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Collaborators’ Q&A

What inspired you to “dibs” this poem?
Artist Kevin Morrow: I dibsed this poem by Jericho because of its simplistic complexity. Something which is so simple is always so “open” and enduring. It opens in all of us the uncanny human ability to think, know, interpret, understand, and formulate philosophies. It’s like what one of my “heroes” Woody Guthrie says…”any fool can get complicated, but it takes genius to attain simplicity.” I also felt that my work is completely married to that idea, that openness, and the invitation of contemplation of the philosophies of nature, beauty… the open field, if you will combined with Jericho’s writing was a perfect match.

Did the visual artist refract any element of the poem that made you see the poem differently?
Poet Jericho Brown: Something about the image(s)—maybe the way the knotholes and growth rings resemble eyes, birds, and/or birds’ eyes—makes it much more clear how much land and landscape is viewed in a poem so short.

What first leapt out at you from the poem and what was your gut response?
Artist Kevin Morrow: My gut response to the poem was not an image or anything like that—it was to dibs the poem itself before anyone else would…as soon as I read it, I just felt that it would be a good match…the contemplation of image, though not long amounts of contemplation followed after.

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem?
Poet Jericho Brown: I thought anyone would “pick up” that the speaker is a slut.

When you begin a piece of visual work (or, if that’s too broad, when you began this piece), is it color, shape, or some other aspect that you follow?
Artist Kevin Morrow: When I begin a work, I just begin a work. I never approach a canvas, paper, etc. with the idea that there is something that “needs” to be created, or that I am going to create the world’s next masterpiece, as society and timing determines that. My thinking in the matter is that this is not going to be the last work I ever create. I’ve familiarized myself with myself over the years, so I approach a canvas as Kevin P. Morrow, and begin to work.

What surprised you about this collaborative piece?
Poet Jericho Brown: The leaves in the image point everywhere like wild arrows. I just love that.
Artist Kevin Morrow: How natural the collaboration felt…I’ve tried collaboration before, and it has been very tricky and usually unfruitful. I didn’t feel that was the case this time.

If your art were a plant, what would it be?
Artist Kevin Morrow: My work is a living thing like all plants…It is created, it can wither, as well as resurrect.

If the broadside collaboration were a plant, what would it be?
Artist Kevin Morrow: Depends upon the season of the poem, I suppose.

If your poem were a plant, what would it be? The broadsided collaboration?
Poet Jericho Brown: From the looks of things, the poem isn’t a plant at all; it’s a tree or, I should say, a brief orchard. But to answer your question, I hope that each poem I write is an Audrey II: persuasive, rhythmic, unwieldy in its controlled and controlling nature.

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? Seen any good art lately?
Poet Jericho Brown: I love viewing the paintings of Daniel Minter and have written a poem called, “On Daniel Minter’s High John the Conqueror,” which was recently published in The Journal. (The poem is also one of the pieces from the second book I’m drafting, tentatively titled, The New Testament.) Of course, Minter is no Kevin Morrow, but he is an amazing talent, and I have a goal of writing a poem based on each of his pieces. Most recently though, I’ve been sidetracked by an obsession with the work of Brian Keith Thomas; I swear I’d marry that guy if he would have me. We both live in California, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

For a long time, I resisted the ekphrastic mode. I didn’t want to read anything that asked me to know something other than what the poem could tell me, and I didn’t see a difference between ekphrasis and allusion. Please, my first book, changed all that. I realized that by writing poems with titles like, “Track 1: Lush Life” and “Track 5: Summertime” I was doing ekphrastic work…I was writing an ekphastic book. Because I had dealt with music in this way, I then felt free to do the same with visual art. The thrill, though, is a different one. I grew up with that music, and I’m incapable of thinking about it without thinking of myself as an example of the people affected by it. I’m only now learning anything about visual art, and looking at Minter and Thomas lead me to a view of myself and my people that is much more ariel. I love black people so much, but Minter and Thomas make me wonder if I could love them more…if I haven’t done enough loving.

If you had to represent the broadside of “Open” with one word, what would it be?
Poet Jericho Brown: Cut.
Artist Kevin Morrow: Shut. Ha!

Read any good books lately?
Poet Jericho Brown: Every summer, I make a goal of immersing myself in a subject or an author. Last summer, for instance, I read or reread all of Toni Morrison’s novels. This summer, I’ve been reading biographies and autobiographies of women television news reporters. Presently, I’m almost done with Almost Golden: Jessica Savitch and the Selling of Television News by Gwenda Blair. Blair is a more than capable researcher and sentence-maker, clearly as passionate about her subject as I am increasingly fascinated by the world of infotainment and reality TV as phenomenons of popular culture. Savitch, in particular, further confounds and blurs my own ideas about reality and performance, self and character. This is probably the case because I make up so many things in my poems but forget that I only imagined them.
Artist Kevin Morrow: The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran, Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson, LBJ: Architect of American Ambition by Randall B. Woods, A History of God by Karen Armstrong, Through the Rose Window: Art, Myth and the Religious Imagination by John F. Hayward.

Seen any good art lately?
Artist Kevin Morrow: The last real thing I saw was a great series of prints and drawings at a local bookshop here in Milwaukee, but I’ve been so mired in the studio, its been a while since I’ve been out to an art show, regrettably.

Anything else?
Poet Jericho Brown: Thank you.

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