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“The Fox”

Posted on • Words by • Art by

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem?
Poet Amy Newman:  The speaker in the poem, a little god of her backyard, is disappointed to such an extent in the fox’s failure to obey her unreasonable demand—that he not hunt—that she creates an expulsion-from-Eden situation and ruins her whole paradise with her anger and her spite. The fox is such a pretty animal, and I hoped the artist would see the beauty of fox and his vulnerability, and something of the pique on the part of the speaker. I see this all in Stacy’s work.

What inspires you in this poem? What drew you to it?
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: The notion of ignoring that one request lingered with me. So often I find myself offering with a sort of naïve hope in regard to others and when reading this poem with the possibility of responding to it visually, I was drawn to it as reflective opportunity—especially when considering another being perceived as lost somewhere between tame and wild, full and expecting.

Did the visual artist refract any element of the poem that made you see the poem differently?
Poet Amy Newman: After salivating over the image of the fox, who is everything one could hope for (his ghost-y shape and his manner, his susceptibility, his interest in the wildness of that space in the floor, and his vulnerability as well), I became very interested in the hand and string images: the ties between the giving hand leading to the fox, and how that tie is loose and a little tangled at that fourth stanza shift.

When you began this piece, was it color, shape, or some other aspect that you followed? Did that change?
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: My first sketches explored teeth and fur, but this response seemed too literal. As I began blind contour drawings of my hands offering and receiving, I felt like I was better connecting to the gesture of the poem.  After exploring these line drawings within a collaged space, the image became more supportive overall of this unexpected nurturing.

What surprised or struck you once you saw the finished broadside?
Poet Amy Newman: I was surprised by the shift of the first line in stanza four. There the speaker carries out her punishment, and where Stacy manipulates the line is a kind of emphasis of the manipulation on the speaker’s part, which will punish the fox and his hunger so—and by this, destroy her own paradise. [Editor’s note: the poem’s original text did not have that line indented, but the designer made that shift.]
Artist Stacy Isenbarger:
I enjoy how the orange cord pushes out the line that ends in hunger. As a moment where this poem and image connect on the page, I appreciate how much more weight is felt in this desire for more.

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 Amy Newman: The working title of my second book Camera Lyrica was Realism/Naturalism, because so much of that book is taken up with the challenge artists have of recording the “real” without arresting it in time. Most inspiring is the very question of what constitutes the “real”—the description of exterior, material elements outside of you, or your interior perception of the world—a debate Virginia Woolf settles, I think, when she writes, “Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end.”

How does literature fit into your creative life as a visual artist?
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: The writing of others often inspires me. Poetry, in particular, helps me visualize loose connections to materials and forms I work with.

Describe the collaboration in one word.
Poet Amy Newman: Released
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: Pulled

If this broadside were a piece of music, what would it be?
Poet Amy Newman: Something delightful, dark and spiteful.

Read any good books lately?
Poet Amy Newman: I’m enjoying several books of poetry, including Rita Mae Reese’s Book of Hulga, Molly McCully Brown’s The Virginia State Colony for Epileptics and Feebleminded, Loop of Jade by Sarah Howe, Unaccompanied by Javier Zamora, and Portrait of the Alcoholic by Kaveh Akbar. And I’m translating poetry these days, so it’s wonderful to come across work like Something Crosses My Mind, Eleanor Goodman’s translations of Wang Xiaoni.
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: Just got around to reading Maggie Nelson’s The Red Parts and I’m sorry I waited so long…

Seen any good art lately?
Poet Amy Newman:  I love Mark Tansey. And I keep with me a photocopy of an artist’s installation called “Box, 1994”; the installation includes her painting of her grandparent’s wedding, and her grandmother’s wedding dress extends, in canvas, beyond the frame.…there is more to the work, but I am so upset that I can’t find the art or the artist’s name.
Artist Stacy Isenbarger: Recently checked out a Cindy Sherman retrospective at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, OH. Confronting a couple pieces there finally made her dedication to her photographic approach make sense to me. I still can’t say I love her work, but I now get its relevance more.

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 Amy Newman: I have fallen in love with Stacy’s fox.
Artist Stacy Isenbarger:
There are so many great statements to linger with here. “so I don’t feed him anymore.” …That’s a thought perhaps more of us self-sacrificers, over-givers out there should consider more intensely. Amy, thanks for such a great piece to respond to.


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