The idea behind the Poets Series is to paint portraits of living poets and let each poet pick the next as a practice of praco-poesis. More simply put, I hoped to create a round robin of poets. I began this work by crowd sourcing poets to begin each branch. I asked the poets who were picked if I could paint a portrait of them, and if they wouldn't mind selecting the next poet to add to the series. The response has been astounding. As the beginning poets included other poets, and the archive began to grow, branch by branch into an amazing narrative of contemporary poetry. The Poets Series is a celebration of the complex tangle of living poets that belong to a loose archive.
The Poets Series is an exploration in encomium.
The Poets Series project was inspired by a Detroit based painter's work Ann Mikolowski, who took to documenting the poets who passed through the Alternative Press in Detroit. Here is a link to her work: http://www.detroitartistsworkshop.com/mikolowski-ann/. These tender portraits locate this project in a beautiful tradition of encomium, which is further articulated in Robert Creeley's poem to Eddy Lindon found here:(https://media.sas.upenn.edu/pennsound/authors/Creeley/Naropa_7-84/Creeley-Robert_23_Thanks_Naropa_7-84.mp3).
The tenderness of this poem and Mikolowski's miniatures as major inspirations, aims this project in the direction of kindness and celebration, and dedicates my skills as a painter to a project that is collective and civic.
As a poet myself, I have nothing but respect for the beautiful and challenging work of making poetry. When I envisioned a body of work that focussed on encomium, my mind went straight to the poets. Who better to celebrate than those who dedicate themselves to the reachings of language and ideas? And what better way than a portrait in paint?
Writing and publishing poetry takes dedication and courage. It is often unpaid work and many moments of questioning the value of continuing. And yet, everyone continues to work with the words in order to progress to the edges and boundaries of language. Everyone beacons and creates varieties of conceptual and real communities who work in their own way to further an understanding of our times. This process of gathering and collaborating means so much to me, and in this sense, the Poets Series makes me terribly excited, as it maps itself into existence, because I am presented with my community as it articulates itself right in front of me. My job becomes one which channels an archive of these formations in all of their complex and beautiful manifestations. It also gives me an opportunity to spend time with each individual poet as I paint them. A pause in the flow. A quiet afternoon. A living dialogue. A reverse ekphrasis as i work to capture the essence of each person who makes the poems.