What made you want to submit this poem to our Polyphonic feature?
Poet Allison Escoto: While I always love the idea of celebrating multilingualism and multiculturalism, it feels especially timely right now, when so often we come up against the idea that there is only ONE way to do things and the pervasive notion that going backwards is somehow better than adapting to a changing world with no room for diversity. And language has always been a huge part of my personal identity and I welcomed the chance to be part of a feature that explored the ways in which being multilingual changes perspectives. The idea of polyphony being a mixture of different pieces to form a new and distinct whole is beautiful.
In what way do you see your visual response as “Polyphonic?”
Artist Undine Brod: What the heck is polyphonic? I mean in layman’s terms??? I’m a visual artist, so maybe I need it in pictures. Oh wait! Did I just create something polyphonic??? No, Allison created something polyphonic and I just added another layer through visual imagery. Polyphonic x3 perhaps???
What surprises you in the artist’s response to your poem?
Poet Allison Escoto: I was immediately struck by how much in sync it is with my piece, how when you look at the broadside, you can’t really tell what inspired what, the poem or the art; the translations make sense together. I love that!
How does a sense of polyphony enhance or challenge your creative work?
Artist Undine Brod: Do you mean cacophony? That’s always in my head and always influences my work. My work is a reflection on how I exist through life, which is one filled with layers of language, emotion, sound, feelings, and ideas overlapping and intertwining. Polyphony is impossible to escape, right?
Poet Allison Escoto: Polyphony both enhances and challenges my creative work because it is every present in every aspect of my life. All of my work will combine, consciously or not, bilingualism, my family’s older traditions from the old country plus the country that they adopted and that I grew up in, my experiences growing up in the deep South mixed with my almost 30 years in New York… it is all there and I can’t really imagine writing without its influence.
What do you think is the role of art in regards to real-world, real-time events? In other words, what makes a “successful” occasional or political piece of writing or art?
Artist Undine Brod: Well, first off “successful” is hard to define and ever-changing, especially given that art is subjective. What I might find incredibly moving one day could very well disappoint me on another day. Also, as there are so many different views and varying beliefs in this world; one person’s important work of art could be a piece that I want to destroy or destroys me emotionally. Art is necessary to our existence regardless of the times it reflects upon.
Poet Allison Escoto: I think art is a completely vital component to processing real-world events and understanding our place and purpose. What makes a successful piece of writing or art is anything that contributes to that understanding.
If the Broadsided collaboration were a piece of music, what would it be?
Artist Undine Brod: “Old MacDonald Had a Farm” (I’m joking. I have no idea, but I do know there is polyphony and cacophony on farms!)
Poet Allison Escoto: I can almost hear a discordant piece of music along the lines of Philip Glass or John Cage; something utterly strange and disruptive but also beautiful it its own way.
What is your favorite phrase or word translated from a language other than English?
Artist Undine Brod: I don’t like picking favorites. I will say though, and I know this doesn’t really answer your question, that I love Yiddish words that get mixed into our everyday vernacular- especially spoken by non-Jews.
Poet Allison Escoto:A word I use on a daily basis is exagerada which literally translates to exaggerated but I use to mean dramatic. Because everything sounds so much more dramatic in Spanish and because I am surrounded by family and friends who can be extremely exagerada, I say it all the time, with love. My favorite thing is when my non-Spanish-speaking friends use it on me in the proper context.
How did you choose the “Vectorization” site for your collaboration (pictured left) and, if anything were possible, where in the world would you most love to discover your broadside posted?
Artist Undine Brod: I “Vectorized” that particular spot because it was the first place I went after printing the broadside at a friend’s house. If anything were possible… hmmm… that’s such a big question.. That scope stumps me! I wouldn’t mind seeing it on television though popping up as more than just set-design. In other words, I’d love to have it become part of the dialogue in a contemporary police procedural show.
Poet Allison Escoto: I spend so very much of my time on trains or waiting for trains and it is where almost all of my ideas for poems or stories come from. So I would love for someone who also spends their life commuting or waiting to commute from one place to another to one day see a piece of art that takes them out of their back-and-forth routine and makes them laugh, relate, cry, or all of the above!
Read any good books lately?
Artist Undine Brod: Yes. Currently I’m reading the graphic novel March by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell.
Poet Allison Escoto: My answer to this question is is always yes! I’ve been mixing up my reading this year with debut novels—like Tommy Orange’s There There, and Nafkote Tamirat’s The Parking Lot Attendant—with classics that I’m only now getting to—like James Baldwin’s If Beale Street Could Talk and Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye. Tracy K. Smith’s Wade in the Water and Danez Smith’s Don’t Call Us Dead are on heavy rotation for me.
Seen any good art lately?
Artist Undine Brod: Yes. Always. And, I’ve even seen some “bad” art too unfortunately. But, I guess seeing opposites makes you understand why one falls into the category of “good” vs “bad,” so it’s necessary. We can’t love everything in this world.
Poet Allison Escoto: Last winter I took my very first trip to the Tate Modern in London and I was blown away by the entire experience. But one piece in particular stuck with me and it happens to fit in perfectly with the polyphony theme: a sculpture entitled Babel by Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles. It is a tower made out of old radios, all tuned to different stations, playing simultaneously which he describes as a “tower of incomprehension.” It was like seeing a brilliant microcosm of the world we are currently living in, packed into one piece of art.
Anything else? (Here, we invite the collaborators to invent a question, add a comment, or otherwise speak to what the questions so far have not tapped about their Broadsided experience).
Artist Undine Brod: I feel like I’m filling out an online dating profile. I know it’s just my mood right now, but I think it’s funny so I’m “saying” this thought “out loud” for others to laugh at me (or with me). By the way, I am single and seeking!