What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem?
Poet James Arthur: I really didn’t know what to expect. I’m not sure I had any definite expectations. But I love what Se Thut Quon came up with. It’s brilliant.
What inspires you in this poem?
Artist Se Thut Quon: I favor tales of excess over outlines for moderation. I have trouble throwing things away. The poem satisfies by mixing brutal opportunism with a righteous abhorrence of waste.
Did the visual artist refract any element of the poem that made you see the poem differently?
Poet James Arthur: Yes. I think that Se Thut Quon’s image captures the directness and the aggression of “Omnivore,” and for me, those qualities have always been dominant in the poem—but I also think that Se Thut Quon’s work brings forward “Omnivore’s” sexual subtext. For me, that was eyeopening.
What surprised you when you saw the poem and art together?
Artist Se Thut Quon: How clean it seems.
What surprised you about this collaborative piece?
Poet James Arthur: How profoundly Se Thut Quon’s work enriches the poem.
When you began, what aspect did you follow?
Artist Se Thut Quon: The image of the shark, imagined with jaws agape. The photographic medium lends an appearance of reality that is crucial to the poem. But as the poem concerns a seeming lack of discrimination, the body part depicted is, at first glance, meant to be hard to place. The confusion begs the question—has the speaker turned to bite you in the ass or is this wound self-inflicted?
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 James Arthur: A few years ago I wrote a poem, “Bucephalus, Charging,” that was partly inspired by Al Wadzinski’s “Bucaphalus.” “Bucaphalus” is a sculpture of Alexander the Great’s horse, made out of found objects, and up close, Wadzinski’s Bucaphalus is frightening—a real monster. In “Bucephalus, Charging,” I tried to give that creature a voice, and it was one of the first times that I experimented with an anti-social narrator. In some ways, “Omnivore” is a psychological descendant of that poem.
If you had to represent the Broadsided of “Omnivore” with one word, what would it be?
Poet James Arthur: Fierce
Artist Se Thut Quon: Me hungry
Read any good books lately?
Poet James Arthur: Well, I have a 10-month old son. I believe the last 10 books I’ve read have all been The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
Seen any good art lately?
Poet James Arthur: Yes! Just 10 days ago I saw the Asian art exhibition at the Seattle Art Museum. Terrific! That exhibition is now finished, but I think they’re going to begin a Gauguin show in a few weeks.
Poet James Arthur: Thank you all very much! It’s been a wonderful experience.