Saturday, September 8, 2018

Deciphering: Layers Upon Layers of Art, Poetry, Art

by Senior Editor Mary Bast

I've written before of my love for ekphrasis, traditionally understood as poetry written in response to visual art. Wikipedia now more accurately describes the broader applications of ekphrasis: "Given the right circumstances, any art may describe any other art."

Thus my pleasure when Prose Poetry Editor Kaye Linden accepted Devon Balwit's ekphrastic poem for Bacopa Literary Review 2018, dedicated to the artist Melvin Way:

Melvin Way With One of His Poems
Seeing images of Way's work draws us deeper into Balwit's poem, especially the ending lines, You cannot look at surface only / but must dig down. Beneath is where you find / the much we rest on, the clamor, the ever- / multiplying root.

Balwit's title "Deciphering is Something Only I Can Do" echoes a line in Alanna Martinez's Observer article: "Deciphering the drawings is something only Mr. Way can do, but each is a sort of three dimensional thesis... compressed to four-inches-by-five-inches of a reused scrap of paper... a refined--almost elegant--haiku." Jerry Saltz, in "Studying the Masterpieces of Visionary Artist Melvin Way," further describes Way's artwork as "creating synaptic connections between real things in possible and impossible ways, all with great graphic imagination."

And Balwit does the same, creating synaptic connections between the possible and impossible layers of Way's art and the possible and impossible layers of the world around us.

Artwork by Mary Bast
Feasting upon this interstitching of poetry and artwork, I felt drawn to include a response to both in my mixed media piece, "Something Only Melvin Way Can Do," among a series of tributes to artists traditionally ignored in a white-male-dominated art world. (Melvin Way studied briefly at the Technical Career Institute before mental illness left him homeless, in and out of psychiatric care and the city's shelter system.)

*     *     *

Devon Balwit lives in the Pacific Northwest. She has six chapbooks and three collections out in the world. Her poems can be found in The Cincinnati Review, Rattle, Peacock Journal, Fire Poetry Journal, The Wild Word, The Ekphrastic Review, and many others. Her chapbook, Forms Most Marvelous, is available at dancing girl press & studio.

1 comment:

  1. Artists in dialogue with one another across mediums is a joy. Such synesthesia!