1/18/2017 0 Comments
The paper is an investigation into the central techniques Blake employs in designing a world of redemptive promise. Its focus is on three world-making techniques he utilizes: metaphorical operation, apostrophic address and lyrical lamentation. Similar to the aim of Northrop Frye in Blake: A Collection of Critical Essays, a secondary goal of this paper is to directly “contend with resistance to the normality of Blake’s mind” (Frye 6). A focus on technicity assists in moving through his layered writings; for, one then is able to navigate each of Blake’s careful constructions as an example of a truth claim or deployment of literary device rather than getting entangled by hermeneutics. In doing so, my hope would be to join the cadre of scholars within literary criticism seeking to normalize Blake’s mind and poetry. Blake is a skilled practitioner of literary tradition whose technical ability in poésis served a higher purpose. Blake was able to bring “an almost superhuman energy and technical ingenuity to his desire to give concrete expression to his visions” (Blake, The Complete Illuminated Books 8). While admittedly, Blake’s writings are oblique even for scholars of his work, it cannot be overstated enough that Blake was writing during a time where radical sympathizers and critics of the British and French empire were examined as potential traitors or confined as lunatics. Blake—who condemned the materialism of the church and the economic oppression of children and slaves—felt very much in danger; and, thus, felt the need to code his texts.
Blake’s deployment of metaphor and myth was to construct a world of his imagination that would inspire readers to construct their own worlds. In that construction process the existence of a new order functions both as creating heaven on earth and a condemnation of the present condition.
 (Blake, The Complete Illuminated Books 9): Referencing the group of prophetic books by Blake such as The Book of Ahania (1795), The Book of Los (1795), and the Prophecies America and Europe, “The overwhelming note is of conflict, human despair and suffering, and the effects of malign power; the rhetoric is of disjunction – between text and design, between different authorial voices, and between matter and spirit. Some at least were clearly written and etched as news was breaking of the Terror and (almost as shocking to Blake) of Robespierre’s reinstatement of the cult of the ‘Supreme Being’ in France, and of the repression of radical sympathisers at home. There is no doubt that Blake felt in personal danger in this period; people who held similar views were examined as potential traitors, or were confined as lunatics like Richard Brothers.”
Openings are, in themselves, cause for celebration. They herald good fortune and tap into our excitement for innovation. Interestingly, the grand opening of Danny Simmons’ new gallery, Rush Arts Philly, on September 10th had a more nuanced impact: It heralded (1) a resurgence of cosmopolitan people of color patronizing major art exhibitions in Philadelphia and (2) an expansion of gallery spaces with non-profit ambitions.
September is further witness to a historic grand opening: The unveiling of the newly constructed Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. tomorrow, September 24th. The museum's founding director, Lonnie Bunch, said "At last the National Museum of African American History and Culture is open for every American and the world to better understand the African American journey and how it shaped America” (United Press International, September 14th, 2016).
Rush Arts Philly (RAP), according to a September 9th article on the opening by The Philadelphia Tribune, is “modeled after the New York City nonprofit organization, Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation (RPAF), that Simmons and his brothers (Russell and Joseph "Rev. Run" Simmons) founded in 1995…[It] aims to support emerging artists [via] providing space for exhibitions and varied cultural programs for underserved communities.”
According to Peter Bürger, it was not until the advent of avant garde—which he locates as a specific historic moment from the early 1900s until WWII—that art freed itself from the bourgeoisie class. After this period, Horowitz writes “more art was being seen and discussed by wider audiences than ever previously—there was little doubting which public much of it actually served: an upwardly mobile elite with money to burn” (Art of the Deal: Contemporary Art in a Global Financial Market, 2011).
One of the ways that Danny has challenged the exclusionary practices in the art world is advocating for communities of color to collect art. Danny’s recent arrival to Philadelphia after leaving his Brownstone in Brooklyn began over four years ago with a poetry reading at the African-American Museum of Philadelphia and art gallery conversation, titled "The Role of the Artist in the Urban Setting". There, Danny says, “We need to own our images, be better gatekeepers. We need to collect more of our art. It is about building wealth for our communities,” (Vivant Art Collection, 2012). Highlighted here is Danny’s passion and continued mission to build sustainable institutions that work to further art appreciation. (Full transcription of Danny's 2012 talk found here.)
When Vivant Art Collection, the last black art gallery on Gallery Row in historic Old City, Philadelphia, closed in 2014, a gap of available space for emerging artists to exhibit was created. During Vivant’s tenure, former gallery owner, Florcy Morisset, worked to bridge the access divide to gallery space for African Diasporic artists in addition to constructing a channel for novice art buyers to purchase and own art.
There was a gap of spaces for marginalized artists to exhibit—emphasis on was—until now. Danny Simmons’ new gallery, Rush Arts Philly, in the Logan section of Philadelphia, has fast become a hotbed for emerging artists and is responding to a gulf in access to arts institutions. As Danny shares in the above Philadelphia Tribune article, “[The Logan section] needs a gallery – or a cultural identity point –as there is little in that area by way of the arts.”
Although, Saturday, September 10th was the grand opening of Rush Arts Philly, the weekend’s activities began that Friday night when Danny debuted new and classic pieces at Art Sanctuary's Gallery on 16th and Bainbridge. It was a reunion of old and new faces! Danny has tapped into how contemporary art transgresses linguistic and cultural barriers and becomes “ a veritable social glue” (Horowitz, 2011). Further, he is tapping into an old era of galleries that had “more intimate community bonds and tended to run their [spaces] as small, seemingly nonprofit enterprises…[They were] motivated by love of art, not money” (ibid).
One of the initiatives of Rush Arts Philly is Gallery in the Schools, which “will bring local artists into local schools and create a gallery in the classroom with students taking individual roles – curators, docents, writers and artists…[Additionally, another initiative] involves kids creating their own graphic novel about new superheroes with true special powers—powers used to change the world or change their neighborhood” (Philadelphia Tribune, 2016).
7/23/2016 0 Comments
Thursday on Elmwood Avenue, I went to Poster Art to check on an invisible frame order and noticed that 1045 Gallery had its sign out. It was nearing 4pm, and I was not sure it was still open. I’d been meaning to stop in to thank gallery owner, Don Zinteck. Back in June, he kept the space open a little longer so I could grab an oil painting of the most enchanting sky blue and the lake’s horizon. The piece was titled “Erie.” I was headed downstate and then further mid-Atlantic to meet up with my friend Florcy Morisset—as she had just recently graduated from the Leadership & Design Program at Johns Hopkins. It was a gift. She owned and operated Vivant Art Collection on Gallery Row in Old City, Philadelphia for over seven years—and helped to curate a space for cultural and intellectual engagement. So, as you can see--I was buying art for a former gallery owner. I was really nervous about the gift.
Don stayed over, wrapped it and tossed in some added info about the Western New York artist and 1045 Gallery. I was off, on my way downstate with a wave and a thank you. At the stairs of the gallery, he heard me creak the foyer door open and started out to greet me—kindly so, as he was entertaining other guests. I walked around, this time lightly opening the jar tops of the ceramic gourds and pears and looking at earrings. Don came over after the guests departed to ask how things were going. I shared with him that my friend adored the painting, especially learning that was also a gift from the region.
We walked up the stairs with Don sharing that the show where the “Erie” painting was featured had come down and that there was a new show hung for Saturday: a show featuring freestyle calligraphy.
One walking up the stairs is immediately arrested by the sleeking and careening Arabic, English and Bangla letters. It almost is as if your eyes drag over the characters like the brush pens that first inked them. The midnight blue diptych circled into an iris; the letters looked like flushing music notes and then “m’s” and “s’s”, “h’s” and “n’s.”
The rose-pink monochrome hung like a Turkish rug, dripping red into pink into the slivery lettering. “Zaman, created this piece after the Syrian crisis broke out—from what he imagined was at the border crossings,” said Don. The pale and grayed characters moved about the sliding pinkish hue, in visual effect, as if a haunting had taken them over.
Zaman situates himself at the forefront of modern Arabic calligraphy and practices a form of the craft akin to eL-Seed's "calligraffi." Zaman calls his method “freestyle calligraphy,” which is particularly recognizable due to its multilingual base—hybrid crossings between different languages. On his website, zamanarts.com, he recounts growing up in Dhaka, Bangladesh, studying classical Arabic texts and then moving to Western New York at 12 years old. All the while, he shares that he was dreaming of what it would mean to “have my own style.”
Zaman, now draws his inspiration from street artists like eL-Seed, who is a French-Tunisian and whose works “incorporate traditional Arabic calligraphy, a style he calls calligraffi.” Zaman lives in Buffalo and has as an aim to “create pieces which inspire people, especially new aspiring artists, “ to create pieces which are meaningful expressions of freedom.
Tonight’s showing is not an East meets West affair. Zaman’s work is more nuanced than that. It actually is an East subverts West by returning to the materiality, the image basis of the singular letter and its multiple meanings and tones. Calligraphy, by its existence, problematizes Western/capitalistic rationality that subscribes only one meaning to a letter or use function. Zaman’s work explores the plurality of what can happen in meditative moments with the word, the letter and the way it directs the hand.
Zahin Zaman is featuring works guided by, a process he terms, freestyle calligraphy at an opening reception today, Saturday, July 23rd, 6pm – 9pm at 1045 Gallery on 1045 Elmwood Avenue in Buffalo. The show includes works on canvas and ceramic.
What follows is the first manifesto iteration by Plurality Press advocating for a heightened awareness to the current state of hybrid text. The aim is to reframe the notion of, for example, visual poetry as a challenge to the policing of genre boundaries and distinctions.
The manifesto is constructed by the underlining of short phrases—reading notes—from Kenneth Goldsmith’s essay, “Make It New: Post-Digital Concrete Poetry in the 21st Century” from the collection, The New Concrete: Visual Poetry in the 21st Century (2015).
Helvetica (2007) • ideological battles • the classic typeface • younger designers • reject the face as embodying • evils of the industrial-military complex • politically • aesthetically • square • correctness • expressive • hand-drawn • funky • fonts and the way they are used are a political battlefield • ‘good design’ • self-assured • Helvetica • born of the Cold War • expressing its binaries • black and white • equally romantic • stuff Dwell magazine might try to hawk you • same practitioners • advocated • Helvetica • this little movement • late 1970s • concrete poetry collapses into a smouldering heap • digital phoenix • predicting the ways we would interact with language in the twenty-first century • creating a universal picture language • a poetry that could be read by all • letters would double as carriers of semantic content • as powerful visual elements in their own right • often the poems • written in just about every language • imaginable • came with a key so that • even if you didn’t know, for example, Japanese • could get the gist of what a handful • kanji compellingly • strewn across a page added up • Esperanto • ultimately dissolve linguistic—and thereby political • barriers between nations • Poundian imagism • Joycean wordplay • advertising slogans • logos • signage • shredding all vestiges • Noigandres • ‘serious’ 1950s intellectuals • never smiling • crisp white shirts • skinny black ties • Stravinsky peering • double-breasted tweed suits • the journal was typeset entirely in the Future font • and the poems • ist poems and manifestos • poster-poem • meant to be pasted upon city walls • ‘renewed forms of sensibility’ • urbano-industrial environment • a new society • meant to invoke all the senses • Klangfarbenmelodie •(sound-colour-melody) • phanopoeia • melopoeia • logopoeia • (the play of image • music and meaning) • verbivocovisual • for a few • short years, their revolution was a reality • the 1964 coup • overthrew President Joāo Goulart • imperial capitalism • savage • and predatory • bureaucratic state, repressive • uniforming • poetry was drained of its utopian function • ‘post-utopian’ • strict adherence • rigors of modernism • produced mostly with type and paper • massive architecturally-based sculptures • loosening • their hair • unkempt • aviator sunglasses • ‘dirty concrete’ • ‘noise’ of the typewriter • evidence of the machine’s presence • the writing of the poem • typewriter • changed the look of concrete poetry • the typewriter’s democratization imbued the poems with increased political awareness • cleanliness was thought to indicate a lack of political engagement • language and representation •makes nothing concrete, because it is not active • the street • which belongs to us, to carry the word elsewhere than the printing press • concrete poetry • remained • intellectual matter • Chopin’s clarion call for a less bourgeois poetry • ‘mimeo and Xerox machines • linguistic nonlinearity and illegibility’ • anti-aesthetic bled into punk zines and grunge culture • Situationist-inspired • graffiti doubled as poetry across the city’s walls • concurrently, small press culture arose • with its vast horizontal networks and voluminous production • concrete poetry became a mere trickle of the torrent it once was, rendered nearly invisible • as minor note in a greatly expanded field • vinyl • fetishized for its physicality • to be browsed than to be read • fact, many of concrete poetry’s ideas • about language’s materiality • being mirrored in our computational systems and processes • when we click on a link, we literally press down • on a word • Photoshop, every time we work with text—stretching and sizing • we are treating language materially • internet • comprised of language posing as code • of concrete poetry by poets such as Henri Chopin have become embedded • into our everyday activities • icons • emoticons • emojis • post-digital concretism • there’s something different about • them that responds to the digital in ways they’re produced • constructed • distributed • books are more • beautiful than they were before the digital age • expressive graphism • of the handwritten • so unique • that they can’t be made by a computer • landscape • expressive hieroglyphs • the content of post-digital concrete • network • remixed language • while concrete poetry has always been a fast poetry—purposely resistant • to close reading • snappy one-liners • young gallery-based artists are self-identifying not as “text artists” • but as “visual poets” • Zurich, Poetry Will Be Made By All • 25 creating visual poetry in the gallery space • plastering • word decals • poster-sized broadsides • concrete poetry’s great gift was to demonstrate the multidimensionality • of language • showing us that words are more than just • language is exploding around us • it’s taken the Web to make us see just how prescient concrete poetics was in predicting its own lively reincarnation in the twenty-first century •
Plur·al·ity Press sits down with Lissa Roads and Liam Clarke on how Word on the Rocks is the kind of reading series that features work "from the underbelly of poetry". It is a space where what is shared is not exempt from challenge. Join the conversation below.
Shayna: Ok, so we’re live. Lissa Roads and Liam Clarke, with an “e,” [are] here interviewing with Plurality Press at the newly renovated, newly launched, opened 414 Tavern, yes?
Lissa Roads: Tavern 414, yes.
S: Yes, yes, yes. What was it? This past Thursday was...?
LR: Yes, was our grand opening.
S: Grand opening. It was packed.
S: I couldn’t find the bar. The bar is pretty huge, so, that tells you a lot. We are interviewing them because Lissa Roads is the host of a new poetry…
S: Showcase called “Word on the Rocks,” and Liam is one of the two features. The other feature is…?
LR: D.J. Actually, it is Duke Donaldson.
S: Duke Donaldson. Ok, great. So, we were talking earlier—and it is hard to talk right now over the chocolate chip cookies--
S: But, I was saying, “Well, there’s a bunch of poetry events happening in venues and running shows. Why another?” And then you replied…? [nodding to Lissa]
LR: Well there’s—I think there is a lot of different kinds of performance spaces, but for the most part poetry is made to be family-friendly and [made to be] events where everybody can show up, and it doesn’t matter who shows up. Everyone can enjoy poetry—which is totally true because poetry has so many facets. But, then there are those people who don’t want to be politically correct, and they don’t want to be—want to have to be careful about their words. And they want to just be able to express themselves from the first thing that they wrote down. If that is a swear word, if it’s something that people are going to find offensive, then come up to the poet later and say, “Hey, I found that offensive. Can we talk about it?” But don’t be afraid to hear it.
LR: And, so, now this can be a space where people can say that, and it can be okay. It’s at night. It’s more of a relaxed atmosphere. It is because we are in sports-bar-like, tavern atmosphere. We’re going to have whiskey specials. We’re going to have $4 appetizers for people to enjoy, and kind of be able to share something outside of, “Look at my blue ribbon project.” This is more of the underbelly of poetry, if anything.
Lissa: This is more of the underbelly of poetry, if anything.
S: So, then it brings me to a question for you, Liam. Why were you looking for another venue? What about your poetry was not fitting with the already available poetry events?
LC: Well, it goes back to what Lissa just mentioned. I found that a lot of poetry open mics, poetry events in Buffalo were very Kumbayah-esque. I’ve never been one for that. I mean my idols, as far as poets and writers go, [are] Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac, Ginsberg. And they all wrote very politically incorrect things at the time where they were around. So, I kind of wanted a space where if there was something that we didn’t like, it was not going to be met with blind acceptance. You know? I wanted more of a—kind of like what is reminiscent of what goes on in our heads when we write. It’s very tumultuous, very chaotic. You know it’s just that I wanted to find something real as opposed to nice.
S: The way that I am hearing it in my mind is that the difference between this event and another event is, let’s say, “We're going to have a discussion. Everything that someone says is going to be valuable, valid and okay,” versus, “we are going to say what is on our mind. We may not like what each other has to say, but we are committed to being in a space and disagreeing, if we disagree. [Pause.] Agreeing when we agree. Or having whatever reaction we are having to what is being shared.”
LC: I might sound repetitive when I say this, or whatever; it’s—I wanted something real as opposed to produced. I wanted real reactions. I—whether it is a good reaction or a bad reaction, whatever it is. I think in today’s culture. People get upset over the smallest things, and I kind of wanted to confront that. I wanted something real. I wanted how you talk to your friends at a bar. Somebody might say something you don’t like, so you say something about it. In poetry events that I have experienced—and that’s not—I am not trying to say, talk down to those events. Those are just—specific people can go to those. I just wanted something more realistic as opposed to just being candy-coated like, “Oh yeah, you did a good job. You did a good job. It was great. It was great." No, I wanted something—I wanted real. I wanted real.
S: Lissa, you have done a lot of events in the Buffalo poetry community. Can you share with us what is going to be really distinctive about Word on the Rocks, and then how does that fit into where you are in your conceptual development of your own poetry?
LR: Being able to spend the last year—it’s actually just been over a year that I have been involved in the live poetry scene in Buffalo. I’ve written--
S: Only a year?!
Liam: I wanted something real as opposed to produced
LR: Poetry—yeah! I’ve written poetry for a long time, but I was never performing poetry out at open mics and finding different people who wanted to perform poetry or who were interested in poetry until last year this time. [Last] March was actually the first Wordism event I went to. And that is what got me attracted to the, “Oh, people do this? They get together in rooms and are allowed to perform in front of each other, together, and people will come and listen and compliment you at the end, and tell you, ‘(A) That could have been better.’” I did not know that existed. And, so, it has been awesome getting into those spaces and finding different people who host in order to see how they host, what kinds of crowds they bring in. I think that we have very strong and active academic people who are studying poetry and are a part of school programs. And then we have a very strong slam poetry scene, which is all performance-based. What I have been working for is—in the last 6-8 months of still being in Buffalo and trying to figure things out, new things out, is—there’s got to be a bridge built between, where we’re no longer students. We’re no longer writers or poets. We’re just human beings who, maybe, can speak in lyric or prose. Or short—you know, I don’t want to use the word poetry—but to be able to actually speak in rhyme. Or just free thought, journal entry type, diary-istic stuff. Because those are the kinds of things—the kinds of conversations we like to have with each other that students [of poetry may not]—we maybe sisters or brothers or family in the poetry scene—but our poetry does not always sound like that [with regards to students of poetry].
S: Are you talking about an unedited space?
LR: To—to a point, but that is
S: Whatever that means?
LR: Yeah, yeah, whatever that means to the artists featured. Because that is the other thing; this is not going to be, "You have to be that kind of poet." I am not only going to feature beat poets. I am not only going to feature literary poets. I’m not only going to—what I would actually love to do after all this—[interrupting thought]. For this first one—because it was inspired by Duke and Liam—the whole Bukowski, beat poet thing is something that I know I can do. It’s something I enjoy doing. It is an era I respect as far as the writers and some of the ideas that came out of it; I want to participate in that and be true to it. But in future ones, I want to do themes—and have; there was [a point] actually, really at the last Ground & Sky I was at—where we started talking about doing (because Liam’s friend read one of his poems [that was] very gender specific to a poem being written by a man, [from a] male standpoint), I’d love to do a show where a female poet would read the male poets stuff and a male poet would read all the female poets stuff. Because, how strong would that be to get a message across that gender is a construct
Shayna: Do you feel...that we are running the same poetry format? Somebody’s on a lectern.
S: Do you feel that what you are doing is trying to create a more dynamic space? That things are too stifled? That we are running the same poetry format? Somebody’s on a lectern; they’re reading for five minutes; and they sit down and another person rises…
LR: It’s formulaic.
LR. It’s formulaic. And when you find something that works—the Screening Room does it all the time because they know they could get a crowd. They know they could get [people] to come and see these feature performers and have these connections between professors and teachers, and poets and writers and different groups of people who are writing, and that is great. I don’t think that there is nothing wrong with those events. Again, this is not taking anything away from them. It is adding something new into the pot. And saying, “[There is] this option for this as well as that;" [one] might [want to] expand things a little bit and go out on a branch a little bit more because there isn’t a formula to be held to.
LC: Well, I respect that a lot because, last year I lived in L.A. I was living in Santa Monica. As a writer, I wanted to try to find a place to do a reading, to expand what I was already just doing in a dark room with a bottle of whisky by myself in front of the computer screen. I wanted to actually interact with other people. What I found in L.A. is that it was very segmented. It was—there was only poetry for slam poetry. There was only poetry for specific things, and there really wasn’t something that combined everything. There was either if you didn’t fit into that mold then you weren’t going to fit in. You’re not going to be—it’s not that you are not going to be welcome, but it wouldn’t work. So, what I respect about Lissa trying to do this is that she is trying to bring it all together as opposed to segment it even more, which I find is happening in Buffalo way too much.
S: There is segmentation—that happens. I want to mention something, and then I want to ask you two about how you met and why did you signed on to do something as crazy as this? But, so I was looking up grants for artists, and there are specific grantors, funders who don’t want you to be associated with a university or a full-time student at this moment; this grant is particular to artists outside of academia. I think that those funders’ intention is to bring the gap between access. There’s an access issue here. Sometimes [at] the older events that are more established, some of those folks are former teachers, former professionals; there is a certain access that they have. So, what I hear is that this [Word of the Rocks] is a space of challenging—for open access. Now…I would ask, how did you guys meet?
Tune in the first week in May to find out Lissa and Liam's answer to the last question and hear Part 2 of their interview. For the second part of all Part I interviews, return the first week in May—as the blog finishes out National Poetry Month with added content on the intersection of poetry and visual arts.
4/13/2016 0 Comments
Plur·al·ity Press sits down with Annette Daniels Taylor, grant award recipient from the New York State Council on the Arts (NYSCA ), on how her work re-conceptualizes what an avant garde artist looks like and works to dispel the myth that mass audiences are not interested in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry. We are interviewing at Plur·al·ity Press' office space at the D!G Innovation Center, and there, in the next section, are start-ups pitching to a large audience--hence the applause strewn throughout the recording. Join the conversation below.
Shayna: Plurality Press is here with Annette Daniels Taylor interviewing her about all of the stunning visual poetry, literary arts that she does; not only in her own time but also with the community, with youth. We have a lot to—there’s a lot here. [Laughter]. I don’t think everyone is seeing what I am seeing. So, I have three rows, four columns. There is a fifth—fourth row hanging above with student work, various kinds of erasure poetry and in the last column are—one, two, thee—four chapbooks of poetry.
Annette: We have one more. That is one of my favorites.
S: Five! Five chapbooks of poetry.
A: And I never really say that. I never say, “Oh, I have five chapbooks,” because [I show] mostly student work. [Arranging the chapbooks]. I just have to arrange them into a book. [Laughter].
S: You know what? Here’s why I—the glee and excitement in my voice is because I remember your work as theater, as [solely] literary. I did not know about the visual component to your work.
A: It’s a lot of fun.
S: If you could talk about how you came to this genre of poetry, that would be wonderful.
A: [In character; in reaction to applause] “Oh, thank you. Thank you very much!”
S: Oh yeah, the ambiance.
A: Thank you. I didn’t expect that. [Responding to question:] When My husband and I first either got married or moved in together or one of them—because he is a painter, he would try to get me to paint. I was thinking about this recently, today, that I was always hesitant because he, as far as I was concerned, he was master of paint, and I was like, “Oh, no, no, no, I can’t do that.” So, we’ve been married for about, almost 25 years, and he’s always trying to get me to make marks.
A: Thank you. I really enjoy the black-out poems. I started working on the black-out poems about two years ago, and I really enjoyed them. I started bringing them into classrooms as a way to stop students from telling me they could not write a poem. I had a friend of mine, Carla, who would always say, “I just give them a page and a book and I say, ‘Circle these words;” and they say, ‘Ms., I can’t write a poem.’ ‘Well, can you circle?’ And I thought that is great. I am going to use that, “Can you circle.” I started thinking that they needed something else. So, I started doodling and doing designs. I really obsessed. I get really obsessed with something that I enjoy doing.
S: As artists do.
Annette: ‘Ms., I can’t write a poem.’ ‘Well, can you circle?’
A: It’s like I want to wear it all out or see what else I can do to it. My husband thought that they were really good. He suggested I enlarge them and start wheat pasting them.
S: So, wait, wait. You do wheat pasting as well?
A: That’s the part—that’s that part I haven’t gotten to yet. But, that is the third phrase of this particular paper project. I’ll be wheat pasting the student work at a Buffalo public school when it gets warmer here. But, he just kept pushing me to experiment more and more. And, I kept thinking, “It would be great to have other people see these.” He thought that it was a great idea, so he really encouraged me to just keep trying to push it into the public and wheat paste them on the wall. I thought, instead of me doing my work first, I wanted to show the student work. I thought that would be a great way to introduce them. Then, I can introduce my own work.
S: When you do the black-out poems, is there a particular theme? What’s the guiding hand? What’s the guiding formula by which you do the poems—if there is?
A: Now, I try to give myself a rubric. It is the same rubric I give students: No fewer than four words, and I try to do no more than thirty. I always say, “You know it is really great if the last few lines could have a punch at the end, some really cool one-liners. I think it also depends where you are getting the erasure poem from. Is it from a novel? What kind of novel? My nephew gave me a novel that I have been using, and it was very funny and light. It is very, sort of trashy. So that gave me all these different kinds of fun little poems. The students—I thought it would be really fun with them, to give them the challenge of working with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
Annette: I thought it would be really fun...to give them the challenge of working with the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution
S: Oh, wonderful.
A: I thought that was a really great way to connect education to the arts so they would actually be forced to read those pages that I gave them. [Laughter]. It was so much fun seeing their minds moving and thinking how to put this puzzle together. Some students decided to use only five words or six or seven words to really get to the heart of the matter. I really appreciate that. So, for them, it was bringing history and art together. Now, here is this 300, almost 300-year-old document—break it down. [The activity] gives them problem solving, puzzle solving skills. For them, I really enjoyed it because there wasn’t a lot of hesitation.
S: Oh, really? How was the reception of it?
A: We had two classes. The art teacher at the time, Tanya Chuco, warned me beforehand that the first class will probably be really receptive and energetic. [About] the second class [Tanya said,] “Maybe, we need to nudge.” We did. We needed to nudge them a little bit more. There was more like a, “I can’t do this,” or, “This is so hard, Ms.” The first class, I heard, “This is really hard, Ms., but this is fun!” With anything, it depends on the day and the class and the person. However, everybody finished their work. There were some kids [who shared], “I am really not finished yet.” But I needed to take them to make the enlargements. I said, “Don’t worry about it. If you want to work on the sketch, we’re going to think of this as a sketch, you can do it later; but the big piece, you’re really going to have attack it now because it would have some of what you sketched out. But when you attack it—because these are going to be shades of gray—we can add more color with the paint.” They were really excited.
When I saw them, I was thinking, [feigning a crying] “Oh, no, too dark. I didn’t have enough money to do them again.” But when they [the students] saw them. They did not say anything about them being dark. They just said, “Wow, that’s so cool. Look at how big it is! Oh, Ms.! Oh, that’s mine! Oh, my god, that is so cool! I love that. I don’t see the gold anymore. What colors am I going to use?” They just—jumped right in.
Shayna: What’s important here is that it’s an approach to poetry.
S: What’s important here is that it’s an approach to poetry. Because I get so mad.
S: [In character; in response to applause] Thank you. Look at all this applause.
A: Don’t get mad.
S: I am not mad any longer. [Returning to comment] The way poetry is taught in school is, “What does this line mean? Could you figure out its reference? And if you can’t, shame on you.” Right?
S: It’s not taught as, for example, “What were your feelings at hearing that line? What images did it conjure for you? Did it remind you of anything? What did it taste like?”
S: That’s not how its taught. But, if it is taught with that sensory experience, then students bring their full selves. We were talking earlier about type writer art and what makes it literary. People will say, “What is the line between visual and literary art. In type writer art, in front of you is the whole alphabet. When you have a page full of words, in front of you is a literary document. So, your art is informed by words or language. That gives students a way to encounter language not as a blank canvas where people can get stumped by writer’s block, but say, “Okay, there is already language here. How do I manipulate it?”
A: [Nodding in affirmation]
S: So, if you can [tell me about]—we were talking earlier about, we can go in and out with the student work and also your stuff as well because I definitely want to hear about some of your work and your chapbooks. But—this idea of experimentation with language?
[Tune in the first week of May to find out Annette Daniel Taylor's answer to the last question and hear Part 2 of her interview. For the second part of all Part I interviews, return the first week in May—as the blog finishes National Poetry Month off with added content on the intersection of poetry and visual arts]
Wall Paper Poem Project Press Release | Event: Thursday April 28, from 5:30-7:30pm
During Olmsted’s annual Creativity in Bloom event, Thursday April 28, from 5:30-7:30pm students will exhibit their second phase erasure poems and related artwork. Creativity in Bloom is free and open to the public.
Location: Olmsted at Kensington (BPS #156) 319 Suffolk Street.
Shayna S. Israel
Blog Mission: In the spirit of becoming , to provide iterative thoughts toward a deepened understanding of and experience with the intersection of literary and visual arts.