What made you want to submit this poem to our Polyphonic feature?
Poet Piotr Gwiazda: The challenge of actually writing a multilingual poem, having read many others and having paid attention to them as a literary practice for some time.
In what way do you see your visual response as “Polyphonic?”
Artist Cheryl Gross: I liked the poem and believe I understood what the poet was saying. I always put my dibs in when I can visualize it. The images must come as I’m reading the poem.
What surprises you in the artist’s response to your poem?
Poet Piotr Gwiazda: Cheryl has taken “Fold” to another level. Or, rather, she has externalized some deep, primal concerns that, I suspect, lie hidden under the surface of bilingual play. The illustration conveys existential vulnerability.
How does a sense of polyphony enhance or challenge your creative work?
Artist Cheryl Gross: I see my work as universal. To me polyphonic is being in sync with the universe. I like to think it if we are on the right path, it’s all part of the same journey. Not much of a difference to me.
Poet Piotr Gwiazda: A sense of polyphony exists in my work at the subconscious level. Even though my poems are not formally multilingual, they are always to some degree mixtures of languages, Polish and English, neither of which I can exactly call “primary” at this point. With regard to this specific poem, I was deliberately seeking polyphonic effects at the level of words, syllables, even phonemes. I was looking for unexpected overlaps (both sonic and semiotic), accidents and coincidences of translation. I was trying to capture the magic of human speech. At the same time, I’m not sure how to read this poem aloud. Does it require one or two speakers?
What do you think is the role of art in regards to real-world, real-time events? In other words, what makes a “successful” occasional or political piece of writing or art?
Artist Cheryl Gross: Like I said, the poem needs to resonate with me. Whenever something is able to reach a wider audience, it’s always an enhancement. It is nonrestrictive and a pleasure to contribute to. Unlike a challenge which to me is work. Don’t get me wrong, challenges can be great fun and inspiring, but sometimes the best art comes out of when you’re in sync with something. Art records the times in which we live. We are documenters. No matter what the medium is. We are the keepers of history.
Poet Piotr Gwiazda: As James Merrill once said, the main problem with political poems is that “when the tide of feeling goes out, the language begins to stink.” So as long as the language doesn’t “stink,” the poem can be successful. Of course political poems can also be motivated by ideas rather than feelings, but the same rule applies to those poems as well, in my opinion.
If the Broadsided collaboration were a piece of music, what would it be?
Artist Cheryl Gross: Bohemian Rhapsody
Poet Piotr Gwiazda: An etude
What is your favorite phrase or word translated from a language other than English?
Artist Cheryl Gross: Merde
Poet Piotr Gwiazda: Wiśnia—the Polish word for ‘sour cherry’
How did you choose the “vectorization” site for your collaboration (pictured left) and, if anything were possible, where in the world would you most love to discover your broadside posted?
Artist Cheryl Gross: I’m a long time fan and participant. Berlin.
Poet Piotr Gwiazda: The idea was to post the broadside in my community. But what is a community? At the most basic level, it is (coincidentally) my neighborhood Polish Hill in Pittsburgh. Its history as a hub for Polish immigrants in the late 19th century and its present character as a gritty, eclectic “urban village” make it a perfect site for the broadside.
Read any good books lately?
Artist Cheryl Gross: Theft By Finding by Davis Sedaris.
Poet Piotr Gwiazda: Two books that can be described as “polyphonic”: TwERK by LaTasha N. Nevada Diggs and Buzzing Hemisphere/Rumor Hemisférico by Urayoán Noel.
Seen any good art lately?
Artist Cheryl Gross: The time before last when I was in Provincetown, there was a painting of Betty Boop taking a bubble bath in the window of the Simie Maryles Gallery. I loved that piece. It was by Tony Chimento. Bathtub Betty is the title.
Poet Piotr Gwiazda: I was moved by what I saw at the War Childhood Museum in Sarajevo last September. The collection includes everyday objects (toys, drawings, playing cards, items of clothing, musical instruments, even a bicycle) donated by people who were children during the Bosnian War of 1992-95. These are not, strictly speaking, works of art. But in preserving—trying to preserve—a unique aspect of human experience they manifest the same effort at permanence to which art, I think, generally aspires. This in some way reflects back on the earlier question about art and politics.
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 Cheryl Gross: I would like to know if Piotr thinks my illustration interprets the poem.
Poet Piotr Gwiazda: Thanks to Cheryl for her striking interpretation of “Fold” and to Broadsided Press for making this collaboration possible.