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“Confession Concerning the Ocean”

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem?
Poet Elizabeth Langemark: I think I expected images of the ocean itself or maybe some sort of image evoking dissatisfaction. There’s a lot of room within both of those things, so I was looking forward to being surprised in terms of specifics.

What inspires you in this poem?
Artist Anya Ermak-Bower: The author’s spirit. The strength to stand up against the mainstream perception of the subject and lay out her feelings bluntly.

Did the visual artist refract any element of the poem that made you see the poem differently?
Poet Elizabeth Langemark: Definitely! Anya’s work reminded me of something I know in theory but am always surprised by anyway: that what the poet thinks a poem is about doesn’t necessarily matter. I was used to thinking of this poem as about the ocean but her interpretation seems to focus on the speaker, which I see now is absolutely accurate.

When you began this piece, was it color, shape, or some other aspect that you followed? Did that change?
Artist Anya Ermak-Bower: Spirit. Line. Composition. Color.

What surprised you about this collaborative piece?
Poet Elizabeth Langemark: I was surprised by the way the ocean takes the form of words that can’t quite be made out. I think that’s the part of the piece that excites me the most, both visually and because I’m tempted to assign a meaning to it (and also equally not tempted).
Artist Anya Ermak-Bower: The house becoming an upward arrow. What?! OK. Cool.

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 Elizabeth Langemark: Lots of times. Lately ekphrastic pieces have come out of a great conversation I’ve had with an artist that’s made me look at her work closely, or to go back to my own work with a different mindset. Even if I don’t know the artist, this sort of project appeals to me because it’s a way of unfolding previously invisible features in a work, like opening an advent calendar or making a really complicated piece of origami.

If you had to represent the Broadsided collaboration with one word, what would it be?
Poet Elizabeth Langemark: Turn
Artist Anya Ermak-Bower: Dialogue

If the collaboration were a piece of music, what would it be?
Poet Elizabeth Langemark: A very strange lullaby.
Artist Anya Ermak-Bower: Hmm. Perhaps a jamming session of two people with a favorite instrument each?

Read any good books lately?
Poet Elizabeth Langemark: Dan Choan’s Await Your Reply, Sheila Heti’s How Should a Person Be?, Love, an Index by Rebecca Lindenberg, and Stag’s Leap by Sharon Olds.
Artist Anya Ermak-Bower: Anna Karenina.

Seen any good art lately?
Poet Elizabeth Langemark: I could sit in the Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Cy Twombly room with “Fifty Days at Iliam” all day, and lately I’ve been looking more into Ed Ruscha’s photos and paintings.
Artist Anya Ermak-Bower: Nature

Anything else?
Poet Elizabeth Langemark: I’m really grateful to Anya Ermak-Bower for her striking work, and for altering my understanding of my own poem, as well as to Elizabeth Bradfield and Broadsided Press for making this collaboration possible.

Note:  This broadside and interview are included in the anthology, Broadsided Press: Fifteen Years of Poetic/Artistic Collaboration, 2005-2020 (Provincetown Arts Press, 2022).

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