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“Canned Food Drive”

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What inspired you to “dibs” this poem?
Artist Jim Benning: I read the poem and it conjured up a bunch of visual ideas.

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem?
Poet Kathleen Lynch: Possibly moonlight on kids’ bicycles, sycamores as guards, shrub as fort, “big bellied planes,” maybe a can or pile of cans. But I thought of round cans, not rectangular. Artist Jim Benning gave me a good surprise. The flatness of the image evokes the tins of military-issue food from the 40’s & 50’s, as well as Spam, sardines, unidentifiable canned meats—wartime & post-war food for a large poor family. I’m glad Benning “thought outside the can” and made it box-like. It’s just right. And it’s spooky, with its anonymity (no labels, etc), plus its subliminal evocation of a coffin shape.

In what sense did the poem first present itself as a collaboration with a visual medium? Did it come to you first as image? As an idea? Music? Narrative?
Artist Jim Benning: I guess it comes to me as an impression and then visual ideas come from those impressions.

If your art were a calendar holiday, what would it be?
Poet Kathleen Lynch: Do you mean the art that Jim made for my poem? Memorial Day. If you mean the visual art I make: Mardi Gras.

If your art were a calendar holiday, what would it be?
Artist Jim Benning: Ground Hog Day—An observation then a determination from it. What more could an artist want.

If the broadside collaboration were a calendar holiday, what would it be?
Poet Kathleen Lynch: Is there a holiday for people who communicate without ever meeting or speaking? If not, I’ll choose Thanksgiving.

What surprised you about this collaborative piece?
Poet Kathleen Lynch: The resulting strong visual context Jim created for the poem.
Artist Jim Benning: How many impressions that came to me from reading this poem. More ideas every time I read it.

Can you talk about your dual visual response—the one that “fit” the Broadsided template and the one outside the box (and yet in boxes)?
Artist Jim Benning: Originally I had this impression of the compartmentalization of people’s lives and how they may try to ship their solutions off to other situations how ever different those lives may be. The idea became the multi-image response the was condensed into the one page format.

Can you talk about the dual visual response—what’s your sense of the online out-of-the-box as same/different from the more “traditional” broadside?
Poet Kathleen Lynch: I find the broadside more intimate and immediate, therefore more powerful. I like the way the poem (which is itself a container of sorts) is fully contained within Jim’s image. But I suppose the other version, the boxed set, if on a gallery wall, would ask of the viewer a different kind of concentration. It has a meditative quality. It’s also unsettling in a coffin kind of way, particularly the wood/pine box connection. But for me the separated units interrupt and alter the flow of the poem’s voice by sectioning it off. Since I know the poem “from the inside out,” I can’t experience the fragmented version the way a person coming new to it would. In any case, both have appealing elements.

Read any good books lately?
Poet Kathleen Lynch: Yes. I don’t read mediocre books anymore. I give ’em 10 pages of my time and if they don’t grab me, I’m done. Tick Tock. I usually have several books going at once, so there’s always something yummy to match my mood. Currently I’m plowing through Swedish author Henning Mankell’s series featuring detective Kurt Wallender. Also just read and reread The Fortunate Islands, a new poetry collection by Susan Kelly-DeWitt. Beautiful, harrowing, deft work. Reading Matt Cartmill’s A View to Death in the Morning (about the history of hunting) and Chuck Palahniuk’s Haunted.Also, E.C. Segar’s Popeye—I Yam What I Yam, and Alison Bechdel’s graphic novel Fun Home—a Family Tragicomic.
Artist Jim Benning: The Age of Turbulence, Alan Greenspan. On the surface an interesting read of his ideas and economic history, but fun to compare this and his close association with Ann Rand and her ideas of a capitalistic utopia.

Seen any good art lately?
Poet Kathleen Lynch: Yes, in every room of our house—paintings, sculptures, photos, collages, all the good stuff we’ve been collecting for years.
Artist Jim Benning: Amy Stein, Stranded series. Photographs of people stranded and of evidence of lives broken down on the side of the road:

Anything else?
Poet Kathleen Lynch: Thank you for finding my poem and helping it find other readers. Your project has a generous vision. And thanks to Jim Benning for his thoughtful participation.

“The art of poetry is part of a wonderful chain of gift-giving among the dead, the living, and the unborn.” —D.W. Fenza


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