IVANKA FALLS IN LOVE WITH THE NIGHT
This year I’ve been collaborating with USM faculty member, dancer, and choreographer Brianna Jahn Malinowsky. We created “The Lyric Body: A Dance and Poetry Experiment” in Fall 2016. This event paired USM’s senior dancers with graduate student poets.
This spring, we’ve created an interdisciplinary performance titled “Ivanka Falls in Love With the Night.” This performance is an excerpt from a larger piece, which interrogates Ivanka Trump’s notion of “curating authenticity” by imagining her in a love affair with the primal figure of Night, an archetype for immortality. What do struggles for power mean when looked at through the lens of eternity? Can we, as beings conscious of death, ever think beyond time? And how is it that art allows us to create time, to live in it—in its rhythms, its movements, and in its shared performances?
This April, Brianna and I decided to collaborate, sending each other poems and movements each day. We decided to create a modern fairy tale. I wrote a daily sonnet, or a 14-line poem in iambic pentameter (think Shakespeare), while Brianna uploaded a dance clip of her choreography. Her movements inspired the subject matter for my poems, particularly the emphasis on spirals and triangles.
In fact, the main character of our piece evolved from a phrase that Brianna misheard during our initial meeting, exclaiming, “Did you just say Ivanka Trump?” I denied it promptly, but then Ivanka began to haunt me. There could be no other princess than America’s own first daughter. And instead of a handsome knight in shining armor, she would fall in love with the night sky.
These sorts of “mistakes” and “slippages” resulted in some unusual decisions, both in ideas and word choice. Overall, I was able to create something that I would have never made without Brianna’s thoughts and choreography. An ordinary workday for me consists of typing alone at my desk. It has been a liberating experience to leave the comfort of my house, take off my shoes, and walk on stage to witness Brianna embody the rush of the imagination and what it feels like to be a poet.
My latest full-length collection, Faun, is forthcoming from Plays Inverse in 2019. This book-length, multi-modal poem is set in my hometown of Ovid, Michigan. It is a reworking of Ovid’s Metamorphoses in which various entities speak to a continually transforming young girl, including trees, animals, arrows, etc. The poem is composed of six parts, four of which are set in 1994, 1894, 1794, and 1994, and two of which are interstitial sections. In an effort to explore the sudden erasure of human and nonhuman populations from the area, the poem embodies various voices, forms, and media, including paintings and musical compositions. The visual and auditory elements should be treated as extensions of the poem itself, serving to push the boundaries of language as well as cross sensory experiences, creating a synesthesia in which language is color and color is music.
My painting, titled “Eclipse of Pigeons,” laments the extinction of the passenger pigeon. Flocks of these birds could literally darken the sky with their passing. The last passenger pigeon died in captivity in 1914.
Part of the reason the year 1994 was chosen is because of another one of the work’s influences, Debussy’s Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun), which was first performed in France in 1894. My intention is that the theme of Debussy’s piece will act as a trigger for transformation as well as a bridge connecting the past and present. This is a musical ekphrasis based on Stéphane Mallarmé’s poem, “L’Après-midi d’un faune” (“Afternoon of a Faun”). Both Debussy’s and Mallarmé’s works explore desire, imagination, and transformation, creating a bridge between human beings and the natural world. The poet Paul Valéry, in a letter to Mallarmé, writes of L’Après-midi d’un faune’s power: “The supreme idea is now gaining ground of a lofty symphony uniting the world around us with the inner world that haunts us.” My project explores the way this inner imagination echoes an external wilderness, revealing the chaos beneath perception.
THE INDESTRUCTIBLE BOOK
This memoir will explore the link between Puritanism and contemporary religious extremism. When I was fifteen, my parents claimed that my poems and stories were written by demons. As a result, they called an exorcist and burnt my work. Their response to my writing echoes early colonial beliefs about witches and possession, as those who were charged with these crimes were typically women or their relations. The title, The Indestructible Book, is inspired by a story my exorcist told me. There was a young woman whose “satanic” book could not be destroyed by ordinary means, and the book kept returning to the young girl unharmed. My exorcist said, “The witches book always returns to her,” and I’m beginning to think she was right.