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“Learning History in Nursery School”

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Collaborators’ Q&A

Did the visual artist refract any element of the poem that made you see the poem differently?
Poet Patrick Carrington: She did. She made me realize that the poem was not only about my son, but also about me. When I wrote it, he was the only one I had in mind. I had almost removed myself from it. Anya’s rendering of the two of us sitting together with umbrellas sent me back to the text, and there I was, as close to him as the artist pictured. It also reminded me that he’s taught me as much as I’ve taught him. I see that in Anya’s art, that even when he was a boy, we were equals.

In what sense did the poem first present itself as a collaboration with a visual medium? Did it come to you first as image? As an idea? Music? Narrative?
Artist Anya Ermak-Bower: It came as a memory.

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem?
Poet Patrick Carrington: Quite a few images ran through my mind–puddles on city streets, rainbows and clock towers–until I made the decision to stop imagining, to wait and see. To let the artist do what she does best. I couldn’t be happier with the vision she came up with. It matches the poem like a twin.

What inspired you to “dibs” this poem?
Artist Anya Ermak-Bower: It’s been raining a lot the past few weeks here. As mother to a three-and-a-half year old boy—a boy who loves his puddle boots and puddles—the poem and recent climate here have reminded me of being a child in rainy Lithuania, and of a child’s ability to enjoy the moment, regardless of the weather.

What surprised you about this collaborative piece?
Poet Patrick Carrington: How much I enjoyed my collaborator’s visual interpretation. I admit that I have never been much of a fan of illustrated poetry. I’ve always preferred to let words paint their own picture. But the grace of Anya’s vision, and those of many other Broadsided artists, have made me seriously reevaluate that prejudice. It’s opened my eyes to new light.
Artist Anya Ermak-Bower: I was surprised by the immediacy with which I felt moved and possessed by the work. I saw the picture I needed to make and felt like it was imperative that I respond to the work with my art.

If the broadside collaboration were a plant, what would it be?
Artist Anya Ermak-Bower: It’s full-on autumn in Anchorage and the choke cherries have become ripe. The changing leaves and the cherries together—that’s true collaboration! (Choke cherries make a Russian’s heart go pitter-patter with excitement, though I know that Americans don’t typically enjoy them the way we do.)

If this poem were a vehicle, what would it be?
Artist Anya Ermak-Bower: Ummmmmm…should I say something here about alternative fuels?

Read any good books lately?
Poet Patrick Carrington: I’ve read a couple of poetry collections recently that have stayed with me in a haunting way. Tony Hoagland’s What Narcissism Means to Me, Bob Hicok’s The Legend of Light. I have The Eye Like a Strange Balloon by Mary Jo Bang, Broadsided’s September poet, sitting on top of my “to-read” pile.
Artist Anya Ermak-Bower: The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin. It’s all about birth. I’m pregnant with our second child!

Seen any good art exhibits lately?
Poet Patrick Carrington: I’m fortunate enough to be in reasonable driving distance of both New York City and Philadelphia. So yes, I have all manner of great art there for me any time I wish, and I try to take advantage of it. I recently saw an exhibit on Pop Art and Culture at The Philly Museum of Art, and there’s one right now on Abstract Impressionism, at the Met in NYC, that I’ll be taking in between now and Thanksgiving.
Artist Anya Ermak-Bower: The Anchorage Museum of History and Art had an open house last weekend and there was a photo exhibit detailing an Inupiat whale hunt by Bill Hess.


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