Last Saturday I had the privilege of participating in the sixth annual Ars Poetica on the west side of Puget Sound.
Art and poetry begin their meeting each January as poets submit to a jury that selects poems for presentation to local artists. The artists choose one or more poems to interpret in their chosen media. When complete, the art is displayed at local galleries and other locations, culminating in author-artist events, where poets read their poems alongside the accompanying artwork, and the artists then speak about their process.
Here is my poem:
As Time and Tides Converge
The stars in the sky shimmer
like oyster shells beneath your feet
the sharp, cold, stings of home
ebb as you walk the beach
feet crunching against
the rocky expanse at low tide
reflected light exposing starfish
and urchins that usually sleep
You keep watch for them
vulnerable as they are
treading round them with care
patient as the moon
who wanes and waxes
in ancient rhythms
who conjures a flood tide
in this sea that birthed
and claims you.
And here is the beautiful image “As Time and Tides Converge” rendered by Michelle Purdue—who interpreted my poem with digital media.
Michelle wasn’t able to attend the reading, but sent this message to be read at the event:
This poem felt like fate when it cropped up amongst all the other poems. I had completed a painting last year that really spoke to me, but for some reason when I’d finished still felt like it was missing something. One of the things that I love about digital art is its flexibility. If you try something and it doesn’t work, you don’t have to scrape off all the layers of paint in order to try again. On this piece, it was as if the poet had been sitting over my shoulder as I created that painting the first time, and had just forgotten to whisper the final instructions before walking away. Once I had these beautiful, lyrical lines in my hands, I went back to my digital “easel” and the whole thing just came together.
The eerie part? When I’d first worked on this painting last year I’d originally named it—“Time and Tides.”
I was really touched by Michelle’s words, and she and I exchanged emails this week, sharing more about ourselves and our creative process.
In her words:
I never feel truly fulfilled unless I have a creative project of some kind brewing, whether that's painting, writing, figuring out which part of the house we need to tear apart and improve, or rescuing some old piece of furniture that needs a new lease on life! It's always refreshing to connect with other folks in whom that creative vein runs wide and rich.
Your piece was just beautiful, and it really spoke to me on so many levels…for the artist, there's always the fear that you've not done the words justice, or that the poet will be disappointed that you missed their vision. But for the lucky, there's that moment when you…feel that spark of art meeting art, bouncing off in new and exciting ways, and you're able to take a piece of it, like fireflies in a jar, to ignite the next piece of work.
I hope you enjoyed the painting, and were able to take something away from it. If that happens, I've been successful.
My first glimpse of Michelle’s “As Time and Tides Converge” came from a Facebook post advertising the reading.
I was struck by the image in the lower right corner, and when I looked closely and saw the title, realized it was the response to my poem, and was thrilled. And it just so happened that her art was hanging above the booth I slid into at the Toro Lounge just before the reading began. What a lovely surprise to look up and see this ethereal scene overhead.
I wrote to Michelle about my inspiration for the poem and how fitting her interpretation was:
In February 2016 I had the opportunity to convene a small group at a 5-Day Academy for Spiritual Formation, and wrote the poem for a woman in my group, a retired second-career Episcopal priest who’d grown up in an oyster farming family and lived as a child in a house above the oyster business on the Purdy Spit—which is less than a mile from where I live now. Her home life was difficult and she’d slip out of the house alone in the night and walk the Spit under the moonlight. On that beach, she felt safe and loved, and felt the first spiritual longings of her soul.
When I saw the woman rising in your piece, I thought how perfect and powerful that image was, how true and fitting to the story I wanted to the poem to tell.
I also loved the synchronicity of the titles…
You can find more stunning images of women in both fantastic and realistic settings at Michelle’s website: Michelleperdueart.weebly.com.
I am a writer who, in December 2011, fortified by a new MFA, empty nest, and changes in my husband's employment, relocated from my native California to Washington state to see what would unfold next.