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“To Remain in Perhaps”

Posted on • Words by • Art by

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Collaborators’ Q&A

What made you think of Broadsided for this poem?
Poet Jennifer K. Sweeney: This poem has a different voice than others I’ve written. Maybe it is the kind of voice we might use sitting next to a stranger on a bus, or the kind of voice we might collectively hear in a café from many different speakers circling in their own centers of talk. It’s a voice that wants to reach out warmly to someone one doesn’t know but  does not say too much: just enough to relieve the burden and briefly light the trees. 

What inspires you in this poem? What drew you to it?
Artist Kate Baird: I responded to the zooming out from “your life” to a geological time frame, and also to the idea that things are both incredibly tenuous and incredibly not tenuous, like those dragonflies.

What did you think an artist would pick up on from your poem?
Poet Jennifer K. Sweeney: I thought there might be some interpretation of impermanence, a kind of blurriness in the flux. Flux does inform Kate’s work here, but I am delighted at the collage of forms, textures, and lines. 

When you began this piece, was it color, shape, or some other aspect that you followed? Did that change?
Artist Kate Baird: I was interested in representing the passage of time through stacking, like sediment. Also the material properties of the rice paper roof, the line made by the train tracks into the ocean, and the delicacy of a stuck wing.

Did the visual artist refract any element of the poem that made you see the poem differently?
Poet Jennifer K. Sweeney: Kate heightened it, made the transformations of the poem more tactile for me. The poem stays with the in-betweenness, the unknowing, and that has caused me to experience this poem mostly on an interior level. I realize now that I held the “perhaps” with the most weight when writing it. The visual interpretation sharpens the imagery for me, images that emerged somewhat subconsciously, and that I didn’t fully see until I saw them here.

What surprised or struck you once you saw the finished broadside?
Poet Jennifer K. Sweeney: How Kate enacted the couplets via mixed media! I love the strata of the pieced elements as well as the watermark of image-layers beneath the text. All the lines of motion spiral or angle in different directions and those wings etched and displaced do so as well.
Artist Kate Baird: I said that one of the things that drew me to the poem was the idea of stacking or layers upon layers. I hadn’t thought of the printed poem also having that visual property until I saw the finished broadside, where it’s very apparent. Also, I love the slightly off-kilter composition of the broadside.

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 Jennifer K. Sweeney: Yes, my father had always wanted to be an artist but alas, became an accounting professor instead. When he turned sixty, he completed an undergraduate degree in art at the university where he taught and became a gifted printmaker. Having this new creative access to my father, I began writing poems to accompany his art. It was a treasured and illuminating call and response. The top panel in Kate’s piece looks so much like a linocut he did a few years back. It’s almost as if a little fragment of that energy entered the work here.

How does literature fit into your creative life as a visual artist?
Artist Kate Baird: I read all the time, and reading for me is very much related to making things. When I read, I’m bringing fictional things, places, and people into being. When I make things, I’m taking the jumble of people, places, interactions, memories, etc. and sifting them to some kind of physical/material order. Both reading and making things are ongoing, flowing sorts of mental processes that could turn out/imagined in a million ways. Maybe another reason I was attracted to this poem was the title. “To Remain in Perhaps” is a pretty great description of both reading and making.

Describe the collaboration in one word.
Poet Jennifer K. Sweeney: Woven.
Artist Kate Baird: Layers.

If this broadside were a piece of music, what would it be?
Poet Jennifer K. Sweeney: It would be the kind of music nature makes with the human-made world. Rain dripping into bottles, wind whipping nets into forms, a storm beating tins.
Artist Kate Baird: Maybe a recording of ambient sound in a place where there are no people?

Read any good books lately?
Poet Jennifer K. Sweeney: I’m reading tiny books as companions lately. Last week, a slim little marvel: On Imagination by Mary Ruefle. And Devotion by Patti Smith.
Artist Kate Baird: Sing, Unburied, Sing and Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward, Little Disturbances of Man by Grace Paley, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, and Esther Stories by Peter Orner.

Seen any good art lately?
Poet Jennifer K. Sweeney: I’m sorry to say that I have not in person. Hungry for it.
Artist Kate Baird: There’s a beautiful room of Richard Tuttle’s prints right now in the museum where I work. They’re about to come down, so I’m trying to spend a little time with them each day.

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 Jennifer K. Sweeney: I would add the credit that the title comes from a casual description of the lyric poem in the book Lyric Postmodernisms. A wonderful book!

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