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“In Livingston Parish, Dreaming of Li Po”

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem?
Poet Alison Pelegrin: I can tell you what I feared—Southern Gothic Junkyard.

What inspires you in this poem?
Artist Cheryl Gross: What inspired me the most was the fact that I was able to apply artwork [I’d created before ever reading the poem] and have it fit perfectly.

Did the visual artist refract any element of the poem that made you see the poem differently?
Poet Alison Pelegrin: I have always thought of this poem as flippant and mildly humorous. The artist’s image allows me to reflect on the serious elements in the poem.

What surprised you about this collaborative piece?
Poet Alison Pelegrin: I was delighted and surprised by the two figures that appear to struggle in the boat.
Artist Cheryl Gross: I found the two fit so well together visually.

When you begin a piece of visual work (or, if that’s too broad, when you began this piece), is it color, shape, or some other aspect that you follow?
Artist Cheryl Gross: I keep design, color, and content in mind.

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 Alison Pelegrin: I viewed the Katrina paintings of Rolland Golden on display in the New Orleans Museum of Art and a few years ago as a guest at a private party. The museum was nearly empty and I was able to take my time experiencing the paintings. Other party guests were coming and going, and, in real life as well as in the poem, I found myself eavesdropping. Snippets of conversation wound up in my poem “Helicopter Hands,” which is the title of one of Golden’s paintings, though not the image I ended up writing about.

If you had to represent the Broadsided of “In Livingston Parish, Dreaming of Li Po” with one word, what would it be?
Poet Alison Pelegrin: Adrift
Artist Cheryl Gross: Perfection without intent. [The poem and art] were destined to be together like water and sand.

Read any good books lately?
Poet Alison Pelegrin: So many… I have loved Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. I’m still working on 2666 by Roberto Bolano. Poets I am reading right now are Tara Bray, Adrian Blevins, Amy Lemmon, Pete Fairchild’s latest.
Artist Cheryl Gross: And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks, by Kerouac and Burroughs. Brought me back to my old village days.

Seen any good art lately?
Poet Alison Pelegrin: In February I was in Chicago, where I had a chance to visit the Art Institute of Chicago on the day the “Becoming Edvard Munch” exhibit opened. While waiting my turn to enter, I was lost in Hopper’s “Nighthawks.” I am newly obsessed with the clay art of New Orleans artist Joy Gauss—I recently acquired two of her Mardi Gras Indians.
Artist Cheryl Gross: I look at art all the time. Recently stumbled on a web site called artists Some of the work is cutting edge.

Anything else?
Poet Alison Pelegrin: Thank you Liz for putting this together, and thank you Cheryl for your vision.
Artist Cheryl Gross: What is wonderful is the connection between Broadsided and my work. It’s also surprising. Usually I have to adjust my work to fit the writing. This was just such a perfect match, which doesn’t happen very often.

Note:  This broadside and interview are included in the anthology, Broadsided Press: Fifteen Years of Poetic/Artistic Collaboration, 2005-2020 (Provincetown Arts Press, 2022).

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