Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts
Showing posts with label writing. Show all posts

December 23, 2016

"Gorgeous Nothings" Envelope poems and paintings

Emily Dickinson's Envelope poems



 

This morning I came across a review of the book The Gorgeous Nothings, which highlights Emily Dickinson's Envelope Poems. I was immediately reminded of the Envelope Paintings of my Facebook friend and artist Julia Schwartz, so I thought I'd share. 

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

Julia Schwartz, Envelope paintings
Julia Schwartz, Gouache on found, repurposed envelopes, various dimensions, 2016

If I could curate a show with all of these lovely pieces side by side I would! Here is the full article which was posted by Tupelo Quarterly and written by Hannah Star Rogers. Sounds like a good idea for a last minute Christmas gift too!

Gorgeous Nothings: Emily Dickinson’s Envelope Poems Hold New Pleasures


 
Emily Dickinson’s The Gorgeous Nothings offers an incredible inquiry into the material practice of Emily Dickinson’s poetry and an argument for why we should take not just the visual culture of poetry into account, as so many new editions of Dickinson’s poetry do, but also the materiality—as both constraint and possibility.
The Gorgeous Nothings, from Christine Burgin/New Directions, edited by Marta Werner and Jen Bervin with a preface by Susan Howe, is the first publication of Emily Dickinson’s complete envelope writings in facsimile from her visually-oriented manuscripts, rendered here in full color and arranged as if they were pressed into a scrapbook. The book is no doubt the dream of poetry and visual culture scholars (very literally as it took Werner, a Dickinson scholar, and Bervin, a visual artist, to bring the book together), but beyond important academic contributions, this book is a lot of fun to open and toss through as though it was a box of Grandmother’s letters—if your grandmother was the Belle of Amherst.
The editors made great choices that allow us these pleasures: the facsimiles are collected together in such a way that we can enjoy the puzzle. The book replicates the material experience of opening an archive, while the shape of the envelope and text is detailed for legibility in schematics that reflect the envelopes’ shape and dimensions. A 252 gives us a sense of the Dickson we recognize, while adding an the extra layer of the material constraints of the envelope:
ED2 copy
What is added by knowing that Dickson met the corner of the page with the word “power,” and arranged her lines to fill the space, gives us a new sense of the space that the poem occupies and of her agility in working not only in acoustic constraints and vital rhythms, but also in another layer of formal concerns. Even a glance at the forms of the envelopes tells the reader something magical is happening in the details of the poems:
ED1 copy
Dickinson’s work has been unfolding for us slowly, revealing her mastery in new ways. First, as Howe writes in the preface, in the 1951 Johnson edition with those characteristic amazing capitals and dashes, then with the word lists of alternate possibilities, and finally, here, with the full materiality of her envelope letters. Maybe it is only now that the reading world is ready to embrace the found and the forgotten in this work, that we are really ready to revel in the glory of the envelope poems. Our own material turn is making these artworks no longer something difficult or illegible, but a celebration of the parts of her poetry that only words not born in typeface can offer.
What may not be immediately legible in the material constraints surely informed the publication choices regarding what parts of the manuscripts would be preserved. These acts of legitimation may have been a part of creating the Emily Dickinson legacy. Perhaps “scraps” (the Dickinson community’s easy reference word for these poems) did not a major poet make, particularly if they came from a woman who largely wrote for herself. In any case, the poetry universe is certainly ready for a revised visual understand of Dickinson’s work that this text brings us.
Yet another wrinkle in the story of why this is the moment for considering the material elements of these poems may be the digitization project at Amherst College’s Archives & Special Collections, which preceded this edition. Poets (and indeed humanists more generally) are being asked often to account for the effects of technology on their work. In this case, the appearance of Dickinson’s work in a digital form precedes an important account of new dimensions of her poetry. Rather than simply spreading copies of her work more broadly, as in so many digital humanities projects, a real discovery and novel way of thinking of Dickinson’s work has been revealed by its digitization. Of course, it has long been possible to imagine an exhibit (as Howe does) or color copies of these poems being created for a book, but the ease and availability of scanning may have given both affordance and occasion to study the material aspects of this work.
Bervin’s essay also leads us toward a new image of Dickinson. Rather than a poet grabbing at envelopes when she was struck by inspiration, Bervin calls our attention to the variety of ways the envelops are folded and cut, suggesting that the poet had prepared these envelops in advance for the moment when an inspiration struck. Her lines flow across surfaces that we perceive only by her attention to them: stops at corners or folds and changes in handwriting and letter size to accommodate her poems to the space the material alots, while transforming the envelope to make spaces for words which readers might not see without the poet filing them. This preparation points not just to thrift, but to how Dickinson perceived her poems as objects rendered with care, what Howe calls, “visual productions.”
This curation of the envelope poems reveals the way the poet turned the borders of the envelopes that she cut and tore into shapes to write on into constraints to complicate her poems: making them fascinating visual objects. Like metrics, rhythms, and rhymes which structure as they aestheticize, Dickinson’s envelope offered her a new method for inspiration. The folds and corners of her thrifty paper uses create new layer of self-imposed limitation which generated new possibilities for the poem. The Gorgeous Nothings is proof that one of our most important poets can still amaze and teach us new thing about the practice of poetry.
 

June 6, 2016

Secrets of the Muse

Stephen King's On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft is such a good book. Even though I don't consider myself a writer per se, most of what he talks about could easily be applied to any artist of any discipline. He may have a whole chapter on vocabulary and grammar but it could just as well be about color, line and composition. There's so much to talk about with this book. His fascinating personal history, cool background information on some of his best novels and the Hollywood movies they turned into, the realities of being a working artist, the pragmatics of writing and persevering, etc. I've earmarked so many pages I will probably have to read the whole thing all over again.

Louise Bourgeois, The Insomnia Drawing no.14, 1995
One of the major things that struck me was the idea of a muse or an "ideal reader". It's been on my mind since page 215 which was like 2 months ago. King writes,
Someone- I can't remember who, for the life of me- once wrote that all novels are really letters aimed at one person. As it happens, I believe this. I think that every novelist has a single ideal reader; that at various points during the composition of a story, the writer is thinking, "I wonder what he/she will think when he/she reads this part?" For me that first reader is my wife, Tabitha.
Gerhard Richter
The first thing I thought about when I read this was a blog post I wrote almost a year ago that started with that very person's name who said the thing about writing like you're writing to one person. I never published the post, ended up deleting the whole thing, and subsequently cannot remember who the person was either. crazy.

Anyway as soon as I read it it was everywhere. It's like every article I've read since then has some artist naming his/her spouse as their muse or "ideal reader", the person they show their work to first and whose opinion they most rely on. It's been an epiphany for me. It's one of those subconscious things that you're aware of without realizing you're aware of it. Like when you're stuck on a piece of artwork. You know something is wrong but you can't articulate it until someone else comes in and points it out. Then it's, oh my God of course, that's what I knew the whole time.

Cy Twombly
The epiphany is that I realized I do not have a muse, and what's worse, I think I need one... badly.

So what the heck is a muse anyway? King writes,
... she's the one I write for, the one I want to wow... when I write a scene that strikes me as funny... I am also imagining my Ideal Reader finding it funny... He or she is going to be in your writing room all the time... You'll find yourself bending the story even before Ideal Reader glimpses so much as the first sentence. I.R. will help you get outside yourself a little, to actually read your work in progress as an audience would while you're still working.
There are plenty of arguments about the role the audience or viewer plays in works of art. Some artists claim they don't care and only make the work for themselves. I have a hard time with that. My thought is that visual art is visual. It needs a pair of eyes on it to complete the whole process. King seems to agree, at least about writing, when he says, "if you really feel that way, why bother to publish at all?"

Louise Bourgeois
Since I believe the viewer is an important part of my  work, then it goes along that a muse might also be important.
It's nice to have someone to want to impress, and what artist can't use another pair of eyes? If not to lavish their opinionated bits on you then at least to point out the things you can't easily see by yourself. It's kind of like having an extra standard to hold the work up to. A criteria that's outside yourself. That's what makes it useful. Because as artists we are so absorbed in our own heavy heads, it's important to step away sometimes and see things from a different point of view.

So the big question is, do you believe in the muse. Is it important? Is it necessary? Do you have one? Do you need one like me, and if so, where do you find one??????????