April 09, 2014

No Small Measure: A collaboration between poet Brian Henry and artist Erika Adams

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 tenth interview features poet Brian Henry and artist Erika Adams.

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A conversation with poet Brian Henry:
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This is a lovely poem. How did it come about? The poem began after I'd been staring at a bridge over the Contoocook River in New Hampshire. I was watching the light on the water and on the underside of the bridge, the two banks (one of which I was sitting on), the bridge itself as well as the people and cars crossing it. And I was thinking about the various perspectives possible in such a simple scene and about how every aspect of it depended on every other aspect.
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Your use of parentheses and line breaks slow down and at times establish a subtle disjointed flow in the reading experience. I find myself taking those tiny moments of pause to reflect on the intersection of content and structure within the poem. What is your expectation for the reader within these moments of pause? I definitely wanted to incorporate pauses into the poem--between and across the two columns and within them. I was also trying to encourage a more visual reading rather than a more conventional linear reading.
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Erika's use of color and gesture is hopeful and powerful. What do you think of her visual response to your work?  I think the colors are gorgeous. They seem to gesture toward sunlight, water, and shade, but they establish a world of their own, too.
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A conversation with artist Erika Adams:
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The typographic orchestration of this poem strikes me as a starting point for laying out the page. Is this where you began? Yes. The pacing between the lines in What Vista resonated with me because the structure of Brian’s poem creates a visual reminder of the pauses or breaths between each line. Those interruptions certainly started my thinking process in the design. In this poem, the reader can read up or down from one line to the next, repeating a phrase before moving on. The possibility of those loops interested me, and references the water and wind imagery present in the poem. The colored ribbons in the broadside are meant to allude to those elements- movements that can be insinuated and seen. The surface of a stream may appear to repeat itself, to eddy, to follow a pattern or even to seem static, but that surface only hints at what passes underneath.
The split and shuffle of each line has a distinctive way of slowing down the reading experience. Did this slow read cause you to consider a slow see? That is an interesting question! I think with this image, Brian’s poem sets the pace. The reading is certainly slowed by the arrangement of the text, but also by the content. The last lines of the poem contain a kind of longing that changed the way I read the poem the second time through. Perhaps what happens with this broadside is the repeated see.
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You have worked with poets in the past on projects ranging from broadsides to fine press editions. Tell us about your thoughts on collaboration. How do these collaborations intersect and inform the rest of your studio practice? Collaboration has a growing presence in my practice. The conversations that take place within collaboration – particularly ones where both parties are using language to negotiate what they really mean – are integral to my work. My most recent project borrows from specific conversations and translates them (literally in some cases, from French to English and vice versa) into hole-punched text pieces. And I have been thinking more about the role of my collaborative interest in future projects. One of my favorite questions to ask other artists about my work is “what do you think should happen next?” Involving my students in those conversations could be why so many of my class demonstrations include cute internet kittens, but feline obsessions aside, the various answers to that question lead to the kinds of conversations that I think are really exciting in art making.

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To learn more about Erika Adams, please visit her website: http://erikaadams.com

To read another of Brian Henry's poems, please visit the Poetry Foundation website: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/243306

 

 

 

 

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