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Collaborators’ Q&A

What surprises you about Catherine’s poem in conversation with your art?
Artist Kara Searcy: I was surprised by all of the color that was in the poem, and it was especially fun that colors weren’t listed—images were! I think it brought the piece to life.

This poem was chosen in response to Kara Searcy’s art—can you talk about the experience of finding words that were in conversation with the image? What leapt out first from Kara’s art? A particular image? A mood? A line?
Poet Catherine R. Cryan: There are so many opportunities for stories in this image. The hazy quality invites peering closer, first to make out the dimly-lit scene, then to ask the hows and whys. The sepia tones and wrinkles give this the impression of being an old photograph, but there is something strange-new-world-ish or post-apocalyptic about it. I tend to look for connections to the natural world, and Kara’s art was finely devoid of natural things. The figures in the image have this dreamlike, wistful quality, and left me wondering what their lives—their conflicts and dreams—had been like before. What I saw instantly was the opposites: while they are looking down the stairs, at what awaits them, the speaker can’t help but remember what was behind them.

What did you expect a writer to pick up on from “Matthew 7”?
Artist Kara Searcy: Well, I wondered if anyone would realize that the picture’s title was a reference to Matthew’s gospel, found in the Christian bible. (The “7” representing the seventh chapter in that particular book.)

This particular chapter in Matthew’s gospel covers a multitude of things from “the golden rule” to building your house on a solid foundation (the house being a metaphor). One thing in that chapter that has always stood out to me is verse 14, which states “But the gateway to life is very narrow and the road is difficult, and only a few ever find it.”

I had wanted the piece to capture that we live in broken world, but that there is life and hope in the midst of struggle as people walk the narrow path of life.

Paired with the art, do you think the poem does something different or has a different tone?
Poet Catherine R. Cryan: Without the art, I think the poem is simply ground-level. It is only alongside the art that the story arises.

Paired with the poem, do you think the art does something different or has a different tone?
Artist Kara Searcy: It’s hard to say. I want to say that the poem makes the picture lighter, but the picture makes the poem darker. It’s an interesting combination!

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 Catherine R. Cryan: For a college class, I was assigned to pair a poem with Monet’s “Path Through the Irises.” The poem was what you’d expect from a college science major with senioritis. But I have planted blue and white irises everywhere I’ve lived ever since. I’d like to approach it someday with a kinder eye.

Have you ever had a writer respond to your work before? What was the experience like?
Artist Kara Searcy: Nope!

If your poem were an animal, what would it be?
Poet Catherine R. Cryan: A silverfish, or a red-backed salamander. Something that survives in the cracks.

If your art were an animal, what would it be?
Artist Kara Searcy: A finch. But, I think I’m under the influence of Catherine’s poem. 🙂

If the broadside collaboration were an animal, what would it be?
Artist Kara Searcy: A coyote!
Poet Catherine R. Cryan: The first stag beetle of spring, landing on a quince in full bloom. Kara’s artwork most certainly blooms.

Read any good books lately?
Artist Kara Searcy: The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien AND Jude (a book in the New Testament)
Poet Catherine R. Cryan: A yearly re-read of Sharon Creech’s Walk Two Moons. And Twenty Questions by J.D. McClatchy.

Seen any good art lately?
Artist Kara Searcy: Just the stuff on Broadsided!
Poet Catherine R. Cryan: I went to a gallery showing of Selina Trieff’s work last summer—my first actual gallery event. It was nearly a year ago and I still cannot get it out of my head.

Anything else?
Poet Catherine R. Cryan: It is May! When, according to Edwin Way Teale, all things seem possible.

Editors’ Note

If we had but world enough and time, we might do a switcheroo every other month: one month have writers respond to art, the next have artists respond to poems. The dynamic, the back-and-forth, the surprising reverberations that are created as words and image bounce against each other are exciting, inspiring, and always startling.

Both Gabe’s and Kara’s images inspired a wealth of good writing and, we are happy to say, entries were fairly evenly divided between the two artists. Both inspired. And inspired widely.

Kara Searcy’s apocalyptic image with its Biblical title took writers toward war, toward intimacy, toward airlines and armies and desire, desire, desire. Even toward the oddity of the octopus. In the end, Catherine R. Cryan’s poem of pleading and dream, of toxins and nostalgia, her slim plea, seemed to speak for and with the image.

The lines in Gabriel Travis’s image inspired many writers, as did the voice of the raven itself/himself. Raven as trickster, raven as corvid, raven as epitome of the soul, raven as observer of our messed-up world, raven as hold-out in our increasingly technological world—all had their voice.

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