author interview

PATRICIA BROWN

thumbnail_PBrownPicGayugaLakeBooks

Artist Patricia Brown spoke to Cayuga Lake Books regarding her recent collaboration with poet Lisa Harris for “Traveling Through Glass.”

 

 

How did you get interested in art? Who influenced you when you were young/starting out?  

I was fortunate to be raised in a very creative household where drawing, making and playing with ideas were daily events. My mother, the English-major librarian, read to us, sewed costumes for us and encouraged us to act out stories.  My father, the farmer, builder, chef, drew his farm animals to entertain us, remodeled our home, arranged flowers, and loved to make holiday crafts with us to create a festive environment.  Though I did not know I would be an artist, I knew I would live a creative life.

Who are your favorite visual artists and what do you like about them?

Presently, I am curious about artists who emphasize movement in their work.  I can feel the wind swirling through the trees in the landscapes of Emily Carr and see atmospheric energy vibrating in a Charles Burchfield.  Maggi Hambling’s splattered waves have raw power.  Jenny Saville’s layered drawings explore the constant movement of a child in her mother’s arms.  In a single swoop, Zen masters draw a circle; they create wholeness in one gesture.

How did your collaboration with Lisa come about?  Did one or the other of you create in response to the other’s work?  Or did both of you trust you would find compatible pieces to fit together into the final version?

Close friends for over twenty years, we have continually shared our creative work.  Yet, when Lisa asked me to collaborate, I said, “No,” I was not interested in illustrating a literal representation of each poem.  Initially I could not see how my drawings and paintings of movement could fit into this project.  Yet in my heart, I knew that Lisa would use the simple act of counting to explore the universe, love, time, and spirit.  That night I had a dream of interpreting each poem through the movement of a dancer.  I even saw the opening of the show of Counting, where a model danced throughout the gallery. I shared this dream with Lisa, and our collaboration began.  I asked her to add a poem for zero; it was an essential starting place for me.   Each number, each poem, zero through twelve, became a threshold, a point of departure and, for me, an opportunity to explore ways gesture expresses archetype.

The interpretation of each poem began with drawing a dancing model in charcoal on paper, a spontaneous grab of the movement of their dance.   Often I drew with both hands at once, a strategy I use to move away from literal thinking and to open intuition.  I worked with two models: Jaime a trained ballerina and Vanessa, a creative spirit who danced freely without training.   In the studio, poems in hand, we experimented together to find the gesture that expressed the emotional and spiritual depth of each poem.  Once I had been living with Lisa’s work for months, I found gesture in new situations.  The drawings for poems 8 Eternity and 11 Knowing were creating while watching Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck in concert, as they sang, played banjo and danced.

I realized I needed color to fully communicate the intensity in the world of each poem, thus I transformed each drawing into a painting.  When I came to the place where I thought I had really caught the essence of the poem, I read the poem aloud while looking at the painting.  I felt the resonance, which sometimes sent shivers up my spine.  I took the painting to Lisa and observed her reaction, listened to her interpretation.  We realized that a specific connection had been made that neither one of us could have predicted – words transformed to image.  Lisa experienced the artwork as windows into her poems, thus she titled our book Traveling Through Glass. 

Our trust and unending regard for each other’s creative work is evident in the three-part structure of Traveling Through Glass.  Section one, Counting, features our collaboration.  In section two, Breathing, I describe my process and show other gestural work.  In section three, Seeking, Lisa has shared her favorite poems. To express that we feel that the words and images are equally important; Lisa and I share equal copyright; Lisa as writer, I as artist.

What are some of the differences between creating artwork independently – from a vacuum, let’s say – and working within the specific parameters of a project like Traveling Through Glass?

I work without words when painting abstractly.  I am intuitive, in the moment, not really knowing where I will travel with the work.  In drawing the model, I am fully present, honest in capturing the energy of the poses.

The challenge in developing the images for the poems for Counting, was to get past an intellectual interpretation of each poem to a sensual, physical gestalt.  The process involved paying attention to the verbs in each poem, playing with action and music to a point where the model, the poem and I were one.  Traveling through Lisa’s poems, I have explored emotional territories and archetypal meanings of gesture that I would not likely have painted on my own.

You can purchase “Traveling Through Glass” on Amazon now.

-, author interview

Stacey Murphy & Nora Snyder

Apicmonkey-collage-launch-reading-with-textN INTERVIEW WITH STACEY MURPHY AND NORA SNYDER

EDITORS OF NY VOTES FOR WOMEN: A CENTENNIAL ANTHOLOGY

What sort of responses did you get when you asked for contributions to your book?

STACEY: The inspiration for the anthology, NY Votes for Women is the centennial anniversary of women getting the right to vote in New York State. When we put out the call for proposals, some people said, “I’ve always loved this movement.” They were history-minded, with ancestors involved in the original movement. Others said, “I’ve always had a sense that this is important to me as a woman and my right to vote in America, but I don’t know anything about these suffragists. We weren’t taught their stories.” And others said, “I don’t really know about the suffrage era, but let me tell you about my experience at the Women’s March in 2017.” So we got a whole range of stories. They make for a fascinating collection. 

Why do you think it’s important for people to know about the movement today?

STACEY: Because I think we learn a lot from history. As we’ve been doing this project, it’s been a chance for me to learn more about who was involved back then. For example, there were nuances in the movement in terms of how race played out—or didn’t. I contributed a poem based on something a woman suffragist from Tompkins County said. Her name was Juanita Breckenridge Bates. In 1917, the vote for women’s suffrage passed, but in 1915 a vote for it came up that failed. Bates was quoted in the paper then: “Suffrage has fallen, but it’s fallen forward.”

What were some of the things you discovered that interested you most?

STACEY: There’s a piece written about a transgender woman, and another about the experiences of a black woman. There are stories from people who are immigrants but call New York home now. We had some lovely meditations about the meaning of intersectionality.

How did you go about gathering writers for the project?

STACEY: We put out a call for proposals, started a Facebook page and a WordPress page, and reached out to writers we knew in the community. I did some email campaigns as well, contacting people in women’s studies and creative writing departments in colleges around New York State. One writer sent us a piece she had published in the Huffington Post.

NORA: We also contacted the League of Women Voters. In addition, I periodically hold a Writer’s Block Party for published and unpublished local writers. I plugged the anthology through that.

What surprised you as you edited the various essays in the book?

STACEY: There are a lot ties to the last election, and what we thought was going to happen that didn’t happen. A lot of people have been struggling with those issues. The quotation–If you fall make sure you fall forward–has almost become a mantra. It’s another way to say, Don’t be afraid to use your voice! 

Who are some of your favorite feminist writers working today?

NORA: I like what Audre Lorde has to say. Poet Nikki Giovanni, prose writers Margaret Atwood, Octavia Butler, Jeanette Walls, Isabel Allende, and Barbara Kingsolver.

STACEY: Ruth Bader Ginsburg is one badass lady and I love her. I’m inspired by a lot of the female political leadership we see now.

NORA: Senator Tammy Duckworth. Elizabeth Warren, of course. It’s exciting to see people standing up during times like this. Beyoncé. Wonder Woman!

What do you most want people to take away from this anthology?

NORA: A lot of it is about voice. It’s about women’s legacies, writing something that your kids can see. It’s about saying things that you’ve never said to anyone else before—having the freedom to do that. What will make this anthology compelling is a reader’s realization: “Oh, I’ve felt that! I’ve been there!”

 

 

author interview, from the finger lakes

Katharyn Howd Machan

Katharyn Howd Machan is a professor of writing at Ithaca College. She’s published 32 collections and has had poems appear in textbooks, anthologies, and magazines, and in 2002, she was Tompkins County’s first poet laureate. She also has an alter ego as Zajal the belly dancer, and she likes to combine poetry with dance.

Machan+Photo

1. What made you want to publish in the anthology?

I have faith in the editors and the press!

2. What made you want to submit this piece in particular?

It is the strongest short story I have written. I am primarily a poet.

3. Do you see yourself in any of the characters?

Yes: the narrator. The depiction of place and family draws directly from a summer evening in my life.

4. On your faculty page, it says that your specialty is poetry. Are writing poetry and fiction different for you?

In my forty years of teaching I have learned to write the first drafts of poems in “stolen moments.” For fiction I need rarely obtained stretches of time.

5. When did you start writing? What were your first writings like?

Poetry has been my core since 1967. In high school and college and in both stints of my graduate work I also wrote fiction (no student papers=the requisite stretches of time). First writings? Even as a teen I drew upon fairy tales—and, of course, let’s not forget the now-dismissable hundreds and hundreds of poems about love.

6. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

I balance my life (literally) with belly dancing, which has been a big part of my life since 1979. Walking to enjoy nature is also very important. I used to take photos all the time until digital cameras eradicated my enjoyment in doing so. Enjoying home with my spouse Eric Machan Howd is core to my happiness.

7. How can readers learn more about you? Do you have any social media accounts?

The phrase “social media account” makes me gag forlornly. I don’t even have a web page beyond the one created by the Department of Writing at Ithaca College. Egad: phone? (607-274-3325). Or letter? (P.O. Box 456, Ithaca, NY  14851-0456). Or the ubiquitous and overwhelming email: machan@ithaca.edu.

Wonderful, thanks Katharyn!