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“Childhood Reading”

Posted on • Words by • Art by

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What made you want to submit this work to our Polyphonic feature?
Poet Diana Anaya: I first found your feature when Marci Calabretta Cancio-Bello shared your post looking for multilingual writing. I had been looking for somewhere that would accept poems that shifted between languages. I also loved that Broadsided paired poems with art, which feels like a very natural relationship. Your feature allowed me to express myself both multilingually and politically.

In what way do you see your visual response as “Polyphonic?”
Artist Antonia Contro: A bilingual dictionary is a tool that has been indispensable to my own immigrant family as they sought ways to communicate not just across languages but inherently across cultures. Though my work depicts an Italian/English dictionary, it resonates with Diana’s poem about the profound responsibilities and challenges of translation.

What surprises you in the artist’s response to your poem?
Poet Diana Anaya: I didn’t really know what to expect from the artist’s response because my poem is mostly in scene, but when I saw her response, I fell in love it. It looks simple, but it has these gorgeous weathered details, like the worn spine and darkened edges, that makes it stand out.

How does a sense of polyphony enhance or challenge your creative work?
Artist Antonia Contro: There is fact and there is truth; there is looking  and there is seeing. My art considers the nature of knowledge—how it is conveyed, what knowing and understanding are; language is a powerful tool in conveying, or obfuscating, both.
Poet Diana Anaya: It feels natural, whether its switching languages in a written piece or pairing different mediums like poetry and visual art. As a Cuban American who grew up in a mostly Spanish-speaking household, some words and phrases only feel right in Spanish. It feels dishonest or lacking to say some things in English when I know the Spanish word or phrase that fits perfectly, that captures the sound and feeling I’m looking for. I feel it’s especially important when writing memoir pieces, because multilingual communication is my everyday life. Spanish is my home language.

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 Antonia Contro: As Barbara Kingsolver stated in a recent interview, truth and beauty. Add to it, any piece of writing or visual art, no matter how technically adept, is empty without heart. 
Poet Diana Anaya:
That it comes from a true place. By “true” I mean, that it’s born of real events and emotions, not a desire to write something occasional or political. In my experience, sitting down and thinking ‘I’m gonna write a political poem’ just results in me writing a shit poem. I believe living is inherently political, and this becomes more apparent in the lives of oppressed communities. We just need to be receptive to how day to day experiences tap into a larger topic or issue.

If the Broadsided collaboration were a piece of music, what would it be?
Poet Diana Anaya: I see the Broadsided collaboration as a remixed song, based on how this process seems to occur. The poem is the original song, and then a DJ (the artist) brings their artistic skills and interpretations to enhance or even change the original piece. For this specific collaboration I saw the artist’s response as an enhancement of my poem, adding another layer of meaning and beauty that the poem as a medium cannot. 

What is your favorite phrase or word translated from a language other than English?
Artist Antonia Contro: Now this is a difficult question, perhaps one impossible to answer. What first comes to mind is sogni d’oro—dreams of gold. My mother said this to me as she tucked me in at night.

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 Antonia Contro: My vectorization was at the Chicago Cultural Center, originally the city’s first public library. In the 1870s, it was a beacon to knowledge and democracy. Readers, many of whom were immigrants, were welcomed into this new literary community. I would choose Punta della Dogana, originally Venice’s customs house, now a beautiful Ando-designed art museum at the tip of the Grand Canal.
Poet Diana Anaya:
I chose the “vectorization” site for my collaboration to be a post near the Social Security Administration building in my area because it reflects the content of my poem. In my wildest dreams a parental figure might glance at or even read this, and maybe my words will leave some impression on them. Maybe they’ll think about the ways these procedures of obtaining and keeping government aid have an effect on their children. And an even more far fetched idea is if teen saw my poem and recognized a smidge of their experience reflected in it. I know in my childhood the fact that we received aid was a strongly kept secret, so I’d love if this poem showed them that they aren’t alone.

Read any good books lately?
Artist Antonia Contro: Autumn by Karl Ove Knausgaard. Written for his soon-to-be-born daughter, the book provides evocative observations of the author’s surrounding world, material and natural, and his quotidian rituals. It is illustrated  beautifully by Vanessa Baird.

Seen any good art lately?
Artist Antonia Contro: Living in Chicago, I have the good fortune of seeing great art a lot. I am most looking forward to seeing Hilma af Klint’s show at the Guggenheim in a couple of days. This Swedish female artist created radically abstract paintings at the beginning of the 20th century—much before the male abstractionists we know about—which were inspired by her Theosophical and spiritualistic practices.

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 Antonia Contro: For a number of years, I have been incubating the idea of creating an exhibition/project around the theme of translation. As a result of this “commission,” and enhanced by Diana Anaya’s poem, that desire has been rekindled. Grazie, Diana and Broadsided!
Poet Diana Anaya: I love what Broadsided Press is doing, but it makes me greedy. I want all poems to be paired with art, and not just art—songs or audio recording as well, to keep expanding the multimodal experience. It fosters a sense of community, artists of all genres coming together to create in response to or in conjunction with one another. I also like that it shakes off the shackles of author ownership, because this isn’t a piece owned by any one individual now—it’s something new born of the efforts of myself, the artist, and the team at Broadsided Press.

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