In art galleries, I experience art--unlike when I go to poetry readings and workshops. It could be related to somehow along the way being taught that the aim when reading or hearing a poem is to understand it. Yet, sometimes I feel disconnected to a poem, thinking it must be because I need to do more to decipher what it is about--all at the expense of experience, experiencing it like art.
Observing my belief that at poetry readings and workshops it is about understanding the poem and not experiencing the poem, I was able to turn that notion on its head. Inversion: now I believe the poem calls one to experience it. What I don’t get about the poem is not relevant. What I experience is relevant as a reader. Even as I reverse my role from reader to poet, I bring a separate self to the work of poetry. Much like the process a child experiences from 6 months to 3 years. The child separates from their mother figure to self-discover and becomes separate, autonomous; adding value to the relationship.
This same autonomy between reader and poet gives the reader a chance to experience a word, thought, feeling, or narrative in an autonomous way— experience the poem and explore it in ways that lead them through self-discovery— adding value to the reader and poetry.
Art is valuable. Artists can use words in their work, giving it another layer of value. At the Albright Knox Art Gallery, I had a recent experience listening to the British artist Shantell Martin speak about her process and watched her create art in public using a black pen, birthing her own landscape called Someday Oneday Today We Can. I watched her draw the lips, smoothly moving in an awareness and meditation. Focusing on the line. I saw her adding value to the relationship between the line and artist. The line and my view. A smooth meditative movement into a world where trees look like power lines. Teaching me. Speaking to the audience as what looks like power lines for me are trees for her. For me, power lines. Lining the mountain. Reminding me of Kaneohe’s power lines lining the mountains. My mother smiling in front of my camera, my mother in front of the mountains.
Another British artist, Debra Eck uses black pen to create “page meditations”. She is a mother who teaches book art workshops. Her process to create art involves page meditation; it separates her mind from her everyday practical household duties so she can create art. She takes a page from a book and circles some words then doodles on the rest of the words.
The photos are of one of her page meditations that look like a poem. I read one above as: problem might teach training finance, book workshops, life book. followed.
Below is our interview:
R.J. - You are far from England. What part of England are you from? What do you miss about it?
D.E. - I'm originally from a town called Braintree in Essex. Mostly I miss my family--everyone but me, including my 4 sisters and their families, still lives there.
R.J. - Growing up, did your mom tell you not to do something?
D.E. - Nothing that really stands out, but I was a tomboy and a daredevil. She often said not to fight with boys in the playground and to try and stay clean. I had an amazing childhood. I’m very lucky. I always had my sisters to play with, and we all still get along really well. Both my parents really encouraged us to follow our dreams. They always made us believe we could do anything. My mum was really clever and thrifty and practical. I learned a lot about how to do something with nothing from her, and everything about being a great mum.
R.J. - Raising your children, was there something you had to keep telling your kids not to do?
D.E. - I don't know about telling them not to do things. I was a pretty relaxed mum. As long as no one was going to get seriously hurt, I didn't mind so much what they were up to; but I did get cross when they wouldn't put their things away! I always joke about this because now as adults they all have pretty tidy houses! And, of course I always wanted them to stay in bed at bedtime, usually so I could read quietly for a bit at the end of the day!!
R.J. - Interesting that you teach art history. I enjoyed taking your bookbinding class; are there any struggles about teaching you would like to share?
D.E. - The struggle I am really wrestling with right now is how you can be the expert at the front of the room, and still be the artist who goes home and struggles with your own work in the studio. It has been helpful to me to hold the idea of being both the mapmaker and a discoverer on the path. I wish I could remember where I heard the idea originally, but of late it has become really important to me. I never really feel like an expert; more like someone who is just further down the path, maybe?
Debra Eck’s blog: https://dryadart.wordpress.com/
Rachel L. Johnson
Contributor Focus: "Buffalo: Deep Roots Abroad"