SPRITES & FLARES: PROMPTS RESPONSE FEATURE
LOIS BASSEN: ORRERY
Interview with L. S. Bassen
Amber: First of all, I admire your decision to collaborate with fellow artist, Mike Stanko, in order to fully bring this piece to life. What initially inspired you to write “Orrery?”
Lois: Two inspirations: (1) the lasting effect of seeing an orrery decades ago in high school Earth Science, when I grasped that humans could/did model/understand, find images/objects for Reality and (2) clearly, at the poem’s end, some heartbreak had found its useful metaphor. The orrery is a perfect image of the connection one never severs though direct contact ceases.
Amber: To which prompt were you responding?
Lois: Sorry I don’t have the choices in front of me now, but my recollection is that it was about astronomy … which always compels me (my niece is an astronomer).
Amber: Finding another artist to complement your writing can be a daunting task, but the combination of painting and poem works beautifully for you. How did the two of you come together and decide to join art forms?
Lois: It is a joyful, provocative experience, working with/through another medium. I imagine it’s a lot like being a translator. In our case, I met Mike Stanko with his wonderful wife Karen Zang (also an artist) at a party about a dozen years ago. I appreciated the unaffected delight of his paintings and admired his energy and constant evolution. Over time, as he had more/successful gallery shows in NY/LI, he asked me to write something to accompany the images he published in calendars that sold out immediately. The calendar writing developed into our plan for a collection of collaborated work (we’ve titled SCENE & SAID) that went beyond months of the year as the organizing principle to paintings he chose for me to react to – just because we wanted something like this for ourselves and people who were asking for more.
Amber: Is poetry your preferred medium?
Lois: I always love this question and how people answer it. My reaction is that whatever one’s ‘modeling’ mechanism (art and/or science), humans are prompted by necessity to make sense of Reality for survival and in the luxury of protected Spaces, to aspire to aesthetic/moral/mechanical beauty/efficiency. So – shorter (better) answer: some ‘translations’ of understanding arrive in my head as phrases, word clusters (poems) … others arrive as characters with plotlines (fiction/drama). I don’t prefer one to the other; I receive constant ‘reports’ from Reality just as my eyes receive light, and my brain/mind makes of them what it wills.
Amber:Your overall choice of diction is unique and admirable – could you tell us a bit more about your creative process?
Lois: Since the start of the modern era, artists have troubled themselves over individuality/originality … unique Voice. I am aware of the longer (pre-)history of artistic expression with more communal motives. So I always feel a tension between finding my own voice and just telling the damn story or getting the poem’s words to communicate … in poetry, especially, to keep the ancient goal of euphony, beauty. I love the music of words. Another goal of mine which your prompt delightfully suited is to bridge the ‘two cultures’ of art/science whose separation C.P. Snow lamented. In other words, I see the world bifocally through science AND art. I try to build a bit of that bridge when I write. My ‘creative process’ tries to create something both sides of that bridge can walk towards. One of my happiest rejections came from a journal that mistook me for a physicist!
Lois: Off the top of my head, never a great location, I guess I’d ask for most memorable/favorite other art form piece of theirs … and then ask for their response to it in their own medium. As in, which [aria/song…architecture…dance…novel…movie] always arrests you, makes you pull off the road to listen to if you’re driving, or brings you to tears, etc. Welles’s use of light or Joseph Cotton’s voice in CITIZEN KANE, for example. I think I could write a poem about Joseph Cotton’s voice in that movie or as Holly Martin in THE THIRD MAN. Someone else might be prompted to choreograph/ video a dance to the Beatles’ Fool on the Hill. Happily, etcetera.