Jonathan Khoo, “Poetry” (from Angel Island and the United States Immigration Station), 2009.
As National Poetry Month comes to a close, The Offing staff shares images that prompt poetic pairings; from high art to internet memes to family photos, the images simultaneously evoke the universal in their literary connection, as well as the intimate in their personal meaning.
Pamela Phatsimo Sunstrum, New Work.
From The Descent of Alette [“Presently”] by Alice Notely:
“all reds & darks” “& yellow glow—” “Or like a lantern,” “paper
lantern” “Then was gone.” “The others” “other swimmers” “had not
walked ashore” “with me” “I turned to find them” “I thought they
must be” “still floating” “in the water” “But they had vanished,”
“I was alone” “Myself &” “alone” “Yet emptied” “of much, it seemed”
“I felt unburdened” “& even buoyant”
Alice Notley’s work in “Alette” is violent and beautiful; it attempts to disassemble and suture how we construct a figure through language. But I find there’s solitude and echo while the speaker (re)builds a feminine anti-archetype. That silence for me mimics the space we go to as writers. If we can allow ourselves to be suspended in and by the dark and solitude, we might find the pulse of what we’re urgently trying to understand about ourselves as we write.
my mama, around age 8 or 9, at a carnival somewhere in jérémie, haiti.
From “I Am An Only Child (Am I Only A Child)” by Anaïs Duplan:
Occasionally, there is a herd of mares outside my window.
They shout my name over & over. I say back, I say, I don’t have
any stories to tell you.
Recently my mother shared with me this image: her as a child, at a carnival somewhere in Jérémie, Haiti. This photo signals both communion and rupture. It speaks an extending silence; how to translate all that I fail to understand? The beckoning energy of the unspoken reminds me of the shouting mares in Anaïs Duplan’s “I Am An Only Child (Am I Only A Child).” What would you do if the mares left you their bodies? Would you resist? Or drink in their soundless songs?
Aubrey Stallard, Untitled (portraiture), 2008.
From “Ode of Girls’ Things” by Sharon Olds:
There was a lot we were not allowed to do,
but what we were allowed to do was ours,
dolls you carry by the leg, and dolls’
clothes you would put on or take off —
someone who was yours, who did not
have the rights of her own nakedness,
and who had a smooth body, with its
untouchable place, which you would never touch, even on her,
you had been cured of that.
Rihanna performs “Bitch Better Have My Money” at the iHeartRadio Music Awards 2015.
From “I Owe Money” by Niina Pollari:
So when you are ascending the steps
With your armful of debt dress
And you gather it
(The metaphor is only truly meaningful to women
And those who own feminine clothes)
The debt is not only gorgeous
It is giving meaning to you
Which in turn gives other people what they need
Only Rihanna could glamorize financial woes. Here, the splendor lies not in the deficit but in her ability to assert control over her situation. Her bright green fur coat rebuffs the notion that publicly talking about money is somehow unladylike and better left to the menfolk. So does Niina Pollari’s poem, which references Jennifer Lawrence falling down at the Oscars and the goddess Lakshmi (who is “associated with wealth”). The symbolism of money becomes significant in itself, an almost otherworldly force: “It is money, debt / Creation and destruction / And my power as a woman in one tiny metaphor.”
Courtesy of reddit.
From “Not Disappearing” by Eloise Klein Healy:
what nouns and verbs
could we share
Gender Spectrum: reflection or incidental
Ross Watson, Soldiers, Off Set, oil on board, 20″ x 24.”
From “Litany” by Carolyn Creedon:
Tom, it’s so hot here, and I think I’m being born. Will you come back from
Richmond and baptise me with sex and cool water?
I will come back from Richmond. I will smooth the damp spiky hairs from the
back of your neck and then I will lick the salt off it. Then I will leave
There’s so much hunger and distance in these two pieces — I love that there’s a speaker directly addressing the beloved and imagining or answering for him within the same breath of the stanza. The fella on the left of the painting is giving off so many fuck-me vibes and Mr. Legs is just staring off into the offing. I think he’s every Tom; I think he just said: “No, but I will sit in silence while you rage, you can knock the chairs down any mountain. I will always be the same and you will always wait.” There’s no resolution in either piece, there’s only a jarring of what one says vs. what one wants and what one can have. In the distance and in the body: O! the War rages on.
abstrato, courtesy of Guilherme Yagui.
From “Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich:
the thing I came for:
the wreck and not the story of the wreck
the thing itself and not the myth
the drowned face always staring
toward the sun
the evidence of damage
worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty
the ribs of the disaster
curving their assertion
among the tentative haunters.
To share your own visual-poetic pairing with us, simply post on Tumblr and mention @theoffingmag.