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“Dear You-in-the-Dark”

Posted on • Words by • Art by

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem?
Poet Valerie Wetlaufer: That last image of the night sky like a blanket.

What inspires you in this poem?
Its magical clarity.

Did the visual artist refract any element of the poem that made you see the poem differently?
Poet Valerie Wetlaufer: Since the poems engage with Mary Shelley, I always see the speakers in an older time, so seeing a reflection of a contemporary woman helped me see the poems in a new context. I’m pleased they work beyond the scope of the project.
Poet Molly Sutton Keifer: I do love, too, how Shelley’s work is also about anxiety about scientific change, and that can also be seen in this illustration.

When you began this piece, was it color, shape, or some other aspect that you followed? Did that change?
Artist Christoph Keller: I couldn’t resist following the lines

he was making stars on the earth
—stars!—I pulled back the curtain.

They led me—with beautiful detours!—to the place where I could take this picture. The stars I saw are—well, I’m not going to tell you what I saw. A window, motion (Dear You-in-the-Dark, walking by, fast), light, creating daylight stars. (I took the picture by daylight.)

What surprised you about this collaborative piece?
Artist Christoph Keller: That the image and poem are relatives. I hope there’s a little bit of the poem’s clear magic in my photograph.
Poet Valerie Wetlaufer: Regarding the poem with Valerie, my fellow poet, I’m always so surprised at how well our call and response works together—I’ve long admired her as a practitioner, so being able to work with her on this collection has been a real honor.

In regards to the art with our poem, it’s so very different from the one I have with my fellow writer—Valerie and I conversed a great deal and mulled and then dove into a poetic dialogue, whereas this, with the artist, the poem is written first and the artist creates, and the talent behind Broadsided puts it together. There are definitive roles, which speaks to our desire for organization.

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 Valerie Wetlaufer: Yes, often. In college many of my friends were visual artists, so I was around their work all the time, and we would be inspired by one another. My current project deals a lot with the daily work of art making, and the materiality of painting. It’s been fun to describe that work.
Poet Molly Sutton Keifer: I often work on projects that combine the written word with something involving fiber, be it in the realm of book arts or perhaps needlework, etc. I love ekphrasis as an art form, and have admired those who set out to write full works based on this purpose.

How does literature fit into your creative life as a visual artist?
Artist Christoph Keller: I’m a writer first, then someone who takes pictures: I’m not sure I’m an artist. I think my background as a writer when taking pictures helps me find the stories in what I see: Hey, Dear You-in-the-Dark! Or the other way round: find the images in what I write. Of course I now wonder who the young woman in my picture is although I know that not-knowing is always more truthful.

Describe the collaboration in one word.
Poet Valerie Wetlaufer: Fluid
Artist Christoph Keller: Magical

If the Broadsided collaboration were a piece of music, what would it be?
Artist Christoph Keller: A duo. Jazz. Piano & bass.

Read any good books lately?
Poet Valerie Wetlaufer: Look by Solmaz Sharif
Poet Molly Sutton Keifer: I’ve been reading so many manuscripts lately, which is a blessing. We just released Buried Choirs by Katharine Rauk last month through Tinderbox Editions, and it’s gorgeous.
Artist Christoph Keller:  Julian Barnes, The Noise of the Time and Carl Seelig, Walks with Robert Walser

Seen any good art lately?
Poet Molly Sutton Keifer: I’ve got a soft spot for textile art–perhaps because my hands love the art of making and appreciate the amazing craft of it—so I’m always loving on the galleries at the Minnesota Textile Center. There’s an exhibition of natural dye right now, which I dabble in, so it’s wonderful to see completed pieces to be inspired by. My other go-to is the Minnesota Center for Book Arts, which has a rotating gallery of work that always makes me hungry to get my hands dirty with ink and paper pulp.
Artist Christoph Keller: In the Swiss town of Chur on the occasion of the inauguration of the art museum’s new annex I saw two marvelous paintings by Matias Spescha, Swiss painter (1925-2008): check him out—he’s the Swiss Rothko!

Anything else?
Artist Christoph Keller: I want to do more photographs inspired by poems.

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