Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Next Big Thing

I have been tagged by the poet, Althea Romeo-Mark to give this interview for an expanding blog project called The Next Big Thing. Althea Romeo-Mark was born in Antigua and now resides in Switzerland. She has published five collections of poems: If Only the Dust Would Settle: Author House, UK 2009; Beyond Dreams: The Ritual Dancer, Sabanoh Press, Liberia , 1989; Two Faces: Two Phases, Speed-O-Graphics, Liberia , 1984; Palaver: West Indian Poems, Downtown Poets Co-op, New York, USA 197 and The Silent Dancing Spirit, Department of Pan-African Studies, Kent State University, 1974. You can read her interview at this site:


TNBT:    Where did the idea come from for the book?

The poems contained in Pictures at an Exhibition, scheduled to be released in March of this year, 2013, by Poinciana Paper Press, accumulated over 23 years. Not until about a year ago did the thought arise to make a single collection of them. What I had been doing though was translating the exhibitions of Bahamian painter, Stan Burnside, into poetry. This is a practice I have engaged in for a long time, perfecting more and more - a sort of theft actually. Where there was art that I wanted to keep and could not afford or that was not for sale, I'd translate or attempt to translate the essence of these works into poetry. The painting or paintings were not mine but the poems I made from them or that I made them into certainly belong to me. Most of my poetry is made from life itself. Making art from art is for me an important and interesting exercise. I have attempted it and I think successfully with the work of other Bahamian artists; among them and most notably are, Dorman Stubbs, Antonius Roberts, John Cox, Michael Edwards, Brent Malone, Max Taylor and Toby Lunn. Some of these earlier successful attempts have been published. Pictures at an Exhibition though is the very first of these attempts that is resulting in the publication of an entire collection of such poem. This is certainly my most extensive collaboration with any single artist. My partnership with Stan Burnside, converting his exhibitions of paintings into poetry over a period of 23 years, got the poems written. Getting Sonia Farmer and Poinciana Paper Press, about a year ago, to agree to publish this collection, with images of paintings from these 23 years of exhibitions, created the trinity of partners that is bringing Pictures at an Exhibition into being.    

TNBT: What genre does your book fall under?

If painting was a language like Greek or Chinese, this would be a work of translation. The kind of reading that resulted in these poems though is a sort of Anthropology. Legitimately though, this is a collection of poems and the works of visual art do not illustrate the poems nor are the poems elaborate captions of the paintings. Both of these art forms sit or stand side by side. 

What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Interestingly, Stan Burnside, the artist upon whose paintings the poems in Pictures at an Exhibition are based, has a famous movie star cousin, Sidney Poitier, who is also a collector of this artist's paintings. Though born in Miami, Sidney Poitier's parents are Bahamians. Here in The Bahamas, on Cat Island and on New Providence, is where Sidney Poitier spent the first 15 years of his life. He would certainly have to be in a movie made from my poems of Stan's paintings. In addition, I'd want his daughter, Sydney Tamiia Poitier in it. She is herself a movie star. I'd want her mother, Joanna Shimkus, in it as well, an actress from Canada. I would want another of Sidney Poitier's daughters in it, Pamela Poitier. She is not a movie star but she is an acting teacher. I would want Beverly Todd in it also.

TNBT:  What is the one sentence synopsis of your book?

Deep inside the creative act, making red-hot coals cool enough to handle

TNBT: How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It took me 23 years, the same 23 years over which the paintings that they are of were painted and exhibited.

TNBT: What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It is this book, Pictures at an Exhibition that is about to be published, that is actually my 17th book. The 16 previous books are: Bicentennial Blues, 43 Poems, Ice Cubes, Acts, Fruits from Africa, Once Upon A Blank Page, As If Creation were His Crime, Christmas Lights, Poems To Sit On To Shell Peas, On The Hinges Of This Town, Seventy Poems, Open Testament, In A China Shop & Other Poems, El amplio Mar de los Sargazos y otros poemas, Wide Sargasso Sea & 62 Other Poems, Discovery Daze, a collection of 72 poems. Soul of These Soils Sail of These Seas, released in 1996, is a cassette recording of 155 of my early poems. What is challenging and exhilarating about my commitment to create constantly is the challenge of abiding as it were at the heart of what matters - to be- if not in the ring itself- to be at ringside. As writer- as poet how necessary it is - eternally - to be a witness- to be on the front line, witnessing both what is being destroyed as well as what is being forged because these together contribute to the evolution of creation. It calls to mind those Volcanologist who race about the globe to stand upon the lips of craters while a volcano erupts, spewing orange-red molten lava high into the air. What is vital and moving though might be subtle - like watching a bird lay its eggs or watching a litter of pups being born. 

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Pictures at an Exhibition will be the second collection of my poems to be published by Poinciana Paper Press. The first was, In A China Shop and Other Poems, 2009.

The Writers I will be tagging include:  
Odia Ofeimun


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