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“Lament in Iron”

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What made you think of Broadsided for this poem?
Poet Molly Bess Rector: I admire Broadsided’s mission of helping poems reach communities in new ways. I think of the cento as a communal form—the weaving together of voices that are sometimes very disparate on their own. This cento is very visual, and I thought it would lend itself well for a broadside because of that and because of its brevity. Like much of my work, this poem comes out of processing how industry and intimacy manage to exist in the same human ecology, what the former does to the latter (something I’m not sure I’ll ever understand). I’m an admirer of Elizabeth Bradfield’s work, which I see as engaging similar questions. All of which is to say: this piece felt like a good fit for Broadsided in many ways, and I’m honored it found a place here.

What inspires you in this poem? What drew you to it?
Artist Elizabeth Terhune: The opening line of this sad, haunting poem appealed to me.  And the poem is beautifully taut.  A quasi-lyric beginning unspools into the tragedy and reality of gun and weapons’ violence.  I also liked that it was a cento.

Describe your dream “Vectorization”—where, in your wildest dreams, would you most like to see this broadside posted in the world?
Artist Elizabeth Terhune: Well, I would go back in time and visit with William and Catherine Blake and share a copy with them.  I’d let them take it from there. But, staying tethered, I would honestly like to see this on the office walls of every US Representative and Senator and in the offices of every state legislator, next to a signed pledge to immediately craft and pass effective legislation addressing gun violence and arms exports.  Background checks with no loopholes would be a start as would a renewed assault weapons ban — without dithering over effectiveness — and reversing the Trump administration’s weakened oversight of arms exports.
Poet Molly Bess Rector: Staying with the idea of industry, I think it would be really cool to see this poem in a breakroom at a factory or in another space that sort of by nature bends toward efficiency, rather than making room for the messiness of personhood.

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem? Did the visual artist refract any element of the poem that made you see the poem differently?
Poet Molly Bess Rector:
I don’t know what I expected the artist to pick up, but I love that Elizabeth made something abstract with the piece, and I love the looseness of the lines. I think she picked up on the softness and empathy that’s lying underneath the piece as a whole, and I love that she didn’t reach for the hardness of the concrete images (though I do see the shape of shovels here!) or for the jaggedness that appears in the last line.

Did anything shift for you or come into new light once you saw the poem and art together on the page?
Artist Elizabeth Terhune: I had not realized how tiny this poem is. And I appreciate that it is only seven lines. What it says is so big.

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 Molly Bess Rector:
Yes! I love the challenge of writing in response to visual art, trying to render the experience of being with a piece without falling into straightforward description of it. The first poem I ever had published (in SAND, a wonderful journal) was written in response to an edition of Pablo Gargallo’s “Grand Prophète,” which I had the pleasure of seeing at Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía in Madrid several years ago. I was going through a major upheaval in my life at the time and there was something about the hugeness and solidness of the statue’s feet in combination with the airiness of the rest of the piece that really caught my imagination and got me thinking about the idea of being grounded.

If this broadside were a type of weather, what would it be?
Artist Elizabeth Terhune:  I’ve put the shovels and rifles under storm clouds.
Poet Molly Bess Rector: A clearing thunderstorm.

Read any good books lately?
Artist Elizabeth Terhune: Leo Damrosch: Eternity’s Sunrise, Patrick Modiano: Suspended Sentences (three novellas translated by Mark Polizzotti), Anthony Aveni: Star Stories, Timothy Hyman: Bonnard, Susie Day: The Brother You Choose.
Poet Molly Bess Rector: Yes! I check out audiobooks from my local library and listen to them while I work in my garden—I’ve read tons of novels that way in recent months. I’m a big fan of fantastical literature, and in that world recently have especially loved The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo and Tomi Adeyemi’s Legacy of Orïsha series, as well as Katherine Arden’s The Winternight series. In terms of poetry, I just got Carrie Fountain’s new book, The Life, and am savoring every poem.

Seen any good art lately?
Artist Elizabeth Terhune: Morandi and Albers at Zwirner.
Poet Molly Bess Rector: Speaking of my local library, I just went to see a newly opened extension of the building, which includes a wonderful permanent installation by local artist Aimée Papazian, “Voyage of Lost Keys”—a piece about mass migration and human connection in which two thousand porcelain keys arranged like a murmuration of birds floating along a stairwell. Among them is a replica of a key found in the ashes after the home of the artist’s grandfather was burned in the Smyrna Catastrophe. It’s a very moving piece.

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 Elizabeth Terhune: The image was made using iron gall — iron filings dissolved in gall.  A traditional media, like silverpoint, that goes on pale and darkens as soon as it is applied/exposed to oxygen.  It was important to me to maintain continuity — In the language of iron.

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