March 28, 2014

No Small Measure: A collaboration between poet Heather Candels and artist/printer Margot Ecke

No Small Measure is a collaborative portfolio of letterpress printed broadsides, which was organized by artist Margot Ecke, curator Beth Sale and poet Ezekiel Black. Fifteen poets have been paired with fifteen artists and each group was asked to create a letterpress printed broadside. The project was made possible with funding from the University of North Georgia Art Galleries with a generous grant from the Forsyth County Arts Alliance. Over the next several weeks, each collaborative team will be interviewed and asked about their experience working on the project.

Our eighth interview features poet Heather Candels and artist/printer Margot Ecke.

A conversation with poet Heather Candels:

"Sanctuary" is a poem about loss. Can you discuss the use of the cathedral as metaphor? The space I call GRIEF is cathedral in size. There is nothing that can fill that mysterious void except my own sense of awe and wonder. My first memory of feeling anything spiritual comes from my childhood when I sang in a choir festival in Minneapolis at St. Mark's Cathedral.  I know it sounds corny, but my heart filled with joy and I almost began to cry. My soul felt as big as that place! Years later, I got married there, but then my husband suddenly died. I have since visited many cathedrals in Europe and in each place I have lit candles for him and other lost loved ones. It's almost as though I can hear the dead whispering to me, and even though a cathedral might be dark, stony, and cold, I always feel a sense of comfort in such a place.

The last line of the poem is so exquisite and serves as a hinge that brings us into a more personal realm. Is it difficult as a poet to show vulnerability without giving away too much? How do you strike that delicate balance? As a writer, I have always struggled with exposing my vulnerable side, because on one hand, I don't want to come off as a victim, but on the other, I want to share the truths I have discovered while passing through difficult times. I find solace reading about how other people have survived experiences similar to mine, because it makes me feel less alone and gives me hope and courage.


A variety of forms scatter the page to compliment the poem in the final broadside. What are your thoughts on Margot's visual response to your work? When I was first approached about this collaboration, I envisioned a broadside illustrated with flying buttresses, spiritual icons, candles....yes, all literal. Then I saw Margot's interpretation, which gave me the feeling of something exposed, skeletal, waiting to be fleshed out or filled in. It made perfect sense. It's funny how someone else's work made me realize more about my own.  

When an artist responds to your work in a way that allows a reader to view the poem from a different perspective, does it affect the way you approach the writing of future poems? Since this is the first time I have collaborated with an artist, I can't really say.  I usually never think about my audience when I am writing.   Having participated in so many writing workshops, etc., I know that what I write often turns into something different for someone else.  I just hope that at least one sliver of my truth emerges and that a reader can walk away with an understanding of my intentions.

A conversation with artist/printer Margot Ecke:
 
You have known Heather for a long time. What made you want to work with her on this project? I have known Heather for about 25 years. She is a teacher, as was my mother, and a good friend of the family. She taught my brother in school and we would see each other at various gatherings. She is also a well respected poet. My mother has been sending me Heather's poetry fairly consistently over the years, ever since I went off to college. Each poem is so exquisite in the way it considers the world. As a poet, she walks the line between fragility and strength with such grace and dignity. She does not know this, but her poetry has been such a gift in difficult times. As a woman especially, I have found that finding my foothold between the delicate landscapes of grief and grace can be a monumental task. Heather's poems have helped me find my footing.

Heather's poem is full of rich visual references, what made you respond in the way that you did? Where do these printed forms come from? The forms are based on wire armatures designed to be used as substructures for paper mache sculptures. I love the delicacy of the curved wire versus the awkward kinks that result from bending the wire again and again to achieve a perfect angle, a metaphor in itself. There is so much work in these forms and then they are covered up. I felt that Heather's poem established the cathedral as a metaphor in such a complete way that illustrating it with literal representations of such a space seemed redundant. My experiences with grand cathedrals have been almost exclusively as a student of art and art history. When I think about the visuals of a church space, what comes to mind most often are the weathered corners and edges and surfaces of icons. I love to see the substructure of these relics and reliquaries and to begin to understand why and how they were made. The drawings of these armatures are a nod to these exposed moments.

You were responsible for selecting the artists/printers for the No Small Measure broadside portfolio. What criteria were you looking for in your selection? It is always interesting to gather visual artists together under the umbrella of a single project. One gets an immediate flash of what the exhibition might look like. Ezekiel Black, who curated the poets for the project, and I had fun matching up poets to artists. I was sure to invite artists and printers who are well versed in the art of the broadside. Artists such as Paul Moxon and Eileen Wallace have been creating beautiful broadsides for decades and I knew that they would create pieces that were lovely and well-considered and inspiring. I also wanted to mix things up a bit and so asked several illustrators and graphic designers to participate. By offering to print for several of the participants who are not letterpress printers, the portfolio became something a bit more unexpected. There is also a large number of young printers in the mix. Printers such as Megan Fowler, Friedrich Kerksieck and Laurin Ramsey have been taking the letterpress world by storm and I was eager to see what they would produce. It has been a wonderfully rich experience. The poets and artists have been so generous and thoughtful in their work and support of the project.

For more about Margot's work, please visit her website: http://www.smokeyroadpress.com/

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