A DANCE OF POETRY & ART…
POET: REBECCA CLIFFORD
When did you start writing poetry?
I started stitch together words at an early age. Fascinated by gems such as “Jabberwocky”, I sought to create words of my own. Constance Metcalf, my high school English teacher encouraged me further, and I’ve never lost the itch to stitch words together.
Why do you write poetry?
I could give you an esoteric diatribe about instilling social justice, changing the world, righting a multitude of wrongs AND although I truly believe that words can affect all of these things, it will take better voices than mine to achieve such things.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
I receive comments at the poetry workshops I attend, and pondering such remarks serves to make me a better writer. (Like participating in a Tower Poetry Society workshop! More info here!) However, the best advice I’ve found is to read and absorb the works of others – not just poetry. For me, I turn to P.K. Page, Marilyn Gear Pilling, Carol Shields, Alice Munro, John Steffler, Guy Gavriel Kay, Anne Simpson to list off the top of my noggin. And, I do tend to center my reading on Canadian poets. There’s nothing wrong with trying to channel Bliss Carmen, Archie Lampman, or Wilfred Campbell, but finding one’s own voice is an ongoing journey.
What is the best advice you’ve followed?
That I create and write to please myself. Changing a word or line you love because a more seasoned poet said it should be so, isn’t true if it doesn’t work for you. Writing to please others can drive a writer into an early grave.
Can you comment on your process?
The creative work of others inspires me to write – art, music, dance, theatre, good oratory. Silence, or the lack thereof, also provokes my creative juices. Isolated thinking brings out thoughts on life, death, politics, social justice – the whole gamut. I live rurally, and nature provides much fodder for the pencil. And I do use a pencil… also the backs of envelopes, parking tickets, and grocery receipts. I write words, snippets, phrases down wherever and whenever inspiration finds me. Examples are the way I feel hearing the coyotes howl, the wind race, cash registers singing in a supermarket, voices and smells at the market, at the bakery. I’ve found that waiting till I have a notebook in hand means I’ll lose something vital. And that drives me nuts.
MIXED-MEDIA ARTIST: NICOLA SCHNEIDER
I am on the executive council of Tower Poetry Society, as Web Coordinator, which is kind of strange because I know not much of web coordinating and am a mere novice at poetry, but as it were, and continues to be…
Check me out at:
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THAT POEM?
In general, the subject matter immediately called to me. I have taken several photographs of dragonflies and thought I could use them in my piece. Further readings cemented my choice. Rebecca’s poetic language swirled around in my brain. I love to chill out in the summer by watching “dragonflies stitch the air, sketch lines of elegant directness.” Upon further study, the poem’s deeper meanings came through. The opening quote that influenced the poet to write this poem, and the poem itself, features several musical references. I love the lyrical quality of the poem and aimed to show this in my piece.
The original quote from Hippocrates, “Life is short, art is long” meant… that it takes a lifetime to hone a craft, i.e., gain skills and knowledge, and that since life is short, many don’t reach a ‘fame’ status in a lifetime. Hence, in the past, folks tended not to gain fame until they were dead. That kind of sucks, so…
Here is my interpretation, which is a concept that I try to apply to my art: Enjoy the journey. “The success is in the silences.” If the process brings joy, then fame doesn’t matter. “Fame is fleeting” just as a dragonfly’s entire life cycle is “ephemeral.” Dragonflies don’t care (or even realize) how short their lives are. Even if your “song” or poem or art doesn’t get out into the world and appreciated – reach “fame” – you can still have success in the play and exploration; in the joy that the process brings.
CAN YOU TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT YOUR PROCESS FROM IDEA TO FINISHED WORK? WHY THOSE COLOURS AND SHAPES?
My current practice is based on the stARTs process shared by New Zealand Intuitive Mixed Media Artist, Judy Woods. Artist Judy Woods – abstract art (judywoodsart.work). Previously, I’ve followed her process by not purposefully thinking of any sort of end goal. This time I thought I meditated on the poem throughout the entire process. I pulled out phrases that inspired imagery that I could use in my artwork (the sparks). Hence, the dance of poetry and art. Next, I recorded these key words and sketch pictures on my surface to guide the piece. This is the first underlayer to be covered up with many layers. “What happens in the underlayer stays in the underlayer.”
This is a summary of the process…
- I work in sets.
- In beginning layers à I have fun. Play. Explore. I ask, “What if?”
- I aim to be brave. Nothing is precious; if I don’t like it, I can simply paint over it. If I don’t love something, I ask, “What’s the opposite?” and do that. Learning what I don’t love is just as important in moving my practise forward as knowing what I do love.
- I am learning to embrace ugly.
- Principle of differences. I always ask, “What is the opposite of…?” I use the knowledge of elements/principles to create both subtle and strong contrasts.
- In middle layers the ‘heroes’ (or focal points that I love) will start to be revealed.
- In end layers, I emphasize those heroes. This is what my piece is about. I ensure there is contrast, some quieter spaces.
- I often come back to the art to look with fresher eyes after several weeks, or months.
WHAT WERE THE CHALLENGES? WHAT WAS EASY?
The process took a while to trust. Ultimately, it brings freedom to my art-making. The idea is both scary and freeing. Scary because it was a whole new way to think. Freeing because if I don’t like something, I can cover it up. My focus is on the journey. The journey is a marathon, not a sprint. When I don’t focus on the result (the finished product), I feel less anxious, and I can take more risks in my art. I have removed expectations.
Knowing when the art is finished is always a challenge for me. Having a deadline was helpful.
Also, since I had several pieces inspired by the poem, it was difficult to choose just one for submission. I decided on one for submission and there are 3 more in the series, each given the title of the last line of each stanza in Rebecca’s poem:
- “Life is Brief”
2. “Art is Long”
3. Submission: “Fame is in the Song”
4. “Success in the Silences”
Have you done this kind of project before? Would you do it again?
I have written poems inspired by artworks for Carnegie Gallery‘s and Tower Poetry’s annual Artwalk, and for the PoARTry this time and last time. This is my first visual art submission… ever. I am looking forward to doing it again next year!
Anything else you’d like to share?
Art is for everyone.
This is my view on art-making. Everybody IS an Artist. 1. Art is easy. 2. Practice makes better. 3. Be YOU. 4. Make Ugly Art & make mistakes. 5. Have fun. Now, go make Art, Human:)
Read my complete Art Philosophy here: Everyone IS an Artist – Speech – Everyday Art Every Day
SIZE OF THE PIECE. HOW IS IT MOUNTED? PRICE IF FOR SALE. WHERE IS IT AVAILABLE ?
Framed 22″ x 18″
Artwork size 14″ x 11″
* Contact email@example.com
WE HOPE YOU HAVE ENJOYED THIS THIRD DANCE OF POETRY AND VISUAL ART.
ARTISTS, there are poems still available to choose from and time to get in on the project… https://towerpoetry.ca/po-art-ry-poems/
POETS, stay tuned… we will open up submissions towards the end of 2023. As for what will happen with PoARTry, we don’t know.
This is an organic project, and we are thinking of a possible exhibit or publication. Who knows?! What we do know is that we have a lot of exciting work by talented poets and artists to share with you each month!
DID YOU KNOW? YOU CAN POP OVER TO OUR TOWER POETRY FACEBOOK GROUP FOR DISCUSSION!