What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem?
Poet Susanna Mishler: I tried not to think about it too much. There’s a wide spectrum of artists, styles, and mediums that have appeared on Broadsided collaborations. I had no idea if the poem was in the hands of a photographer, a painter, a sculptor, a mixed media artist, or another kind of artist.
What inspires you in this poem?
Artist Jennifer Moses: I love the poem line by line and the last line the best. There is so much imagery, color, and good words to bounce off of.
Did the visual artist refract any element of the poem that made you see the poem differently?
Poet Susanna Mishler: Yes. The faint images of bears seem to both liquefy and radiate from the center of the piece. This makes the bear figures very mythic and shape-shifting. I can see the bear in the poem now as a more archetypal bear.
When you began this piece, was it color, shape, or some other aspect that you followed? Did that change?
Artist Jennifer Moses: I thought most about the color moves and the potentially explosive imagery, the menace and the tenderness.
What surprised you about this collaborative piece?
Poet Susanna Mishler: It surprised me how non-representational the visual piece is. This is interesting to me because the poem contains a lot of concrete imagery—it would have been easy for an artist to “illustrate” the poem with a bear, river, trees, leaves, teeth. But Jennifer’s piece is a deeper and more engaging response to the poem. It’s a dynamic and disorienting piece that suggests to me the blurring of a bear with its environment, with the viewer.
Artist Jennifer Moses: The fit of words to paint, line by line.
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 Susanna Mishler: I don’t often write ekphrastic poems in the traditional sense of beginning with a piece of visual art. Poetry to me is itself very visual. I work to render a remembered image or picture I have in my mind, and it’s awkward to work the other way around—to use a finished artwork as a starting point. I am more likely to use another poem or text as a starting point and to then to find that the poem I’m writing digresses to an ekphrastic description of a piece of visual art, or a blueprint, or a map. I’ve made some video poems in which I pair moving images with a poem, but again the poem is the starting point. I’d like to do more ekphrastic writing; it’s compelling to me because it’s challenging.
How does literature fit into your creative life as a visual artist?
Artist Jennifer Moses: If I can make an abstract picture that has an implied narrative I’m a happy camper.
Describe the collaboration in one word.
Poet Susanna Mishler: Intersubjectivity
Artist Jennifer Moses: I can’t describe the collaboration in one word…a word or two from each line maybe: suture, skin, red, snaps, nearsighted, swallowed, protect.
If the Broadsided collaboration were a piece of music, what would it be?
Poet Susanna Mishler: Something by John Luther Adams
Read any good books lately?
Poet Susanna Mishler: Brian Teare’s Companion Grasses; Virginia Woolf’s The Waves.
Seen any good art lately?
Poet Susanna Mishler: I recently went to a local art opening that was a collaboration between a poet and a painter (Peggy Shumaker and Kesler Woodward). The show was the result of a year-long conversation they had in images and words—the painter responded to the poet’s work and the poet to the painter’s. It was wonderful to hear them talk about their conversation, what considerations they had, what events unfolded in their lives and how it changed their respective art works.
Artist Jennifer Moses: I saw a Hokusai show recently that knocked my socks off—so flat, so spatial.
Note: This broadside and interview are included in the anthology, Broadsided Press: Fifteen Years of Poetic/Artistic Collaboration, 2005-2020 (Provincetown Arts Press, 2022).