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“Searching for Poems on Grief”

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem?
Poet Lisa Oritz: I assumed it would be a somber piece, but I like how non-literal it is. The abstract sculptures are photographed in a matter-of-fact way that I find surprising and interesting. They are not sentimental images, and I appreciate that.

What inspires you in this poem?
Artist Kevin Morrow: What inspires me in this poem is its mystery and coolness. I immediately felt objects were needed rather than images. And the placement within the wooden box was necessary as the poem gave me this country, barn, plains feel to it, for me. I can’t say exactly why that is, but that is the beauty of writing…there are words that have meaning(s) but when strung together well, they create a picture or in this case objects which cannot be described as such with words.

Did the visual artist refract any element of the poem that made you see the poem differently?
Poet Lisa Oritz: The choice of a photographed still life is lovely—concurrently abstract and concrete, like grief itself. Morrow didn’t illustrate the poem—he reacted to it. Much more interesting.

What surprised you about this collaborative piece?
Poet Lisa Oritz: It is collaborative! But of course I have never met or talked to Kevin Morrow, so it’s an unusual process—we are really using editors and the internet to connect. It feels very modern… and it’s pretty darn fun.

What surprised you about this piece, once you saw the artwork and poem together?
Artist Kevin Morrow: How well the divisions worked. That is, the divisions of the words in concurrence with the objects. (I will use this opportunity to answer the next question as well). I’m glad these divisions worked well, because when I first started inspecting the poem to create art for it, I saw three separate poems instead of one. As mentioned before, the poem immediately said object(s) not image…then as I looked and read closer it was indeed separated poems, very nicely woven together by Ms. Ortiz. So the necessity of multiple objects became apparent.

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 Lisa Oritz: I wrote once about Albrecht Durer’s “Portrait of a Young Hare.” Such a strange almost human-like drawing. It’s obviously from life. He must have had a hare in his studio, sitting on a little table. So I imagined his studio and all the other things he must have in there, the saints, the Christ figures, etc. It was the detailed, serious mood of the drawing that allowed me to riff into my own take detail and creativity. I enjoyed being inspired by somebody else’s interpretation of life. It would be quite a different experience to write about the hare directly. It’s also lovely to say the name of a famous painting or drawing and make it appear in a reader’s head. Such a marvelous shortcut!

If you had to represent the broadsided “Searching for Poems on Grief” with one word, what would it be?
Poet Lisa Oritz: If I knew how to do it with one word, I wouldn’t have wasted ink and paper writing the whole thing down!
Artist Kevin Morrow: My answer is that, although I have come up with one word to describe these collaborations in the past, this time I find that I cannot answer in one word; rather this collaboration truly made my mind go on walkabout.

Read any good books lately?
Poet Lisa Oritz: I just finished Come, Thief (Jane Hirshfield)—a redefinition of goodness.
Artist Kevin Morrow: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, Heidegger’s Hut by Adam Sharr.

Seen any good art lately?
Poet Lisa Oritz: I saw “The Steins Collect” show at SFMoMA. Speaking of collaboration between artists and writers, that is a show worth seeing!
Artist Kevin Morrow: I have been spending a lot of time at the Metropolitan Museum of Art looking at “The Death of Socrates” by Jacques Louis David.

Note:  This broadside and interview are included in the anthology, Broadsided Press: Fifteen Years of Poetic/Artistic Collaboration, 2005-2020 (Provincetown Arts Press, 2022).

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