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“Moonlight as Liason” (Vizsolyi & Isenbarger)

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What made you think of Broadsided for this poem?
Poet M. A. Vizsolyi: This is a poem about movement, and a broadside exists as a waypoint in spaces where people move often. I imagine the poem existing in a liminal space, perhaps being read by someone on their way to somewhere else. Because the poem is about journeys and all the complications of simply moving, I would hope that a reader might stop for a minute and read the poem. Maybe the poem causes the potential reader to consider their walk more closely, to examine the face of their own particular evening.

What inspires you in this poem? What drew you to it?
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: I was drawn to the sense of sparse yet weighted space and possibility surrounding a simple walk towards something else. Often, I find myself similarly heading out and already contemplating a more interesting return. I appreciate the reflections offered as one moves through the poem.

Describe your dream “Vectorization”—where, in your wildest dreams, would you most like to see this broadside posted in the world?
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: I’m imaging it as a performance piece of sorts read out loud as someone moves strategically along from one concrete square to the next. Nothing wild about it really, but sharing it in various places, through passing time, among empires waiting for tomorrow, would be a worthwhile experience.
Poet M. A. Vizsolyi: I’d love to the see the broadside at a bus stop or train station in a city, where I remember myself having to waiting to go to work or school or friends. I remember being alone in those places with my headphones. I was hyperaware and hyper-receptive to what was going on around me. I’d like the broadside to serve as a moment in your day. Maybe it brings a memory back. Maybe it does little more than cause you to drop your head for a moment. Whatever effect it has, I’m honored to have words in your world.

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 M. A. Vizsolyi: Because the poem is a narrative of sorts, of course my imagination went to a visual representation of that narrative. I’m glad, however, that I was wrong! The artist did a wonderful job of creating layers that feel disparate yet connected. It opened my eyes to the world of the poem and how that world will look different depending upon your experience with “walking.” I appreciate the natural world of the stone over the very human celebratory candles. It feels as if something is looming in the natural world, which, of course, is.

In seeing the other artist’s visual response, what occurs to you?
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: My first thought: “OK, so we both didn’t dwell on the mood of moonlight guiding one away from home.” Then quickly I was struck by the bird form while reading it in line as “…under their eye…” No. Wait. “…under your feet.” I appreciated feeling my sense of space shifting further considering how much Vizsolyi’s words already do so for me.

In thinking about the two visual responses, how does the poem change between them?
Poet M. A. Vizsolyi: As an editor for a number of years who often includes visual art alongside of text, I’ve been aware of art’s ability to influence the tone of a piece in a number of ways. It wasn’t until I saw it so clearly with my own poem that I really felt just how much a particular piece of visual art can influence the piece from the start. It’s akin to the way a piece of background music can influence the way we interpret a scene in a movie. The poem felt completely different in each version—darker in one and more hopeful in the other.

Have you ever written work that has been inspired by visual art (other than Diego Rivera’s!)? What was that experience like for you? Why were you inspired to do so?
Poet M. A. Vizsolyi: Yes. In fact, I’m currently writing a series of poems that responds to the artist Arshile Gorky. I’m particularly interested in the self-portraits of the artist and his mother. Looking at that painting, I could see the rich cultural and emotional history they contained as people. I could also see myself there, and my own mother. I think that’s what happens with visual art for writers and maybe for any viewer. We see ourselves in a piece, feel we own a particular kind of experience with the piece, and try to express that experience in words. I grew up with a single mom who was the child of immigrants, so I felt, when viewing Gorky’s piece, that his “voice” sounded like my own.

If this broadside were a type of weather, what would it be?
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: It’s a wind and rain mix picking up some momentum on a fall evening.
Poet M. A. Vizsolyi: I also imagine fall. I imagine a bit of earth smeared across the broadside, as if someone found it slightly buried in the ground, picked it up, dusted it off, and hung it up somewhere.

Read any good books lately?
Poet M. A. Vizsolyi: Laurie Foos’ Toast, which is a YA novel that centers on a child who is on the spectrum. I always appreciate books that increase my capacity for empathy in certain ways. I just finished Ted Chiang’s Exhalation, a collection of science fiction stories. He continually challenges my idea of science fiction and what it can accomplish. Ah, and Paul Yoon’s The Mountain was gorgeous. The prose is exquisite and quiet and spare—as are the characters in the stories.
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: Alexandra Teague’s Or What We’ll Call Desire was quite a treat for me.  And just picked up TC Tolbert’s Gephyromania (late on that one) but am appreciating folding into this book’s  tensions too.

Seen any good art lately?
Poet M. A. Vizsolyi: I currently teach at Goddard College, where I often have the chance to see the work that students in the undergraduate art program produce during their time. There’s a kind of pure energy in the work of the students, an energy that’s wholly engaged with art as more than beauty—rather art that serves to directly critique art-making in a turbulent society. I encourage people to check out Goddard’s art programs.
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: Just viewed The Bell, the Digger, and the Tropical Pharmacy, a 2014 art film by Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla, at the Portland Art Museum. It is worth a visit but spending time with any other works of theirs typically is worth it too.

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).
Poet M. A. Vizsolyi: I just want to say how humbled I am by the artists’ responses to my work, and I want to thank them for their thoughtful response. I really am floored by the experience.
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: Thanks again for this experience of responding through making!

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