It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on this blog. Over the winter, I’ve done more reading of various sorts … but I’m behind on writing of all sorts — posts, poems … emails to friends etc etc
To get the my spring-time writing wheels turning again [ … but/and I am HAPPY to report that the weather has finally warmed up enough this week for me to be riding my bicycle to and fro work though still keeping my ears well covered…], I have been wanting for a few months now to say something about free-fall — an exquisite book produced (and edited) last year by my friend Karen Dennison. This pamphlet is small in size (only 20 pages)
— but big in every other way — big in concept, big in production quality, big in collaboration, big in creativity, big in skill, big in enjoyment!
Here is how Karen describes free-fall in the book’s afterword:
I like Karen’s important reminder that exphrasis can be all sorts of combinations. It does NOT have to be a written response (usually poetic) to visual art (which has been the most common definition). It can be the reverse. Or it can be music responding to a poem or artwork, or artwork responding to music, etc etc etc
And using the alternating chain approach, she shows us how magic can happen when artists & writers collaborate.
Free-fall has 7 authors and 7 artists. Of these, only Karen provided both a poem, and an artwork — but she did NOT respond to her own work in either case. I asked Karen — Since you are the only person in free-fall who experienced both roles, what are your thoughts on these two ways of responding?
Karen replied: … Thanks for the question Elly. It was interesting to take on both roles. I think the key for both is finding a hook, a way to focus in on something concrete and to make a personal connection. With the painting that I responded to, because it was an image of a single tree I found it a great way to focus not just on the image itself and its singular visual qualities but also on what this particular tree might mean to me if it were real. With the poem I responded to I liked that it used a mixture of concrete and abstract terms. This gave me a lot of freedom in my response to try to evoke an abstract feeling whilst picking on the concrete image of the autumn leaves as a focal point. I initially tried to incorporate more than one image but felt that focusing on one meant for a stronger piece.
It’s fascinating how effectively the chain thing works. Themes, settings and characters keep transforming — reminding me of the stories of Ovid’s Metamorphosis . Because each artist or author has only the previous work to respond to, the progressions feel like life itself, in some aspects … in the ways that each of us are limited in what we know and limited in what we can control (or indeed how much free will, if any we have), but nevertheless we keep making decisions, moment to moment.
And in our lives, things keep happening, one thing leads to another … but what happens and why, is the result of innumerable variables. And as I enjoy and interpret the works in free-fall, I also think about how we humans yearn for some sense of coherence and patterns and meaning … and how these things can emerge in our communal stories and art.
Free-fall offers these things. I have kept it handy for months, and often revisit it. There’s something very appealing about the alternating poems and images. I asked Karen if I could share here 3 “links” of the chain to give an example of the alternating responses. And she agreed. Here are pages 10 (a poem by Rosie Sandler) & 11 (artwork by Sam Smith in response to the poem on page 10) from the middle of the book.
And below is the poem (by Alex Toms) on page 12 in response to the artwork on page 11:
IMHO, free-fall serves as an excellent example of — and inspiration for — others looking for creative ways to collaborate.
And starting in December, 2017 — for any new orders of free-fall, Karen will donate £4 to a charity for the homeless.
More information is here at Karen’s website – including the names of all the poets and artists and how to order. Be sure to explore the rest of Karen’s site and blog too. Lots to see.