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.