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“Dark Matter”

Posted on • Words by • Art by

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What made you think of Broadsided for this poem?
Poet Nancy Reddy: I’d seen Chanda Feldman’s gorgeous “River Jubilee” when it was in Broadsided. And I’m increasingly drawn to projects like this one that work to circulate poetry outside the usual venues – so I love the idea of the poem being a broadside that can have a home in a coffee shop, a library bulletin board, or other community spaces.

What inspires you in this poem? What drew you to it?
Artist Janice Redman: It just spoke so clearly to me. This is how it is to be a mother, to be a human being, to live this life in this body that feels like it is always just hanging on, being asked to do so much. And yet at the end of the day, even with the aches and pains and pure exhaustion, there is pure joy and love of life and mystery.

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem?
Poet Nancy Reddy: For me, the cake is perhaps the most obvious – loudest – image in the poem, and so I appreciate that the artwork draws on that a bit, but isn’t literal about it.

When you began this piece, was it color, shape, or some other aspect that you followed? Did that change?
Artist Janice Redman: I wasn’t sure how I was going to proceed with this poem; all I knew was that I wanted it to be a sculpture, to be an object.  First of all I wrote the poem on the studio wall large in charcoal. Every morning, before starting the day, I would sit and read it through a couple of times. Then I just began working without any thought of illustrating it, as I wanted it to emerge naturally and with mystery.

Over the period of six weeks, everything that I worked on in the space began to hold some relationship to the poem… I really had no idea how it was going to evolve, but gradually objects began to appear, even pieces from my shelves that had been sitting there for years all seemed to be responding to the poem.  Eventually I had many pieces in different states of completion all on small shelves sitting around the  poem. It, too, felt like an object. Everything was in conversation.

In the end I photographed each piece, and one was chosen for the broadside. It was an amazing process…I really liked having the structure of the writing on the wall. I haven’t erased it yet, as it now seems so integral to the sculptures that still surround it.

Did the visual artist refract any element of the poem that made you see the poem differently?
Poet Nancy Reddy: The artwork is kind of calm and organic in a way that surprised me.

What surprised or struck you once you saw the finished broadside?
Poet Nancy Reddy: I really love the depth and multiple textures in the artwork. There’s a lovely contrast of the rounded fabric part and the more geometric plaster base.
Artist Janice Redman: I really liked how my piece was used as a mirror image. It added a funhouse quality and it also fitted so well in-between the writing. I like the space in-between.

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 Nancy Reddy: I was just in Houston for some readings and saw the amazing Fabiola Project at the Byzantine Fresco Chapel that’s part of the Menil Collection. I went one day, then went back the next, just so I could sit with the Fabiolas longer; the longer you sit, the more you see there’s actually a ton of variation among the copies. So I’m working on something about the Fabiolas, though I don’t know yet where that will go.

How does literature fit into your creative life as a visual artist?
Artist Janice Redman: It opens and expands my visual world. In this case, it gave me structure and helped place meaning with the objects. I love taking part in these projects!

Describe the collaboration in one word.
Poet Nancy Reddy: Serendipitous
Artist Janice Redman: Trust

If this broadside were a piece of music, what would it be?
Poet Nancy Reddy: Hmm. Maybe the kind of off-brand Happy Birthday restaurants use to sing so as to not infringe on copyright, mashed together with the CDs of kids singing pop music they play sometimes at my kids’ daycare.

Read any good books lately?
Poet Nancy Reddy: Yes! I just bought Analicia Sotelo’s Virgin and Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s Oceanic (at the lovely Brazos Bookstore in Houston) and have been loving them. And I devoured Camille Dungy’s Guidebook to Relative Strangers and am looking forward to reading the new book Like a Mother by Angela Garbes. (I’m doing lots of reading about pregnancy, birth, and motherhood – memoirs, poetry, nonfiction – for the book of poetry I’m finishing this summer.)
Artist Janice Redman: Exit West by Mohsin Hamid.

Seen any good art lately?
Poet Nancy Reddy: I really love the Menil, and I was looking forward to visiting it when I was in Houston. Since it was closed, I spent a while in the Cy Twombly gallery, which I just love.
Artist Janice Redman: It is not visual art, but I  heard a wonderful story on “The Moth” this week called “Life on a Mobius Strip” by Janna Levin. It was a really inspiring story that sums up the complexities and twists and turns of life. I think you might enjoy it.  Also, Giuseppe Penone at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. A fantastic show indoors and outdoors.

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).
Poet Nancy Reddy: Just a bit about the context of the poem: becoming a mother was (is!) really hard for me, and many of the poems I’ve written for the book I’m finishing now explore the darkness and difficulty of early motherhood – but in this poem I really wanted to capture some of the joy that’s also the experience of mothering (even with all the hair loss and cracked nipples and general insanity of small children). And so many thanks to Janice and the whole team at Broadsided – I love the work of pairing poems with art and moving those poems out into the world.

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