What effect do negatives (“I did not come with a clean slate”, “I do not want to be my father”) and double negatives (“I do not want to not be my father”) have in poetry that confronts secrets and confessions?
Lately I’ve been thinking about the photography of Diane Arbus, and how her work has a quality of collapsing difference: twin sisters, a john wearing his trick’s lingerie, girls in matching bathing suits, a man with his penis tucked between his thighs … It is a transgressive art that suggests we must continually confront who we are not, in order to find who we are.
Both my poem and the painting by Roberto Matta that inspired it come to the conclusion that Eros is wonderfully and offensively disorienting, and that these offences have their own lineage. It can therefore be more honest to assert who we are not than who we are because we are all so uncertain, even when we know, more or less, why we do the things we do. Apology by exploration.
Write an ekphrastic poem in unrhymed couplets. The second line of each stanza must reaffirm or contradict / complicate the line above it. Try to pick a painting / photograph / sculpture that is non-objective in nature, or is rich in symbolism. Write lines from the point of view of the artist, the work of art, and the viewer. Intermix these lines. Use the words neon, fever, cleave, under, pearl, early, clasp, and fell. Begin two sentences with the construction: I do not want.
Trenton Pollard has work forthcoming in Denver Quarterly, Lambda Literary, The Journal, and elsewhere. Originally from Michigan, he has worked as a welder, massage therapist, political organizer, and poetry teacher. He lives in New York City, with occasional furloughs in Austin, Texas. He is currently the nonfiction editor of Columbia Journal Online.