For this week’s results, I am going to hand straight over to judge Nick Reeves: he both provided the artistic inspiration for the challenge, and took the time and skill to judge with patience and perception. It has been a great honour for me to work with such a talented artist and writer. I hope everyone who took part or simply took an interest enjoyed the challenge as much as I have. Please note that Nick judged the challenge blind: I sent him the entries anonymously by email, and he preferred not to look to see who the authors were before judging. Without further ado, here is Nick in his own words:
Dancing about architecture*
Collage is meditation – reverse meditation – where the result is to fill the blankness. A successful collage (or painting or written piece) for me is to allow the image to reveal itself. It is rare that I start with any fixed idea in mind, I am content to play and see what happens. Usually, as with writing, I may have a nugget – a title, a phrase, an image – and I start from this point.
I enjoy the quietude of arranging and rearranging and gluing and leaving and returning. This is the case with an uncommon vision. The piece was started early October and finished mid November. It was not something that I worked on daily but it was always there on the work top so that it could be played with whenever fancy took.
A lot of my work is based in chance and created layer upon layer. It is not unusual to think ‘this was so much better last week’ but to counter this I will randomly cover up whole spaces and then think, ‘oh, now I’ve really blown it!’ But, as with so many things, something new evolves. At some point the mind starts to focus as an image/an idea rises out of the chaos. What I do know for sure is that if I ever begin to try and formalise an image/a word piece, then I need to step away and come back at a later date. I am interested in conjuring the subconscious, layers and in what determines art as being finished.
With these thoughts (are they thoughts or doodles?) in mind I tried to uncover my favourites among the many entries. I am not an ekphrastic ekspert (sic), so I can only fall where my heart leads me. Blah blah blah. So, here are some of my favourites.
Third Place: What My Eyes See by Ron Rowland
bits of old newspapers, can’t read what they say
while an intriguing young girl is looking my way
layers upon layers and scraps upon scraps
artistic endeavor with a master plan perhaps
the longer I look the more my eyes see
there’s even pieces of old currency
faintly visible revealed a man’s silhouette
just above the cat eyes that look like rivets
there once again, I see remains of a word
one prominent section looks just like a bird
some colors remain pure while others they meld
handwriting and signatures with portions withheld
monarch butterfly fragments scattered about
is that an avocado or a stern man with a pout
the diagonal slice seems to have a resolve
separating that section as it attempts to evolve
‘uncommon vision’ down in the corner the title
as all entities converge to render it quite vital
paper, scissors, and glue just doing their thing
but the artist’s guidance makes this piece sing
If an uncommon vision were an album What My Eyes See would be the lead single! A wonderful entry point into the artwork. The tight, simple rhyme structure (AABB over 5 stanzas) brings order and some unification to the initial chaos of the image. Rather than escape into realms of fantasy the writer simply responds to what their ‘eyes see’ and what their eyes continue to see as the layers reveal themselves. A fine piece (and a great single)!
Second Place: A DIABOLICALOGUE by Casey
“Come here child, let me show you how our world is decoupaged and held together by paste. You are s/he.”
“Who is me?” asks the wild haired, wide eyed, child.
“I know you are; but what am I?” teases Æ, pretending the questioning child spoke declaratively.
“<giggling>” the child.
“My dear s/he, I know you by your old name, Alice. Perhaps you forgot after being undergrøund, then through the lööking glass, and, back again from wœnderland. “
“Who went where? I did?”
“Oh, I see.”
“Then, tell me of that which you see.”
“I see the sound of glossy clippings fluttering and becoming wings.”
“If you see what you hear, what do hear resonating from that which you see?”
“I hear a vision of these colors covered by those colors. I hear bonfires popping in the red pigmentation, coming off of the dot matrix. I listen to the muted, watery flow coming from the rolling waves of cool yellows. The crinkling static of almost snow white. I taste the smell of acrid, unnatural chemicals.”
“Careful, deep breaths of such things may alter your mind and thinking.”
“I remember a caterpillar once telling me that very thing. Now, you tell me: what is the difference between this and that?”
“One is a moth, the other a butterfly.”
“They seem the same.”
“One flies in day, the other at night. One holds its wings vertically, up and away. One folds its wings to cover its vulnerable anatomy.”
“Well, that’s obscure.”
“How can something be obviously obsecure?”
“Well, do you know how you are?”
“I’m fine. Thanks for asking. How are you?”
“I am, apparently. How it is so? I do not know.”
“I find you tiresome.”
“I’m simply glad to be found by you.”
“Everything and everyone appears desperately disparate on this canvas.”
“Welcome to the real world. Ain’t it beautiful? Can you read what is written?”
“No, the words simply seem to be strings of letters.”
“What else could a word be?”
“Do you think others are listening? How dull we must seem.”
“Shall we share a mind and the pretense to pretend with we have something to say to the others?”
“Goodness no. That sounds utterly dreadful.”
“Good. Lord knows the others will delight in doing this for us.”
<Let them make their proclamations profanely. We’ll play in the mud while looking closely without seeing anything clearly.>
A DIABOLICALOGUE surprises and delights. The author slips effortlessly into the fantasy of the artwork, creating their own magical world between the layers. The response is imaginative (and questioning) and I especially enjoy the playfulness of [the] language/linguistics – the umlauts, the diaeresis – the conversational tone, and the ‘Alice In Wonderland’ allusion makes for a superb motif that serves as a rabbit hole into an uncommon vision: both creative and immediately recognisable to the reader.
First Place: The Commonality of Layers by Misky
The rain that binds was medicine,
acid burnt and limping beige.
Memories pressed between.
Cut and cropped like lacy
wings prised off butterflies.
A cult of layers for a girl
who caught a butterfly
in her hands. Held it tight, right
near her ear.
But when she couldn’t
hear it breathe,
she assumed it dead,
‘though its wings still beat
hard within her heart.
© Misky 2021
What I particularly enjoy about The Commonality of Layers is the way the author has explored the piece in both the personal and imaginative whilst addressing the physicality of an uncommon vision: the artistic endeavour – referencing ‘memories pressed between’, the ‘cutting and cropping’, the ‘cult of layers’, etc. It explores the ‘commonality’ and succeeds for me as both a stand alone poem or as an accompaniment to the artwork itself. A deserved winner. Well done!
KOKO & Peas xo
Ps: It strikes me now – at this late stage – that my real fancy would be to take elements and lines and phrases from all the poems submitted, cut them up, reapply, rearrange and remodel them to the page… and in this way another collage would emerge!
Thank you to everyone who got involved, it really has been quite a (torturous) delight to read and consider each and every one! And, rather like a good album, my favourites would no doubt be different on different days – and, perhaps, this is the way art should be.
* ‘dancing about architecture’ is a quote generally attributed to either Frank Zappa, Thelonious Monk, Elvis Costello or David Byrne (among others) and perhaps serves as a fitting metaphor for ekphrastics.
To everyone who has taken part. I found the standard of entries this week to be exceptional, which I think speaks volumes for the power of Nick’s artwork, as well as the talent of all the writers involved. Special congratulations to Misky and to all of our winners.
Stay tuned for the next EIF Poetry Challenge, to be announced same time next week!