NaPoWriMo Days 10, 13-15: Layers

Robert Rauschenberg – Overcast III (1963)

This weekend, we went to Atlanta for Nick’s 30th birthday; his gift was tickets to both They Might Be Giants shows at Variety Playhouse. Before we left, we went to the Birmingham Museum of Art to see the hippos. In Atlanta, we went to the Frida & Diego exhibit at the High and the Saarinen exhibit at MODA (Nick and I met while working at the Buffalo Philharmonic, which is housed in Kleinhans Music Hall).

We saw a lot of art this weekend, and it helped me write some ekphrastic poems. I wanted to write about Frida Kahlo’s work, which I really admire, but I couldn’t get into writing about it; instead, I found the Saarinen exhibit to be inspiring. I wrote the first layers/drafts of poems about some of his work (.pdf here)

Although I wrote about Saarinen’s architecture, the piece I found most useful for talking about my work was Robert Rauschenberg’s Overcast III (1963) (another photo). Overcast III is a series of overlapping glass panels. Each glass panel is also a series of superimposed media (screenprint, abstract painting, etc.). This is similar to my work, which is usually a series of overlapping ideas, images, or stories. I try to separate out the various elements enough so that the reader can tell what’s going on, but the layers overlap because memory/life/perception works that way. The straight narrative or melodic line is unrealistic to me, as are the hyper-paratactic and visually illegible, although I am clearly playing with all of these elements (I feel that no form, style or subject is off-limits when I write). Different parts of the work may be emphasized by being clearer/easier/linear while others remain hazy/extremely abstract.  Overcast III also reminded me of my poems because of its scale– not that my poems are physically large, but that they use a handful of layers and a handful of images/elements– enough to complicate, but few enough that the reader could still parse them. These first elements of the Saarinen poems will be complicated by further layering and reduced by further editing as they develop.

About Jessica Smith
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