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“Pelt”

Posted on • Words by • Art by

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What inspired you to bring your work to Broadsided?
Poet Erica Reid: In some parallel universe, I am a visual artist—but in this universe, that is absolutely not my skill. I love the way that Broadsided pairs poems with incredible visual artists; Stacy made this poem say more than I was able to on my own.

What drew you to create a visual response to this poem, in particular?
Artist Stacy Isenbarger:
My creative sensibilities were invested by “wiffy kiss.” Texture, tangle, and tension, things I appreciate playing off of, they’re all here to react to.

How did this poem come to be?
Poet Erica Reid: This poem erupted from the idea that sometimes you’re in a bad mood that you just want to wallow in, instead of spending all of your energy clawing your way out of it.

How did this image come to be?
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: I started a wall-relief 3D work that included a shirt sleeve cuff but bailed on it for this purpose as it started to feel less and less connected to “Pelt.” While that false start became its own piece (thank you, Erica, for the push into something new) I worked on this flatter collage with a focus on creating a collision of textures in conflict, thus the painted-on concrete opposing the sheen of packing tape and the crumpled paper, tree bark & string tangles up against the flat black drape. I went back in to add pink and orange to offer a sense of vulnerability and temperature change that paired with my read of the feeling under this pelt or perceived weight/wait.

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem? Does the artist’s response make you see the poem differently?
Poet Erica Reid: Stacy’s image both agrees with my poem and expands upon it. The attitude is spot-on—it’s tangled, it’s messy, it’s sharp—but as Stacy says, there is also a vulnerability that I’m so glad she included. Teeth appear in many of my poems for some reason, and I’m delighted to see them here acting almost as music notes on a staff. 

Did anything shift for you or come into new light as you began working on your visual response?
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: I originally was trying to avoid imagery of teeth. The comparison to them was already working so well in the poem; I didn’t think my take on them could compete. But when I abandoned my sleeve cuff and buttons idea, I drew them on fabric interfacing I had out on my sewing table and attached them to the drawing with tape.  In leaving their roots revealed, I hope they offer a parallel sense of looseness or vulnerability.

Poet to Artist: Throughout the process of designing your artistic response, did anything surprise you? 
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: I appreciate being a Broadsided artist because I expect unexpected ideas to come through the process. Therefore, it is hard for me to point to any felt “surprises;” instead the whole things is just a break into something different. I try to start with a loose idea and then let a mix of material curiosity and the poet’s phrasing steer me forward. It’s refreshing to be in my studio with another voice inside my head.

Artist to Poet: Did the idea of speaking to a mood or a physical coat come first when conceiving of “Pelt”?
Poet Erica Reid:
I think of the two ideas as twins—they were born together, with the mood arriving just a moment ahead of the coat. My worst moods come with a physical sensation not unlike what is described in “Pelt.” 

When you consider the full folio of work from this issue (see the “related broadsides” links on the left), what questions, observations, or connections arise for you?  
Poet Erica Reid: I’m seeing (feeling?) so much touch, body, discomfort. My “Pelt” is full of these images of course, but I can’t help also notice bones, inflammation, “ragged gasps,” wrists, more teeth, and legs “bent a little like broken gutters” across the folio.
Artist Stacy Isenbarger:
In recent work, I’ve been thinking about the upkeep and allegiance to the veneer of domestic spaces. There is a toll taken to keep up appearances from whatever side faces the street. In “Graffiti on Moving DAy,” the lack of walls in Jennifer Van’s photo balanced with H.E. Fisher’s “only for the Krylon to return a day or two later” makes me think further about what happens when we don’t let authentic living win out. What honest boundaries are we losing? What are we washing out?

Describe your ideal “Vectorization”—where, in your wildest dreams, would you most like to see this broadside posted in the world?
Poet Erica Reid: When I was in elementary school, the principal hung a poem of mine on her office door (something about an eagle, our school mascot). In my wildest dreams, the office door might belong to Diane Seuss, Anne Carson, Tom Waits…
Artist Stacy Isenbarger:
I wouldn’t call it wild, but I’d love to see these popping up in vintage shop dressing rooms. Discovering printouts landing there would give me the satisfaction that it landed with the right audience somehow.

If this Broadsided collaboration were a type of weather, what would it be?
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: A wintry mix falling too late in the spring.
Poet
Erica Reid: I can’t top Stacy’s answer, she’s nailed it again. Cold enough to need that wretched sable, but the world is irritatingly damp from thaw.

Do you have a favorite, generative prompt for artists or writers you’d like to share?
Poet Erica Reid: The poem “Pelt” was driven by its language… by the desire to use chunky phrases such as “thick hulk funking its bulk.” Choose a simple object to describe (such as a coat) and let the sonic qualities of language drive where the poem goes. Truly hand over the reins to your ear as much as possible, and push into absurdity when it appears. 
Artist Stacy Isenbarger:
There are many, but here’s one I offered up to my class recently: Pair up with someone and together conceive of a love story between two textures. Utilize their unique physical expressions and sensory pull to inspire the kind of surprising union one might also find, with further consideration, well-suited for one another.  Ketchup and French Fries could be an example of this, but that’s too easy and understood as a side dish, not a love story.  The challenge here is to create an unknown “perfect” union and to image the story of how they come together.

Read any good books lately?
Poet Erica Reid: I’m reading Seamus Heaney’s poetry for a class I’m co-teaching, and between those readings I’m devouring Lynn Schmeidler’s short story collection Half-Lives
Artist Stacy Isenbarger:
I recently picked up Tess Gunty’s The Rabbit Hutch.  Well worth the read.

Seen any good art lately?
Poet Erica Reid: I came across the stunning work of landscape artist Ed Mell just a few months before he passed away in February 2024. Just look at his dramatic, angular Western skylines. I want to write a poem that feels like that.  
Artist Stacy Isenbarger:
Dig into what these folks are up to: Cooking Sections. I appreciate what they are challenging and their reach.

Anything else?
Poet & Artist: No, but thank you for asking!

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