It’s hard for me to sit at my seat in workshop and not respond to people when they are critiquing my work. So hard. Sometimes I want to run over and hug the person who got the exact intention of my poem, or just wring my hands or roll my eyes at that one person who doesn’t. Ever. Get. It.
During my last workshop, I really wanted to tell the workshop the real story behind my poem. I wanted to tell everybody the stories of Marina Abramovic, of the weaver in Kusadasi, of the meta ideas I had about this poem. I suppose this is my space to do so.
I wrote this poem when I realized it was the Saturday before the poems were do and I had a lot to do on Sunday. Unfortunately, I was drawing a blank. I stared at my blue and gold marble notebook, the one I write my poems and my critiques in.
On the first page of the book was a drawing of the Kusadasi sign. I went to Turkey this summer, and I was enchanted by what I saw. In Kusadasi, we saw a silk weaver weaving a Turkish carpet, and we learned that these carpets are a labor of love that can take years and years to make and are worth thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, the art is dying out. I saw the weaver knotting the silk through the loom, and it was really intriguing to me. I thought to myself, “I could do this” and it hasn’t left my mind since.
I wondered how I could write a poem based on this experience. I looked around at my room: on my bed, with a marble notebook, a red pen, and a greasy computer, and I saw the Marina Abramovic postcard in my room. It’s a postcard that has Marina staring directly at the viewer, with the words “The Artist is Present” emblazoned over her face. This has been in my room for a long time, and I wondered how I could incorporate my setting into my poem, to insert my present and my past together.
Marina Abramovic’s performances have always been inspiring to me. In Rhythm 10, Marina stabs between her fingers, not caring if she nicks herself in the process. This is the inspiration for the line “playing Russian roulette with her talent”. In Rhythm 0, Abramovic lays several objects around the room, some docile, like a feather, and some dangerous, like a loaded gun. She remains still for several hours, and lets the audience do what they want to her. After those hours are up, she starts walking. She is nude and silent. This is the inspiration for the line “lay ideas round the room / to see how others react.”
When she meets Ulay (pronounced like “OO-lie”, or alternatively written, “You lie”), she has this instant connection with him, and her Relationworks with him are some of her most famous works. In Breathing In/Breathing Out her and Ulay “connected their mouths and took in each other’s exhaled breaths until they had used up all of the available oxygen.” (Wikipedia). They passed out after seventeen minutes from using up all the oxygen. This is the inspiration for the lines “You lie and twine your silk / until she yearns of a gasp of air.” In Rest Energy, Ulay holds the string of a bow, which contains an arrow. This arrow is aimed at Abramovic’s heart. They are in suspension, and any movement could kill Abramovic. This is pretty famous on Tumblr, and I saw a lot of GIFs about this performance, like here:
This is the inspiration for the lines “…You lie between / the arrows of the silk weaver’s eyes, bobbing back and forth / for a looped eternity.” When she breaks up with Ulay, they decide to get closure by starting at opposite ends of the Great Wall of China and meeting in the middle. You can guess what this moment inspired in the text.
I really wanted to spill all of this during workshop. But I was so overwhelmed and also conscious of how much I could talk that I didn’t want to give a lecture about how much I love Marina Abramovic. The workshop process is great for poems that are more surface level, less referential. Poems that are a little more so? Not so much.