémi!

(It’ll be either lucrative or bankrupting.)


Born from the evening-class business plan 

written at one a.m., as four last customers drink;

or the prandial chat of the Viennese itinerant, 

fiancée bankrolled with a profiter of promises.


To be assembled through the night  

by a hopeful Florentine in Hull, 

who knows well his mother’s cooking, 

menu composing; tirelessly pursuing

gourmand-rumours of San Marzano tomatoes.

6. Anon. Monobloc chair c.1980


Smudge-dirty like a beach football,

wobbly but stable 

(and easily throwable), this is what endures 

past holidays, invasions, the collapse 

of civilisations; metastasised 

into a contextless ubiquity. 

Not quite minimal, not quite hideous,

it is placed in an omni-space.


(Made in minutes into millions.) (Made in minutes into millions.) 

(Made in minutes into millions.) (Made in minutes into millions.)


Late-modernity welcomes you. Take a seat.


7. Tom Dixon Pylon Chair 1991


It’s as if it were the origami uncontortion 

of something geodesic. 

Holding the thin 


lined aesthetic of a 1991 

3D CAD software programme,

sketched with a mouse, flipped and rotated, 


with a truss-structure of tetrahedrons, 

its strength is scalable: 

a crystalline Polaroid of a ruby’s echo. 



8. Eero Aarnio Ball Chair 1963


Nothing dates the past like its vision of the future. 

An aseptic telos that catapults a capsule 

into a cosmology of acrylic forms. 

We should be critical of a furniture of reason:

this plastic imperialism.


9. Hans Wegner Wishbone Chair 1949


If the air could carpenter, 

and the warp of the true pole 

inter-weather with the tropic’s weft, 

it would sculpt this chair 

from the hard-earned comfort of wood.


A trunk hurt in cold and timbered; 

dragged to a hut on the tundra, 

facing water clear as no water, 

where a unit of reindeer sits, flesh-stripped.

Cut on the table of life’s tectonic 

(both carapace and endocarp): 

here is the platonic of construction.


Martin Monahan is a British writer with recent work in The Next Review, Lighthouse, Under the Radar, New England Review, and elsewhere.