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Download “Empire”

Collaborators’ Q&A

This image was created outside of the usual Broadsided “respond to writing” system—can you talk about its origins?
Artist Helen Beckman Kaplan: My romantic nature usually brings me around to visiting the figure in landscape, often as an over-the-shoulder view. I am drawn to a transmogrified pastoral space, and within that space to the tangling of the relationship between physicality of paint and what is represented.

This poem responds to Helen Beckman Kaplan’s art—can you talk about the experience of finding words that were in conversation with the image?
Poet Kathleen Lynch: First I had a sense of cataclysm, as in a natural or man-made disaster (the bright sun occluded by storm, smoke, tsunami, rubble from collapsed buildings, whatever…) Then I dwelled on the idea of any great sundering, whether physical or emotional. But that intense yellow kept pulling me. So hopeful, so fully present, and, in a way, just “out there.” Reliable. No matter what happens, light will come again to bring comfort and warmth when things settle.

What surprises you about Kathleen Lynch’s poem in conversation with your art?
Artist Helen Beckman Kaplan: I really like the way that it seems to enhance the contemplativeness of the bird figure—the painting’s image seems to me to be one of very late summer, and the poem seems to reflect the possible memory or genetic coding that might flicker in the bird/human brain while surmising what is to soon come.

What leapt out first from Helen’s art? A particular image? A mood? A line?
Poet Kathleen Lynch: Mood first, and the emotional contrast engendered between dark and bright areas. The combination holds a definite charge encompassing both chaos and serenity. Fierce energy. It “packs a wallop,” as they say. The bird shape seems enigmatic—a “watcher,” or spirit presence.

What did you expect a writer to pick up on from “Empire”?
Artist Helen Beckman Kaplan: The way in which it is both specific and non-specific.

Paired with the art, do you think the poem does something different or has a different tone?
Poet Kathleen Lynch: I think the poem and art are in dialogue with each other in a way that is more intuitional than literal. I appreciate that the image is so “open,” and invites varied contemplation.

Paired with the poem, do you think the art does something different or has a different tone?
Artist Helen Beckman Kaplan: It adds time to the image. It strengthens the possibility of a human presence.

Do you often (or ever) write in response to visual art? What is the experience like for you?
Poet Kathleen Lynch: Not often, but when I do, I usually avoid making the poem directly ekphrastic. I try to let the image penetrate me, or to enter it myself until I find a psychic nexus I recognize and FEEL. I write out of that recognition. Helen’s piece evoked several very different poems for me, written on different days and under the sway of varying moods and mental meanderings.

If your art were an animal, what would it be?
Artist Helen Beckman Kaplan: An albatross.

If your poem were an animal, what would it be?
Poet Kathleen Lynch: A vulture, riding an updraft, serene, accepting, watching things begin and end.

If the broadside collaboration were an animal, what would it be?
Artist Helen Beckman Kaplan: A whale.
Poet Kathleen Lynch: In this Switcheroo process, I think the collaboration would be a marsupial, poem carried in the “pouch” of the image. Two things, both together and distinct. Let’s make it a wombat. Oscar Wilde had a pet wombat.

Read any good books lately?
Artist Helen Beckman Kaplan: I am rereading a big favorite, Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain-Fournier.
Poet Kathleen Lynch: Currently I’m completely absorbed reading mountains of Medicare and AARP Medicare Supplemental Coverage manuals. Fasssssssscinating stuff! Especially for a mystery lover like me.

Seen any good art lately?
Artist Helen Beckman Kaplan: Can’t stop thinking about the Cézanne painting from the Petit Palais in Paris that once belonged to Matisse, called “Trois Baigneuses.”
Poet Kathleen Lynch: Helen Beckman Kaplan’s “Empire,” our 15-year-old grandson Elliot’s newest self-portrait in pastels on black paper, and several really fine shows in Sacramento, which has become a terrific arts community. Our Second Saturday Art Walk resembles a mini-Mardi Gras. Y’all come!

Anything else?
Artist Helen Beckman Kaplan: My brother’s cat Kato is visiting us, and he’s great!
Poet Kathleen Lynch: I love my life and have hope for us all. Thank you for the chance to put this poem into the world in such good company.

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