Spoken word and visual art blown together
By Tamar Russell - October 19, 2006

Brooks Robards
In a moment of animation, Brooks Robards with her poem "Anniversary" on the wall behind her, read five of her poems relating to inspiration. Photos by Ralph Stewart

The Romans of old used the word, "adflatus" in referring to a breath or breeze that was believed to be blown into writers and artists from some divine source, giving them inspiration. The Italians then used the word "inspirare" and our English equivalent is inspiration. This breath was the focus of the show Saturday at the Louisa Gould Gallery in Vineyard Haven.

Combining visual pieces with poems from various Island poetry groups and writers, the event brought out a group of well-dressed poets and artists of all shapes and sizes. In a most organized fashion in the small space Saturday afternoon, a poetry reading began and everyone settled in with drink in hand to listen and wait their turn to read. The poets read from pieces on themes familiar to all of us - the sea, family, politics, love, and specifically, from whence their inspirations came.

Gallery owner Louisa Gould said this was a way to "be with other creative people" in the off-season. Since many local venues are closing and the Island is filled with a plethora of artists, Ms. Gould recognized the need to fill the lull in the art world that often comes with fall. But unlike past times, this time she wanted to be inspired by words, not images.

William E. Marks
William E. Marks, poet and co-producer for this word-art show, opened the event with an introduction and a piece on inspiration, titled the same.

The mix of artwork with the poems was also a new idea for the existing art work in the gallery, names such as Jules Worthington, JB Lamont, Marston Clough, Lanny Macdowell, Stephen Hart, and Jeffrey P'an to name a few.

"While curating the show I viewed the paintings, mixed media, and photography in a different light, as if to add dialogue to the artwork, to tell a story about what might have been, is, or could be or happen," said Ms. Gould. She added that putting the words with the images added another layer.

Many of the word pieces were well matched with visual pieces, for example Gray Park's expansive "Sengekontacket Pond" happily sat above Jane Brown's flirtatious "Love Poem." Another nice union was Brooks Robards's poem "In Jaffa" with two of Louisa Gould's black-and-white female body prints.

Ms. Gould's co-producer for the show, which included a filming of the readings for MVTV, was William E. Marks. Mr. Marks, also a poet, got the event started by reading the first piece, entitled "Inspiration."

A few short lines of
A few short lines of "rich" verse by Nancy F. Phillips entitled "Easter" accompanied by one of nature's gifts.
This was a nice change of venue for the poets, according to Mr. Marks, who said he looks forward to doing this type of event again in other locations on the Island. This gallery show using word art combined with visual images is the first time the two have been unified here on the Island, though this is the ninth event for these poets. Many of the writers came from one of three poetry groups: The Chilmark Poetry Group, The West Tisbury group, and a group sponsored by Featherstone Center for the Arts. Among the individual poets were Ann Bassett, Ruth Cochrane, Brooks Robards, Judith Neeld, Ellie Bates, and Jane Brown.

Mr. Marks said that he was pleased to see poetry given this kind of consideration and added that poetry received much less attention here in the United States than it does in Europe. Asked if the poets found it intimidating to be filmed, he replied, "In the beginning you could see these poets shaking, but eventually they get used to it." He said that many of them enjoyed the chance to have family and friends see them read on television. The film will be edited and the event shown on MVTV next month.

Though the room was crowded on Saturday with a group of individuals keenly into their verse, the Scottish drawing room atmosphere, including an interested feline appearance, made the first hour of the show work for me. These poets were surely inspired.

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