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“Advice for Women on the Graveyard Shift”

Posted on • Words by • Art by

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem?
Poet Karen Weyant: I thought an artist would pick up the concrete images of motherhood, such as the missing sock and the permission slip. I also thought that an artist would focus on the factory images, such as furnaces, found in the last stanza.

What inspires you in this poem?
Artist Alesia F. Norling: The grittiness of it and the feeling it gives of being broken beyond emotion, even anger. I can relate to that—the heartbreak of realizing that you and everything you do will never be enough.

Did the visual artist refract any element of the poem that made you see the poem differently?
Poet Karen Weyant: The artist focused on the image of the “missing” sock—that must have been an image that really struck her in one way or another. When I saw the emphasis on the missing sock, I couldn’t help but think that perhaps it is a strong metaphor for aspects of their children’s lives that factory women (or all working women—working outside the home, I mean!) believe they are missing.

What surprised you about this collaborative piece?
Poet Karen Weyant: The emphasis on the concrete images of childhood. Besides the sock, I also see a child’s drawing of a clock and crayon scribbles in the background. However, the most haunting image of this drawing, is the woman’s face.
Artist Alesia F. Norling: I was pleasantly surprised by how the text crowded and tightened around the figure helping to visually trap her in her hell.

When you begin a piece of visual work (or, if that’s too broad, when you began this piece), is it color, shape, or some other aspect that you follow?
Artist Alesia F. Norling: It’s more about putting a puzzle together for me. Finding the right scraps (or having them find me), putting them in the right order, right layer so that there’s an unforced balance.

Have you ever written work that has been inspired by visual art? What was that experience like for you? Why were you inspired to do so?
Poet Karen Weyant: I have a book titled Images of the Rust Belt by James Jeffrey Higgins. Higgins’ photographs of steel storage tanks, industrial rivers, cooling tanks, and steel mills are strangely beautiful pieces of Rust Belt debris. Since I was born and raised (and am still living) in the Rust Belt, his book made me see the beauty around me.

If you had to represent the Broadsided of “In Our Time” with one word, what would it be?
Poet Karen Weyant: Surreal
Artist Alesia F. Norling: Scars

Read any good books lately?
Poet Karen Weyant: I just got done reading Perpetual Care by Katie Cappello. Her first collection of poetry is stunning and haunting.
Artist Alesia F. Norling: True History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey.

Seen any good art lately?
Poet Karen Weyant: A few weeks ago, I purchased With Signs Following: Photographs from the Southern Religious Roadside by Joe York. York’s photographs, including church signs, roadside crosses, and religious graffiti, were beautiful.
Artist Alesia F. Norling: I recently visited the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston (my favorite art museum) and saw Sargent’s El Jaleo (one of my favorite paintings). (website)

Anything else?
Poet Karen Weyant: There’s a big part of me who always believed that my poems may be great influences for art. Wow, that sounds arrogant, so let me explain. I’m a big fan of black-and-white photography, so I thought that because of the stark images in my poetry that some artists may be attracted to the concrete, gritty images including factories, old farms, railroad tracks, and other objects that are often found in my poems. However, Alesia Norling took my gritty and dirty poem about women’s lives on graveyard shifts and found a different, more surreal beauty within its lines. It’s wonderful.
Artist Alesia F. Norling: I instantly feel myself in this poem which makes me take an awkward step back and look at how I got here and why I’m still here. I also wonder how many of us there are out there…

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