11 August 2015

Poem as collage, collage as poem


These Silence of the Lambs poems of mine have always been especially rooted in the visual. Even when the poem series was just an idea, I had imagined the words side-by-side with illustration. But I am not a visual artist and I let this self-knowledge stop me from attempting this parallel path for a while. Thankfully there are poets like Matthea Harvey and Kristy Bowen who show how this line can be crossed by the poet and in tandem with the poem. Matthea, with her mermaid-appliance silhouettes and her photographs of miniatures. Kristy, with her collages combining the mid-century housewife with the carnivalesque with the natural world. Their approaches to their visual art are so intertwined with their poetic styles and subjects that they make the perfect complements to each other.

Because I think collage is, essentially, the predominant principle guiding my creative style (even in writing poetryespecially for this specific poem series), I finally realized that this was the appropriate visual medium for me to use in this particular project. My obsession with strangely-named wildflowers became the base from which I constructed these collages. The juxtaposition of the subtle beauty of these plants that pop up everywhere from backyards and roadsides to woodlands and riverbanks with their morbidly associative names struck the same perfect balance of bleak elegance and gorgeous grotesquerie that I looked for in writing each of my Silence of the Lambs poems.

These are the illustrated texts I chose for this cutting up and mashing together, all books that I had laying around or bought cheaply for just this purpose:
  • The Compleat Farmer: A Compendium of Do-It-Yourself, Tried and True Practices for the Farm, Garden, and Household. The Main Street Press (1975)
  •  Gray’s Anatomy (1901 Edition). Henry Gray, F.R.S. (1974).
  • The MacMillan Wild Flower Book. Clarence Hylander & Edith Farrington Johnston (1954).
  • Webster’s Unified Dictionary and Encyclopedia. H.S. Stuttman Company, Inc. (1961).

Each of the six poems in the Silence of the Lambs sequence is paired with a collage. These collages are not strict illustrations of the poems they are paired with. That feels too boring and repetitive to me, creatively speaking. They start with the same idea and image touchstones as in their corresponding poems, but then they branch off in their own directions. Sometimes they end up in nearly the same place, but they take a different route to get there. 

Do you spook easily, Starling? 
+ hooded skullcap / plate 171

That is rather slippery of you, Agent Starling. 
+ boneset / plate 217

Why do you think he removes their skins, Agent Starling? 
+ birdfoot violet / plate 112 

Look at him, Starling. Tell me what you see. 
+ lady's thumb / plate 45

How do we begin to covet, Clarice? 
+ nightshade & bittersweet / plate 173

Have the lambs stopped screaming? 
+ sheep laurel / plate 136

With the first collage or two, I was cautious. Unsure of my limitations in this medium, I stuck to the paper cut-outs from the texts. By the third collage, I grew more comfortable with superimposing contrasting images on top of each other, combining the botanical and human anatomical. Working on the last few pieces, I began incorporating erasure poetry (which really is just another kind of collage-work) of wildflower descriptions, cut-outs of small design elements from coupon circulars, using needle and thread to imitate blood vessels. This experimental tangent into visual-art-as-complement-to-poetry was not only fun, it was extremely fruitful, producing new pieces that now function as legitimate contributions to a growing poetry manuscript. Huzzah!


I really wanted to include the full scans of each of my finished collages here because I'm so excited about them. But I also wanted to hold them back just in case I decide one day to submit them for consideration for journal/magazine publication outside of the manuscript (in which case, "publishing" them here would likely disqualify them). So as a compromise with myself for myself, I've included a "slice" of each collage here in this post.

02 August 2015

Forthcoming! Tinderbox Poetry Journal

Some great news to begin the dead-damn-dog days of August: two of my Silence of the Lambs poems have been accepted for publication at the fantastic Tinderbox Poetry Journal

"Why do you think he removes their skins, Agent Starling?" and "Look at him, Starling. Tell me what you see." will be appearing in a future Tinderbox issue. I'll let you know when they're up.

The latter poem will also be included in the next poetry anthology in the Literary House Press series, Still Life with Poem: 100 Natures Mortes in Verse. So much to look forward to.

So far, this has been a fairly productive poetry-writing summer. I'm hoping to eke a few more out before we hit September, which looms ever closer and taunts me with thoughts of crisp golden days, and long chilly nights.

Happy August, poetry-friends!

31 May 2015

Poetry by the Sea, and other places

toes in the cold Sound
I spent this past week in Madison, Connecticut with my friend and colleague Jehanne Dubrow at the inaugural Poetry By the Sea Conference. It was a fun, relaxing poetry vacation along the Long Island Sound. I spent some time on the shell-covered beach with my toes in the cold salt water. I collected a fistful of tiny, intricate shells the way I loved to do as a kid. I spent time inside and outside just working on a poem. I even managed to finish my latest Silence of the Lambs poem on the train ride back.

a Sound sonnet, by Jo Yarrington
I took the workshop on hybrid forms and artistic collaboration with the lovely Terri Witek and her visual artist collaborator Cyriaco Lopes. I really enjoyed the playfulness of the workshop and the wonderful poets and visual artists I met there. One of my fellow students, Jo Yarrington, completed a beautiful project: a Sound sonnet, a sonnet without words. It is 14 lines of translucent shells that attempt to approximate iambic pentameter in their numbers. I was so moved and excited by this inspired project. Such a beautiful experiment.


On October 10 in Merrillville, Indiana, I will be participating in my first writing panel! I will be part of the "Historical [Re]tell: The Writing & Craft of Telling Retellings of the Historical" Panel Discussion at the 2015 Steel Pen Writers' Conference alongside moderator Laura Madeline Wiseman, and fellow panelists Cat Dixon, Britny Doane,  and P. Ivan Young. Conference registration opens tomorrow (June 1st). Join us!

02 May 2015

Chapbook interview with Laura Madeline Wiseman!

http://www.lauramadelinewiseman.com/blog/2015/05/02/the-chapbook-interview-lindsay-lusby-on-the-mother-beast-of-a-poem/After trading chapbooks/books with my new poetry friend Laura Madeline Wiseman at the AWP Conference in Minneapolis, she interviewed me as part of her blog series on the chapbook. You can read it here!

I am so grateful to Madeline for including me in this fun series because I just love chapbooks. And I always discover more about my own thoughts and feelings about a thing when I am forced to find words to describe them. Things like this: 
"My chapbook experiment forced me to push past the mystery that I like to leave my poems suspended within. I had to find answers to the poetic questions I posed. The interconnectedness of these poems also made them very dependent upon each other for meaning and context, which meant that they lost some of their potency if presented as individual poems (say in a literary journal or anthology). This could be considered a weakness in the poems, but gathered together in their intended sequence in a chapbook, they seem to form one bigger and stronger poem. That’s what I think the chapbook does best, when it works: assembles a group of poems into one larger mother-beast of a poem." 
I hope you'll read the interview, if you're interested in hearing my thoughts about the state of the chapbook in contemporary poetry. And, as always, copies of my chapbook Imago are available for purchase from dancing girl press. Happy Saturday, poetry-loving people!


28 April 2015

Off the map at AWP Minneapolis

If you followed any of my Twitter or Facebook updates during AWP Minneapolis, you'll have noticed that there was quite a bit going on within the confines of the Convention Center and hotel and the sheltering skyways in between:
Managing table 1724 with the fantastic Julie Armstrong at my side.
That was all such a whirlwind of fun and work and wonder (and blue! so much blue!). But that's not all there was!

My good friend Jenny Gallagher, a Minnesota-native transplanted to little Chestertown, was awesome enough to make plans to visit home while I was at AWP. She made sure that I left the gigantic conference bubble for a while to see more of the actual Minneapolis. 

She took me to a very filling breakfast at Tiny Diner, which is only appropriate since our friendship was forged over pastry and tea when I worked at Evergrain Bread Co.

Banana-chocolate chip pancakes and maple links. Delicious chai lattes. This is what our friendship is made of. And me asking Jenny to say everything in her kick-ass Minnesotan accent.

Later that day, we ate fantastically rich Thai food for dinner and browsed/shopped at Magers & Quinn, one of my new favorite indie bookstores. 

The sisters Gallagher!

On Saturday morning (before Team Lit House snuck out of the conference early), Jenny and her lovely sister Katie Gallagher (who has previously visited little Chestertown!) took me on a last Minneapolis excursion. We went to Sunstreet Breads for breakfast (pastries! tea!). I got a chocolate-almond bearclaw that I just had to photograph because it actually looks like a bear claw! Just look at that pastry-fist wrapped around a paw-full of chocolate-and-almond goodness. And a chai latte, of course.

(I also bought a rhubarb turnover for the plane later because I have serious pastry needs.)

We followed up our delicious gluttony with a brisk walk around Lake Harriet, a visit to the famous sculpture garden, and ended up at a letterpress shop that Jenny and Katie had scouted out earlier: Lunalux!

Lunalux was half working-print-shop and half storefront. There was a poster on the window advertising an offsite AWP reading that I'd just missed the night before (of course!). And when I went inside, the letterpress lockup for that poster was still in the proof press where it was printed. I loved that.

Last night's party & the morning after.

Then it was all luggage and airports and planes all the way back to Maryland. But it was such a fun and full visit to Minneapolis. I can't wait to visit again! Jenny and Katie and I will still have lots to see and do. In the meantime, it's hard to beat coming back home to this:

07 April 2015

How to find me at AWP

Despite my cumulative exhaustion from the nonstop busyness at the fabulous Rose O'Neill Literary House (have I mentioned how much I love my awesome job?), I am very much excited about the upcoming literary & publishing frenzy at the 2015 AWP Conference in Minneapolis. For a good chunk of the Conference, you will be able to find me at the Literary House table in the Bookfair, with all of our fantastic Literary House Press and Cherry Tree wares and paper goods

I will be on-duty at Table 1724 for the following times:
  • Thursday, April 9 from 9:00-10:30 a.m.
  • Thursday, April 9 from noon-1:30 p.m. 
  •  Friday, April 10 from noon-1:30 p.m.
  •  Friday, April 10 from 4:30-5:45 p.m.

And then on Thursday night, April 9 from 7:00-9:00 p.m. at the Hyatt Regency Minneapolis (1300 Nicollet Mall), I will be at the official Cherry Tree Launch Party! Inaugural issue contributors Juliana Gray, Dore Kiesselbach, Bruce Snider, and Laura Madeline Wiseman will read their pieces from the issue, followed by tasty refreshments, an open bar, and a sale & signing of the issue. If you think this sounds like a good time, please join us! We would love to see you there and introduce you to the beauty of Cherry Tree: A National Literary Journal @ Washington College

Happy Conference, everyone!

05 March 2015

Do you spook easily, Starling?

Last month I experienced a flash of poetic clarity that delivered itself signed and sealed care of one of my favorite horror movie classics: The Silence of the Lambs. During my probably twenty-seventh viewing, that steady refrain of "Starling" throughout the script just lit up all over the dialogue for me, her name/species bouncing from the mouths of male mentor/villain Hannibal Lecter to male mentor/hero Jack Crawford. These lines addressing "Starling" over and over seemed to me the perfect jumping-off points for a new mini-series of poems, addressing Agent Clarice Starling as both young woman in a male-dominated world chasing a killer of women and small bird eluding threats both wild and domestic. These lines will become my poem titles and these poems will be nested inside the Catechesis manuscript as a different variation on the same themes I've already been writing toward.

Here are the movie lines I have gleaned so far to use for these poem titles:

  • Do you spook easily, Starling?
  • That is rather slippery of you, Agent Starling.
  • Why do you think removes their skins, Agent Starling?
  • Look at him, Starling. Tell me what you see.
  • It was just smoke, Starling. I had to get rid of him.
  • How do we begin to covet, Clarice?

This last doesn't end in "Starling" as the others do, but it is still so evocative; and touches on the subverted Biblical/Catholicism theme at the center of Catechesis. I just had to pick up that one, too.

And because I had only ever watched the movie, I decided I finally needed to read the book: The Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris. This is not the usual fiction I read (I admit to being a bit of a literary snob, but it comes with the territory!), but this was now research for the poems to be written. I just finished the book today. And although I can't say that the writing style was completely to my taste, there were certainly a lot of details to be absorbed to use for poem fodder. One passage in particular (from Chapter 25) really helped me to be certain that I am heading down the right path with this new direction:
"A caterpillar becomes a pupa in a chrysalis. Then it emerges, comes out of its secret changing room as the beautiful imago. Do you know what an imago is, Clarice?"
"An adult winged insect."
"But what else?"
She shook her head.
"It's a term from the dead religion of psychoanalysis. An imago is an image of the parent buried in the unconscious from infancy and bound with infantile affect. The word comes from the wax portrait busts of their ancestors the ancient Romans carried in funeral processions... Even the phlegmatic Crawford must see some significance in the insect chrysalis." 
How serendipitous to find my word-friend here! So far I have written the first poem and made significant progress in drafting the second. I can't wait to see what else there is to discover as these new poems unfold themselves and emerge.

This has got to be one of my favorite poetry prompts. Feel free to try it yourself, if it appeals to your tastes, too!