Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The House of Words (no. 26): Being in cahoots with other artists

More Bontasaurus wisdom soon! Today's post reflects on yesterday's theme of collaboration and how it has surprised me along the way...

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One thing that the web has brought me is friendship with artists in my and other fields and collaboration with them. If you are lucky, certain friendships can even be inspiring. Here are a few examples of how I have mixed up the media with friends!

Makoto Fujimura, opening of the "Charis" exhibition
Photo from facebook.
My first extended collaboration project was with Makoto Fujimura. He issued a challenge on the web for artists to write essays about the ten commandments, filtered through the lens of a chosen medium. He also leaned on me a bit! Having a pronounced tendency to do something a little different from what I am asked to do, I wrote not an essay but a story for Mako in nine parts (two commandments being combined.) He made a series of paintings in response to the story, and then we did several joint talks-and-readings-with-tiny-show at a Yale Divinity School conference. We’ve talked about making the project into a little book some day. And some day I am going to go visit his International Arts Movement writers--I couldn't make the last date suggested, but it will happen some day.

Clive Hicks Jenkins in his studio at Ty Isaf
 with Jack a.k.a Jacket Koppel.
"Green George" is one the easel.
Photo by Peter Telfer, from Clive's website.

Another collaborator of mine has been Clive Hicks-Jenkins. I met him after writing about him on the web some years ago. I’ve written prose and poetry for two books in his honor, he has made covers and division pages for my past and upcoming books, and we have generally inspired each other. Right now I am also planning to do some collaboration with his friend Graham Ward. And I just had the fun of visiting Clive in Wales and doing all sorts of things--a poetry reading, attending his restrospective exhibition (more on that later), meeting artists and writers and makers and producers of film.
Here Paul is at home in Ohio.
He looks happy in his work, doesn't he?
Photo pilfered from facebook--
no doubt taken by Lynn Digby.

Paul Digby is my most recent major collaborator. Paul is a multi-talented man has composed music and made films for four of my poems so far, and he has more in the works. He loves doing these; I love what he does and feel lucky. His generosity is something that means a great deal to me and benefits my books.

Makoto Fujimura grew up in the U. S. and Japan and lives in Chelsea, New York City. I knew him through a 3-year national working group sponsored by Yale Divinity School under Miroslav Volf. Clive Hicks-Jenkins lives in the Ystwyth Valley of Wales. I met him in the aether. Paul Digby is from the UK and now lives in Ohio (with Lynn Digby, a painter who I knew before I knew via correspondence before I met Paul. Some day perhaps I'll meet both in what is called "the real world.") But they all talk with me right in my own little writing room because of the wonder of the internet. For an artist living in an isolated and often weather-bound place like upstate New York, such communication is wonderful.

This very series is an example of collaboration with people from all over. I asked a few of my friends, and a few more people popped up and volunteered. I salute them all! Thank you. We all gain from playing together. We gain "larger life" from good company, just as we gain it from reading the best books or dwelling on beautiful works of visual art--another kind of good company.

8 comments:

  1. The internet certainly opens up the world, Marly.
    Without it how would many of us ever have 'met'?
    And of course, online meetings very often lead to real world meetings and very long friendships.
    We can choose our friendships from a world of people, rather than those who cross our paths in the ordinary way. That is... a revelation and a blessing too.
    Two more poems of yours are in the pipeline. With such fantastic recordings that you make, the the joy factor is very high for me indeed!

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  2. Yes, I have made many delicious friendships this way!

    I can't remember what happened before Wales, so I can't remember what poems it could be. Shall be wonderfully surprised and pleased, I am sure.

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  3. Perhaps with my enforced rest of lost employment I too can engage in such friendships beyond those I now have and collaborations.
    RE: the ten commandments, I suppose you know the amazing series of films, the Decalogue, by a Polish film maker whose name I cannot spell? If not, time to order them from Netflix and watch them, as I did last year!

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  4. Robbi,

    Yes, you will have time to do that and to build connections with other bloggers who write poetry, and that will make you feel less isolated as a writer, I should imagine.

    Good that there's a good side!

    Kieślowski's "Dekalog" series, I guess. I know about but have not watched them. Maybe some day. I don't watch nearly as much film as when I was young, partly because I feel that a lot of novels are dominated by film-form.

    Also, I just don't have the kind of time I did back then, what with three children and many events going on. But those are short films (aside from the several longer versions) so, maybe some time.

    I do think it interesting when contempary artists are inspired by work that is so much older, as Kieślowski was... It reminds me of Clive, inspired to paint a series by fragments of an altarpiece.

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  5. Indeed, as Paul wrote, the internet has opened new doors to wonderful connections, friendships and those collaborations. I've been blessed to meet some online friends in person which is the icing on the cake. Not as many collaborations as yours though, who can beat your wonderful ones?!

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  6. marja-leena,

    I did jump into some lucky ones! But they were all tumbles, really--somebody had an idea...

    Yes, isn't it wild and delightful to meet people one has known via the internet? In Wales I met five people I already knew through correspondence (plus tons I knew about through Clive), and that was fascinating.

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  7. Yes, Kieslowski. And yes, they are short. Not all of them are wonderful, but they are certainly worth watching, and some truly are great.

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  8. Okay, Kieślowski's on my netflix list.

    Though my maniacal film-days are long gone... Of course, that's partly because I have to take my kids to what they want to see! And the choice in Oneonta is not grand.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.