This innovative collaboration is an opportunity to experiment with other more dynamic formats, such as the live interview.
In the monthly Q&A we’ve published since 2007, writers and artists share a sense of what their collaboration through Broadsided has meant to them. Recently, when we’ve had the opportunity to be a little bit more responsive and dynamic in live events, it’s really opened up beautiful thoughts, conversations, and connections. So we recorded this conversation between Elizabeth Bradfield, Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, and Lauren Woods on February 16, 2023 and are sharing it with you as an audio file and a transcript slightly edited for clarity and readability.
We hope this is the first of many live, recorded conversations about such collaborations.
Broadsided: I’m really happy to be joining poet Gibson Fay-LeBlanc and performer and visual artist Lauren Woods to talk about their recent collaboration, “Lorca Says The Duende loves the Rim of the Wound.” In response to this poem that we accepted for publication from Gibson Fay LeBlanc, Lauren Woods created both a dance performance and a video rendering of that dance performance to be shared for the first time at Broadsided Press. We’re so excited about that and excited to talk to them both about their work individually and together and the responses to each other. Gibson and Lauren, welcome.
Gibson Fay-LeBlanc: Thanks for doing this, Liz. This is great.
Lauren Woods: Thank you.
Broadsided: So, Gibson, can we start with you? Why did you bring your work to Broadsided? You’ve brought your work to Broadsided in the past and you did it again. You’re a brave soul.
Gibson Fay-LeBlanc: Yeah, I just I love the project of Broadsided. The back and forth between poem and art and art and poem, not to mention the push to hang these collaborations up wherever anyone feels like someone might see it, [someone] who needs to see it.
Not long after I wrote this poem and edited it and sat with it for a while. Because of its length and its subject, I thought this would be a cool poem to see broadsided, and I was glad that you agreed. And it’s always an honor to have to have a poem treated this way and to have an artist do something with it, take off from it, and take it somewhere else.
Broadsided: I will say that we’re very cautious about republishing writers we’ve published before, just because we publish so few poems. Gibson, your poem moved us so much. And Lauren, and this is your first time as an artist with broadsided press. Can you talk about how you came to join and what brought you to this poem in particular and what drew you to it?
Lauren Woods: I was actually introduced to Broadsided through my colleague Millian Pham, and she asked me if I would be interested in participating because she’s done this for a number of years. And I, of course, said, yes. I’ve actually done some things in response to poetry before, so I thought it would be fun to do it again in a different way than I’ve done before. And what was the rest of the question?
Broadsided: Just what…. I guess now I’m curious about what other work you’ve done in response to poetry before.
Lauren Woods: Well, in 2018, I was invited by the Mobile Museum of Art to participate in this exhibition called “Do It.” And it’s one of the longest running exhibitions around the world. I think it’s been going since 1993. One of the people that came up with it is Hans Ulrich Obrist, and people keep adding and adding to the project, and you get these… some of them are instructions for creating a project and you complete it. The whole idea is that it’s not supposed to be work that stays after the exhibit. It’s supposed to go away. And originally the curator wanted me to do a dance piece, a performance, and she gave me a couple of things. And then, at the very end of our meeting, she’s like, “I found this, and it kind of reminds me of you. I don’t know, you might want to do this, but I’m not sure.” And it was a poem by Hélène Cixous called “Instructions.”
And the poem kind of hits on a similar mood to your poem, Gibson. It has this feeling of longing and distance and it had imagery from theater and myths. So I created a video response to it, and it was actually the first video I’ve ever made. And I worked with a musician—his name’s Treay Larrimore (https://laurenwoodsart.com/do-it/) —and we used one of his pieces. I made a music video response to the poem. It was not direct, but it had the same mood as the poem. And, and so I was really drawn to your poem because first off, I didn’t know what “duende” meant or who Lorca was. But when I read the poem, I got this feeling of intangible, distant, deep sorrow that I could relate to, but also intimately experienced at the same at the same time. So it was this kind of push and pull feel, and I just was really inspired by it.
Broadsided: I feel like this is a moment that Gibson might want to respond to rather than me asking a question.
Gibson Fay-LeBlanc: Yeah, I just want to say thank you for responding in that way. That’s what this poem is for me, too. It came out of experience, sadly, in 2020. I lost my brother after eight years of cancer. And then my mom died about two months after that, and hers was very sudden.
We’d been waiting and waiting, the way that goes sometimes. And then hers was out of the blue. And so, since that time, I’ve been learning to live with, next to, grief and exploring it through poems. And I definitely on a human level, I’ve learned that it comes when it comes, you know. That’s what that phrase, “Grief o’clock… It’s grief o’clock,” You know. That was this poem’s first gift to me, I think. So that’s very much where the poem comes from, and so to have this amazing dance in response to it… it’s a gift, it’s an honor. And what you said earlier, Lauren, you were talking about a different piece, but it feels the same. The dance doesn’t… it’s not like it there’s like this one-to-one correspondence between what the poem is talking about and what the dance is doing, but it feels like it fits totally in terms of mood and just the physical act of it. So I really appreciate that.
Broadsided: Lauren, does it change your perception of your dance to know the back story to the poem? This is the first time you and Gibson have talked about that. What does that make you consider or reconsider?
Lauren: Well, knowing the specifics of the events that led to the poem… a lot of my work involves my sister, so I can relate to being close to a sibling. And the I can’t imagine that depth of loss. So it’s just… the word I’ve been thinking about a lot when I was preparing for this conversation was potency. I feel like it makes even more potent.
Broadsided: Can you talk a little bit, Lauren, about how movement responds to words for you? I see Gibson nodding. I wonder if you want to add to that question, Gibson.
Gibson: I was wondering the same thing… how does…. I’m just curious because it’s so different than the way I think. I think about words as physical. Sentences are very physical to me. And I love that about poems, that they can be physical in this way. But at the same time, I don’t know, how do you do that? I don’t understand how you translate feeling into physical anything. So I’m super curious like how a piece starts, whether that’s this one or different one.
Lauren: A lot of times… see, I’m not I’m not a word person. I’m very image-based and and also kinesthetic and embodiment and things–that’s how I express myself. I’ll say this piece was done in reverse almost because I made the videos a long time before learning about this. I just had a bunch of videos I hadn’t put together yet. So, the videos were taken….I had a residency at the Lillian E. Smith Center in Clayton, Georgia, through Piedmont University, and it’s a center for creative arts. Writers go to it, there’s visual artists, there’s scholars that go just for time to be in nature and to clear their mind about what they’re working on.
The place that it’s located used to be called Laurel Falls Camp for Girls. And so it’s this side of the mountain, and it was a campsite, so it has this feeling of nature, but it’s “safe nature” because there’s cabins and pathways and things. I mean, there is danger of possible bears, but, you know, there’s trails….
And while I was there, I was trying to give myself some time to just make things without really having an intended end. And since I’m really interested in mythology, I was thinking about embodying the character of Daphne while I was in the space, because I was by myself out in nature.
I woke up at sunrise for a week and would bring my little camera out and set it up in the ground and I just kind of danced around. And that particular moment, I got really lucky because it was about to rain. And so the trees were moving perfect and the sound was perfect, but it wasn’t super rainy, so I could still be there. And I don’t know, I was just responding to the space and how it felt to be there.
And then after reading the poem, I felt like those videos could fit the mood. But a lot of times I’ll just set the camera up and dance around in a circle or do something, and I’ll just keep doing different things and then I’ll cut the videos and layer them. I’ll make them some of them transparent, and I love when I have accidental, when things kind of what is it called, when things match up…
Gibson: Correspondences or something?
Lauren: Yeah, I do the same movement, and when I layer and they match up and there’s a part where I’m doing a movement that’s the same, both figures, but I didn’t plan it. I just layered them. And then it happened. And I was like, “Oh, well, it’s perfect,” you know? So a lot of it is this intangible attempt to exist in a space and be present. So I can’t put into words.
Broadsided: I think you did beautifully, and I’m wondering, Gibson, listening, what are you responding to or thinking about? What’s this making you think about your poem?
Gibson: I had no idea… I didn’t have any idea what an artist would pick up from the poem. And I forget, Liz, at what point you told me that it was a dance, but I was like, Wow, You know? And the way we see those– I almost think of the dancers as different selves in the woods–and the fact of the woods in the piece, which isn’t in the poem. And yet I loved and it felt just right. I didn’t really have expectations, but it was also different than my expectations. And … it’s beautiful.
Broadsided: Gibson, what question would you like to ask Lauren about her work, the piece, receiving it in this way, not having any kind of editorial feedback…what questions rose up for you?
Gibson: Yeah, I mean, I was thinking about that question of how did it start, and I love what you said, Lauren, about just being in a space and being present to it. And I wonder, is there/was there as you were thinking about this piece and putting these videos together, was there any bit of language that that gives you a jumping off point? Or is it more of a pure feeling of a piece of writing that you’re that you’re taking in and translating into your art?
Lauren: The image of the rim of the wound stood out to me because I imagined not as an individual but a big natural space. And I think the setting of the dreary sunrise, misty, wooded area seemed to embody… it seemed like the emotions went with that setting.
I’m trying to think there’s like this idea used a lot in film where the emotions of the character and the music and then the space around them all kind of expresses the message they’re trying to get across.
Broadsided: Well, and Lauren, for you, when you were working on this piece, was there a moment where you were like, “I wish I could ask Gibson this question. I wish. I wish I could just ask him this one thing.” Or now that the piece has been released into the world with both of your beautiful words, what questions linger for you for Gibson.
Lauren: I guess the question I have is at the opposite end of the spectrum from what you asked me: how do you take these really extremely emotional and heavy… there’s another word for what I’m trying to think of. These things that are extremely life-changing and then pick certain words and images to not describe it, but to be represented symbolically. How do you pare down your your words and images? Do you do you come up with it and it’s kind of immediate or is it a lot of editing?
Gibson: Yeah, this poem in particular…. I mean, usually I would say there’s a lot of editing, a lot, and there was editing in this poem for sure. But the basic structure of it, I think, was there at the beginning. It came after a bunch of … I’d have to go back and look, but I had a really intense year of writing lots of grief poems. Stories about my brother and mom and little human things.
And this poem is a little further back from that, and in some ways, I don’t think I was consciously intending this necessarily. It wasn’t like “I’m going to do this now.” But I think ultimately what I was trying to do as I got in there was describe this feeling in my chest that just wasn’t going away and still returns and just be present to it, whatever that is.
And I’ve always–we talked about this before when we spoke–but I’ve always loved what Lorca says about duende, and it’s always been a touchstone for me, and yet, part of me was like, “Fuck you, Lorca. Don’t tell me only good art is in the center of the wound.” I’m not ready to hang out there forever, you know? All of that stuff was swirling. And so, in some ways, what that makes me think is that when I’m writing a poem, when I’m really writing a poem, it’s probably that I’m doing something closer to what you were describing. I’ve suddenly stepped into a space, and then I’m trying to respond to the space. In this case, I think the space was in me, but there wasn’t a lot of “thinking” going on. I just disappeared into it. I think that’s the process of this poem.
Lauren: I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of receiving inspiration… and one of the questions, I think, is, “Is there a particular prompt that you would give someone?” And a lot of times I don’t start with prompts and things come when I’m not trying. So when I’m teaching or talking to artists I tell students to you need to put yourself in a place of risk, so that you can receive ideas. I got that idea from The Gift, by Lewis Hyde. I’ve read that and I give to students to read through… this idea of the bowl and you leave it out and things come to you.
Broadsided: How about you, Gibson? Do you have… I mean, there are so many ways we could take this, and I want to sit back and let you two talk to each other. But I also want to be able to offer folks things to leap from themselves, from this beautiful collaboration you’ve made. What’s your relationship to prompts and to generative work, and what would you offer as a creative spark?
Gibson: It’s funny, I both give a lot of prompts and I resist them at the same time. Whenever I teach… I’m teaching right now and I’m giving lots of prompts. But what I usually try to do with my students is to give like at least four options, and I always tell them that one of them is always none of the above. When you have the better idea, go down that road, right? I mean, something just pops up and that’s the thing you have to go with. So that’s very much how I think about it, too. I do sometimes, I guess, challenge myself with something like a prompt. Or you just get interested in like something like, Well, maybe I could do that kind of poem. But a lot of it just happens organically when I’m reading or looking at things in the world and being inspired and something just, you know, the two things meet that maybe don’t really need to.
Lauren: Yeah, something I practice myself and tell students is you have to put yourself in the situation to make the work even if you don’t feel like it. A lot of it’s just the ritual and practice and just putting yourself there. Sometimes I just sit on the floor of my studio and stare my painting, just lay there, and I’m like, I don’t really feel like doing this, but I’m going to lay here, look at it, and just maybe I’ll get an idea of how I want the painting to respond to me. And then the next day I’ll go in and paint a lot. So it’s like placing yourself in the space to make things.
Gibson: Absolutely. And for me, there are plenty of days where I’m like, “I’ve got nothing to say about anything and don’t want to,” but I can pull out a draft of something and try to say, “Okay how’s this striking me today? What’s happening here and how could this be better and how can it be its more authentic self?” Yeah, just showing up.
Broadsided: I’m listening to you both talk, and I’m listening to Lauren’s beautiful accent and I’m looking at you both as people who present as a man and a woman. And I’m wondering… this collaboration, it’s so intimate on so many levels, both visually and in terms of the poem itself. How did it feel to have someone “other” respond?
Lauren: I guess the reading was interesting because I’ve never done that before and I can’t imagine if we had the opportunity to be physically in the same space, how different things might be. I did get a sense of sharing something on Zoom to read the poem, but it was an emotional experience for me.
Broadsided: In what way?
Lauren: I guess knowing… the even though I didn’t know the specifics about the background, I think performing someone else’s work in a way I’m not used to for the first time in front of people… I’ve always performed different people’s work with dance, but I did that from three years old up until whenever I stopped performing, and so it does seem like second nature, but this was very different because I wasn’t in my comfort zone.
Gibson: And it was strange but great to hear the poem in your voice, just because of our differences of voice and on lots of other things, I’m sure. It was sort of great and thrilling. Actually, just a few weeks before we recorded, a friend of mine was doing a book launch and asked me to come and be one of the openers and read a poem. And I read this poem, and I had that experience… Liz, I imagine you’ve had it before, like most writers have, where I had written the poem a while before, it’s going out in the world, I think, “This will be a good choice. It’s short. I love this poem.” You know, very practical. This will be good, you know? But the reason I chose it is because this poet and I kind of had shared some grief stuff we were going through at the same time. She had lost her husband to COVID and wasn’t able to see him at the end of his life. It was one of those stories that was really awful. And they’d been married for 40 years or something. And I almost completely lost it when I was reading the poem. The emotions just came came for me in that moment. And I think I was able to hold it together, but it was… anyways, I don’t know why I’m telling that story, but it seems related to what you were saying about the emotion of something hitting you. And that’s to say, I don’t think you can plan that stuff. And even for me, I mean, I wrote the thing, I know what’s coming next… and it doesn’t matter. Sometimes, especially with other people and thinking about that stuff, it just it can come.
Broadsided: It’s something about embodiment, right? And I think that ties into the idea of performance, too. This is the first performance-based collaboration that we’ve been lucky enough to publish, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how it’s different in so many ways. And we made the 2D, printable broadside version, which I think captures some of the spirit and motion of what happened. But the video is so much more emotional and experiential and all-consuming. And for me as a viewer/listener, I just kind of dive in there, and I get lost in what’s happening. And I’m just really grateful for that experience.
I have all these questions for you guys, but I wonder… what have you been looking at or reading that’s inspired you lately? What other things do you think you want to say about this collaborative piece or your individual parts in it? Let me just open it up to both of you and we’ll find a way to find an ending.
Gibson: I did remember when I was thinking about this that I just read and listened to Kevin Wilson’s new novel, which is called Now is Not the Time to Panic. And, as it happens, I did not plan this at all, but there’s an impromptu broadside made by two sixteen-year-olds who are bored one summer that’s at the center of this extremely emotional, powerful, slim novel.
Gibson: Yeah. They are just these two teenagers, and they do this thing. They just sort of fall into it. And one of them comes up with the words and one of them comes up with the images and they make it and they start Xeroxing and putting it all up over the town… I won’t say anything else, but that’s where the novel jumps off from. And it’s quite a ride.
Broadsided: That’s so cool. I have to look at that novel.
Lauren: I tend read books you can learn about the artist’s process or the writer’s process, so recently I read I Paint What I Want to See, by Philip Guston. And what I really liked about that book was he talks about his studio practice and it’s very simple terms…I think what I really enjoyed or got from the book is that it seemed like it was necessary for him to make art, he’s not a person unless he’s making art. And so that is always inspiring to read, you know, because it gets your fires going. Like, “Okay, you know, I felt the same sometimes or most of the time.” And then something I recently started reading and somethingI’m a little late in reading and I think I still feel like I can learn from is Letters to A Young Poet by Rilke. I think I probably would have really loved it when I was in graduate school. I wish I’d read it back then, but it’s comforting to read and I guess I feel like I’m on the other side now as a teacher, and to see how he’s guiding this young poet… taking some of the things he says about getting inspiration and looking at the world around you are things are things I could take in to my class. So those are those are the two things I’ve most recently read.
Broadsided: It’s been forever since I’ve read those letters to a young poet. I think I read them last as an undergraduate. I need to go back.
Gibson: Me, too.
Broadsided: And then, so let’s find a way to wrap up. But I love to ask these wacky questions. Like, what kind of weather system would you be? And I would love to hear you answer that, but I feel a little awkward and shy asking in person versus asking on print. So…. I have that question. And also, it’s so important to us at Broadsided to envision these pieces going out into the physical world and finding people who need to discover them. So I am curious from both of you: where would you love to see this broadside out in the world, either the video or the print version? What would be your wildest dream for this piece to discover its audience?
Gibson: I was talking earlier about the how much I love Lauren’s trace of the woods and the video. And so I actually went this week to my favorite local patch of woods that I walk through a lot and put it right on the trailhead there, not blocking over the map, but off to the side so somebody might see it. If I could, I’d have it on every trailhead, everywhere.
Lauren: I thought of two places think it would be cool. Two summers ago, I got to go to Greece for the first time, and two places that felt extremely potent to me—the energy and spirit of the place —were the temple of Apollo Delphi, which of course Apollo’s a poet, the god of poetry, and then the temple of of Apollo– Portara in Naxos. That one probably more so because Naxos is Ariadne’s island, and Ariadne is just an embodiment of the duende, I think….
Broadsided: Say more about who Ariadne is just in case people don’t click in instantly to a visual memory of her.
Lauren: Ariadne was a princess; her dad was King Minos, and that’s where the Minotaur was, and Theseus was sent as a tribute from Athens, and Ariadne fell in love with him, and then she helped him get through the labyrinth. And then he eventually abandoned her at Naxos. And then she was found by Dionysus and she became the crown in the sky, the corona borealis at night. Knossos is where it was.
Broadsided: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah. The minotaur, I think, is like the prompt for all of us. Oh, yeah. Ariadne, the string through the maze in the labyrinth.
Lauren: We could put it on. We can put it in the labyrinth, too.
Broadsided: Is there anything else you want to say to each other? You’ve never met before doing this project together. Hopefully, maybe, you’ll go on to do work again together in the future. I don’t know…. But I’m just so grateful to both of you for taking this time and for offering your beautiful work to Broadsided and being willing to be the first people to engage, in person, in one of these Q&A s and to share your process so generously. So, thank you. And I wonder if you both have concluding words for each other or for your own process that you want to share.
Gibson: I have one thing to add, which is that because this poem was inspired by Lorca in one way, I went back. I’ve got a lot of favorite Lorca moments, but I found one that I thought spoke to this project just a tiny bit, so I’m just going to share that about the duende and about the Spanish flamenco singer Manuel Torre. Lorca writes, “Each art has a duende different in form and style, but their roots meet in the place where the black sounds of Manuel Torre come from—the essential, uncontrollable, quivering common base of wood, sound, canvas, and word. Behind those black sounds, tenderly and intimately, live zephyrs, ants, volcanoes, and the huge night, straining its waist against the Milky Way.” That’s the end quote. And very Lorca. You know, once you read a little bit of his prose, that’s what he does.
Broadsided: Yeah, it’s huge. That’s amazing.
Lauren: I don’t know how I can top that? I’m thankful for being invited to participate in this. And I’m definitely hoping I keep a dialog on this, too. I love working collaboratively with people and seeing ways that other people’s work can inspire new work and processes. And it’s nice to not be completely isolated in the studio, only talking to myself.
Gibson: Yeah, absolutely. I send that back your way 100%. I love, love doing stuff with other artists and writers. The dance is truly amazing. And thank you.
Lauren: Thank you so much.
Broadsided: Thank you both. And have a beautiful weekend. I can’t wait to release this to the world.
(Note: Printable broadside designed by Megan Tan)