What surprises you about Margaret’s writing in conversation with your art? Did “Ditibaabide / The Rolling” refract any element of the art that made you see the piece differently?
Artist Meghan Keane: I am pleasantly surprised to have this painting that was made in the heart of the urban, built world be airlifted out into a totally different world rooted in natural imagery (air, raven, waves). Perhaps there are ravens in NYC, but my heart and mind immediately leap out of the city. I love how the first part sets the tone with weightless imagery, followed by the second part (rolls, waves) that echo an expansive natural context, but then, woosh, we come back to imagining human connection and the painting foregrounds in the conversation again. I see the work differently thinking about what “binds us,” the way that this poem is steeped in motion, not stasis; the rolling as binding hair to curler, and the act of hair maintenance/curler time and other beauty practices as binding people together, bond-building through presence, care, and shared experience.
This poem was chosen in response to Meghan Keane’s painting, “Rollers”—can you talk about the experience of finding words that were in conversation with the image? What leapt out first from the art? A particular image? A mood? A line?
Poet Margaret Noodin: The image of the rollers fascinated me because they are so thin and consist mostly of a round skeleton used to put air and motion into hair. I wanted to tell a story from the rollers’ perspective and imagine them knowing they represent desire, anticipation, and the way things and people are connected.
How is this connection between the image and the poem different from other images by Meghan Keane?
Poet Margaret Noodin: One of the reasons I responded to this Switcheroo is that I have worked with Broadsisded twice before, and both times Meghan Keane was the artist. (“Lexiconography” and “Niizhosagoons gemaa Nisosagoons Daso-biboonagad” / “Two or Three Thousand Years”). In both cases her response was to offer images that spoke within one spectrum as a response to lines of poetry. In her images she captured the sense of wind and water in way that harmonized with each poem. When I saw “Untitled (Brooklyn)” I loved the way the colors breathed and the light bounced off the hair. I wanted to let the image be the melody and the words the harmony this time.
We published another poem that responded to Meghan’s art, “Como Una Vela” by Michelle Moncayo. What strikes you about these different responses, these different broadsides and visions?
Artist Meghan Keane: I remain struck by how both poets brought forth the sense of community, using similar but different words (binds us vs. ritual, ancestors, tías [aunts]). As a solo portrait that I had always viewed as playful yet having fairly massive and megalithic properties (like Carnac on someone’s head, a curler topography of sorts), I am fascinated that while each vision is so evidently distinct, they both hold something in common that I myself didn’t see. That they both conjured up people/humans/lives (beyond the solo sitter for the portrait), community, connections, and social elements is so interesting to me. I wondered if the poem responses might become more of a poem as imagined character portrait, and have enjoyed the more spatial, expansive worlds the poets have both distinctly and, in part, in common imagined.
Describe your dream “vectorization”—where, in your wildest dreams, would you most like to see this broadside posted in the world?
Artist Meghan Keane: I’m always excited to have translation works show up in the wild where native speakers can enjoy them. That would be my wildest dream for this piece, to be out where someone who reads Anishinaabemowin could stroll by and enjoy this unique collaboration.
Poet Margaret Noodin: I knew right away where I wanted to post the poem . . . at the salon of course, with my stylist, Mackenzie!
Paired with the art, do you think the poem does something different or has a different tone?
Poet Margaret Noodin: Without the art the poem is only musing between languages. It might be interesting to think of a raven’s connection to wings or the ocean’s connection to motion, but only with the image can the raven wings and rolling waves be the kind of bright black hair my daughters have.
Did anything shift for you or come into new light once you saw the poem and art together on the page? Did you imagine what a writer might use/create from the image?
Artist Meghan Keane: What shifted for me was I began to see the rollers less as fixed sculptural shapes and a field of objects to seeing their potential as moving parts and part of larger human experience; the emphasis on waves unmoored me from my more static, compositional perceptions.
Have you ever written work that has been inspired by visual art before? What was that experience like for you? Why were you inspired to do so?
Poet Margaret Noodin: I have often written poetry for images and in some ways imagine that all my poems are anchored to our world by what we observe in it. The poem “Animoomigo/Riding Away” was inspired by an image of horses, humans and eagle staffs facing what could be either a new dawn or the inevitable west.
Have you ever had a writer respond to your work before? What was the experience like?
Artist Meghan Keane: I have! During a residency at Vermont Studio Center, Laurie Granieri produced some written works inspired by candy-colored loopy paintings I was working on at the time. It was thrilling to see the work through her eyes. I feel the same way when I’ve had art critics write about my work. It’s both validating and exciting to see how the work lives on outside of you, especially because much of my work is personal, intimate, or vulnerable. I imagine poets who have artists respond to their work with Broadsided Press have a similar rush and sense of validation of the work. It feels good.
If this broadside were a type of weather, what would it be?
Poet Margaret Noodin: It would be a warm summer day in the city, the kind where heat rises off the streets and smells (and maybe women) are twice as strong.
Artist Meghan Keane: As the Irish say: a soft day.
Read any good books lately?
Poet Margaret Noodin: I’ve been telling everyone I know to read Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley. It’s a fast-paced mystery good enough to take your mind off politics and pandemics, but most importantly to me, it’s a story set in an Anishinaabe community near Lake Superior and Lake Huron about Ojibwe people with so many native characters no reader can come away with stereotypes.
Artist Meghan Keane: I haven’t read it yet however I just got a copy of The Prophets by Robert Jones Jr., which has received rave reviews everywhere; am so looking forward to reading this groundbreaking work by my esteemed college classmate.
Seen any good art lately?
Poet Margaret Noodin: I’m lucky enough to have three paintings by Dave Shananaquet in my office at home. A member of the Little Traverse Bay Band of Ottawa Indians, he created incredible art during his lifetime and most of it is in community centers in the Great Lakes region. https://www.youtube.com/watch?
Artist Meghan Keane: The Japanese Carpentry exhibition at the Japan Society in Manhattan was stunning and inspiring, especially learning about the spiritual belief system the informs and suffuses the flawless craftsmanship. Recommend if you nerd out on architectural drawings, hand tools, or precision generally.
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 Meghan Keane: Thank you very much to Broadsided Press editors and artist Janice Redman for selecting my painting as this year’s Switcheroo. It is an honor. Thank you to poet Margaret Noodin for spending such thoughtful, attentive time with this work, and for producing so beautiful and perceptive a poem in response. To the audience, I wonder, what hair experience would you want to immortalize in paint? For contemplation. 🙂
Meghan Keane’s painting—which captures someone’s back-of-the-head, plastic-roller-studded moment—inspired so many intimate, heartfelt memories. Something about the face turned away, the artist’s gaze from above, the bright colors. There is so much invitation and mystery in this painting, and the writing submitted in response reflects that. Memories of mothers, grandmothers, sisters, the warmth of domestic spaces, and also sometimes fraught wrangling with ideas of beauty (and how we fall short).
In a year of social isolation due to Covid-19 and a year that shows the faultlines and dangers of touch, Meghan Keane’s painting of someone’s hair salon (whether DIY or professional) feels intensely and intimately poignant. Hair and grooming/shaping is, ultimately, such a personal and communal thing: whether it’s drag queens or aunties, quinceañeras or homecoming dances, actors or lawyers, slicked back or teased up. Or both. Or all.
Every year, we eagerly await The Switcheroo, curious to see what an image will prompt in writers. In the end, we couldn’t narrow our decision down to one poem, and we’re glad to offer you both Margaret Noodin and Michelle Moncayo’s creative, multilingual, surprising ekphrastic responses to Meghan Keane’s painting. We hope that, in considering both, you imagine your own.
We’re eager to see what happens in next year’s Switcheroo, and we’re grateful to all who engaged, sent in work, and took time to imagine themselves into a world created by an artist.
Elizabeth Bradfield, Miller Oberman, Jennifer Perrine, Alexandra Teague