Monday, October 22, 2007

Space Doll

Writing and art enhance one another, but I rarely use my own art as inspiration for poetry. For a while, I got a kick out of making collages using fragments of antique illustrations. It was fun to experiment with strange juxtapositions, to create new miniature worlds with their own swirling atmospheres. (Of course, I also loved the meditative act of cutting paper with tiny scissors.)

Something about this collage, "Space Doll," triggered a prose poem. I later made it into a tiny dark blue booklet that I gave to friends and passed out at a reading. It became part of Stirring the Mirror, which is a collection of prose poems and flash fiction.


Loneliness launched her toward a far-flung planet. Now she endlessly circles, looking down at the pointed rock fingers and craters of a dusty orb. She still wears patent leather Mary Janes and the fingerprints of humans. This is all she retains of civilization. The only life forms below are ones she imagines, humanoid or avian, startling with boredom or beaked hunger. She keeps her arms to her sides. When she turns her head, her crisp orange curls flow like rocket flames. However, neither blink of blue glass eye nor kick of jointed leg can change her orbit.

She coasts in silence. The only sounds at all come from inside. She listens to the shell of her pink plastic flesh to hear the faint whoosh of pulse, the gurgle of a thimbleful of oil. How easily her inner gears spin. How effortlessly her useless metal heart beats with nothing to weigh it down.

(Fittingly, this piece first appeared in Flights.)

I just went upstairs to find a copy of an interview with Paul Roth, editor of The Bitter Oleander, where we discussed the parallels of art and writing. I felt that his "comparison of my writing to painting fit[s], especially with reference to visual emphasis, to imagery." I continued:

In fact, I draw in a way very similar to the way I write. I never have the whole picture/idea in mind at first; it is a gradual building up from one small image, a series of leaps from thought to thought. I might start with a single curved line, a tiny eye, or a splayed claw, then see where it takes me, what each added line suggests. You might compare some of my poetry to collages, the seamless placement of disparate images side by side. With luck, a surprising/vivid juxtaposition elicits a mood or idea, like a good metaphor. Writing metaphors is my passion. They give old concepts a jolt, more color, a sense of newness. I enjoy the density of images working together, playing off one another, sending out sparks.... You want imagery to be meaningful and energetic, not just a decorative surface hiding a vacuum. You want to inspire intense thought and emotional connections.

The best poems might be most like living sculptures, Frankenstein "monsters" carefully stitched and glued from unlikely bits of flesh, with transplants of pieces of the creator's own heart and brain. Sometimes these creations achieve a form of grace, a clear voice and unexpected intelligence. Other times they are awkward and tongue-tied, or can't be jump-started. Each time, you hope that your monster will be able to stand up and walk on its own out into civilization, singing, embracing people without crushing them.

(The Bitter Oleander, Fall 2001 author feature, interview and interior chapbook)

Although it's most beneficial to order directly from the publisher, Bitter Oleander Press, Stirring the Mirror is also available through Amazon.