When art forms collide, or the coolest poetry reading I’ve ever done

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how different art mediums can interact with and inform one another.

A few months ago, I participated in “COLLISION: When Visions Combine,” an annual collaboration between The Momentary, our local modern arts museum housed in a decommissioned 63,000-square-foot cheese factory, and CACHE, a local arts organization. The two combined their wildly prescient forces to pair artists of different mediums together for two fifteen-minute performances across the Momentary.

Before revealing our partners, they had us confirm we were willing to participate. I said yes, thrilled by the possibility. I hoped they’d pair me with one of the many incredible musicians I’d met in the past year through events sponsored by Artists 360. I looked forward to discovering how to combine original music and poetry.

But they hadn’t paired me with a musician. 

They’d paired me with Bekah Skaggs, an immensely talented professional dancer. I had no idea how we’d make it work because— as someone who is very much known for being the opposite of graceful— I’d never collaborated with a dancer before. But I had already agreed to the challenge, so I met Bekah with an open mind and shared with her my work and experience. 

Before the show with our marquee

During our initial conversations, Bekah mentioned she had recently danced with fire as part of a performance. She couldn’t see, because it was over the phone, but my eyes lit up immediately. I had just completed a novel-in-verse that prominently features water, so I asked Bekah if she had ever danced with water. She hadn’t— but when I told her about my project, she jumped at the challenge. 

The post-show artists’ talk

I pieced together a portion of my novel more explicitly dealing with water— including, literally, an entire contrapuntal from a violent lake’s point of view— and she designed a makeshift water stage. 

We both learned a lot from the collaborative process. I learned how to factor movement and breath into my writing (when Bekah asked for more time to move from the wet tarp floor to the lollipop pole) and she learned how to choreograph spoken word poetry. The resulting performance was unbelievably incredible, transportive and amazing— and beyond anything the two of us could have imagined. Everything from the space (which provided an endless, resonant echo), to the music (“Apex Instrumental,” a track by Modeling, which just so happens to be a band comprised of Bekah’s cousins); and the very fact that we had been paired felt transcendent. And dare I say, magical. 

I won’t be able to share the full video of our performance today, even though it was professionally recorded, because it does include some especially shocking spoilers in the novel, which is currently on submission to editors. But I hope that I’ll have the chance to share it someday in a distant future. 

For now, enjoy these incredible photos that offer just a glimpse of the incredibly transportive experience. And catch a glimpse of the performance in this sped-up clip.

Photos and video provided courtesy of Jared Sorrells, Novo Studio.

An agent, an MFA, an Artists 360 presentation

So many exciting things have happened in the past few months. Where to begin? I signed with a literary agent, seven years after sending my first query letter! I graduated with my MFA after four years of workshops and wallowing! I shared my somewhat-depressing writing journey at the 2022 Artists 360 convening in the Great Hall at Crystal Bridges! And I had a deeply personal poem published by Hobart, one of my favorite online journals!

I’ve also dealt with some not-so-exciting things. Turns out, job hunting during an [allegedly] impending recession is brutal. And I don’t love the feeling of being completely free-floating for the first time in my life. But I’m lucky to have options, for maybe the first time in my life. And to take risks.

Before my presentation at the convening, some of my fellow artists gave this advice:

If you’re feeling afraid, tell your brain that you’re excited instead— it won’t know the difference because both emotions trigger the same physiological response.

I think I’ve always known this, deep down inside, and I really am genuinely excited for what the future holds. Genuinely! But some days, when I face new rejections and the world feels bleak, I am choosing to channel my fear into excitement instead.

What are you excited about?

Courtesy of Mid-America Arts Alliance. Photo by Stephen Ironside, Ironside Photography

I won an Individual Artist Fellowship from the Arkansas Arts Council for my poetry!

Individual Artist Fellowship awards are unconditional, non-matching awards made directly to individual Arkansas artists. An independent panel annually selects nine artists in rotating categories to receive fellowships of $4,000 each. This year, artists from around the state submitted applications for the fellowships in three categories: cinematic arts, poetry and contemporary crafts. For more info, visit the Arkansas Arts Council website here.