Monday, May 25, 2015

Poetry Inspired Art Part 2

I am fortunate this year to have all three poems I submitted for "Ars Poetica" selected for interpretation by local artists. I wrote about my experience last Sunday with my poem "Magnum Opus," in this blog. 

This Sunday, I had the privilege of seeing two works of art inspired by my poetry displayed on the walls of the Creative Visions Gallery in Bremerton, and to speak with the two artists after the program.

Faye Bainbridge Park on Bainbridge Island was one of my first discoveries a few weeks after moving to Washington, and I made sure that I took visiting friends and family there. It's on the east side of the Island facing into the deep water passage of Puget Sound (a location where it's easy to spot the Orcas when they travel past). 

Bill Walcott, the painter who chose my poem, had never been there, so he made a trip on a gloriously clear day, took numerous photos, and then over several months created an incredibly detailed painting. His panorama is much larger than a camera can capture (unless you can successfully use panorama mode, which I never can), and there's a warmth and intimacy I don't find even in my loveliest photos of the park. And, the frame is a perfect weathered wood accompaniment, ordered specially for the piece after it was done. 

Bill works in acrylic and is well known locally for his realism and attention to detail. Looking at his painting, it captured everything about the park that makes it so alluring. I think you'll agree. (In a side note, he sold the work!)

At Faye Bainbridge Park by Bill Walcott, acrylic

Here's my poem:

At Fay Bainbridge Park

I pick my way along the trunks of trees
bleached like bones and strewn upon the beach.
Jumping from one relic to the next
I forge a wooden path over rocks and seaweed
and think what it took to topple these
once proud and stately firs, cedars, elms.

What forces must have cleaved them
from familiar earth, uprooted them from home
and swept them into the sea rolling and pitching
on the churning water, until one day—
who knows how many months or years later—
a king tide delivered them
tempest tossed and waterlogged
to the safety of this shore.

And I wonder how long they will stay
horizontal in this haven, if like heaven
forever, or if some epic wave
will crash in and buoy them away
bobbing and rolling to another coastline
where they will once again
lie down in surrender—
their reaching past and branching dreams
nothing but a watery memory, fleeting
as the last slice of sun on the horizon.

"Clouds" was printmaker Paula Gill's first completed print using the Japanese reduction woodblock method. A serious artist, Paula received a grant to study the method in Oregon last summer, and explained how she carved the block eight different times to layer the printing (one layer a day, with the damp print stored in a ziplock bag overnight) and how she mixed a certain type of ink (whose name I've forgotten) with rice paste and brushed it in her block. 

I'm honored that my poem provided her with the opportunity to try out a new technique. And in a familiar touch, the Olympic Mountains frame the bottom of the print, including Mt. Constance-which was the peak my husband and I could see from our old rooftop deck when we lived on Bainbridge Island.  

Clouds by Paula Gill, Japanese reduction woodblock print

My poem "In the Land of Aluminum Skies" is a revision of an earlier version of a short piece of prose I posted on my blog a year ago with accompanying photos. I wrote the original version (which you can read here) in response to a question my father asked me, so I have him to thank again for the inspiration and the wording "the land of aluminum skies," which he heard from a friend (thanks Dad's friend).

Here's the poem that inspired the art:

In the Land of Aluminum Skies

My father asks how I (a recent California transplant) like living in the land of aluminum skies, under the misapprehension that in the Pacific Northwest our view is always veiled— monochromatic gray the shade of desiccated liver.
In Puget Sound though, the skyscape kaleidoscopes all day.

Clouds pour like lava, layer into thundering club sandwiches of pewter and steel, pigeon and dove, dolphin and trout, then tumble into wadded white sheets dulled by cold water washes, then taffy-stretch thin, loose gauzy layers of pearl pantyhose bunched around God’s ankles.

And the blue, when it’s here, always looks enhanced,
too dramatic to be real. I marvel at it—royal, regal, azure and cerulean, dazzling iris and sapphire, cornflower and cobalt, powerful and intense, relentless as the gaze it commands.

The sunsets scald crimson and claret, blood and burnt orange, fire and fuchsia in ribbed tongues.  Clouds are seared into charcoal, flames to ember, and the Sound stills—shimmering flamingo pink as civil twilight dissolves into ash on our tongues. Blinded by beauty we are left to navigate nightfall by Braille, the jagged peaks of the Olympics and Cascades framing the horizon.

Each night a burnt offering; each new dawn a blessing in the land of aluminum sky.

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