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  • Writer's picturejennyyoshida

Adding Poetry

Updated: Oct 15, 2020

My book, The Color System, was already so based in language, that I was unsure how poetry might best fit into it. Michele Burgess had the hunch that Bianca Stone, an accomplished poet living in Vermont, would make a good collaborator for the book.

We were able to meet in person in March 2019, when Bianca flew to San Diego for a few days to collaborate with Michele, Nelle Martin and me at Brighton Press. In that meeting we discussed the idea of endnotes masquerading as erudite sentence fragments, weaving in wisps of scholastic phrasing, but turning out to be stream of consciousness nonsense. Bianca made a suite of thirteen endnote poems that embedded some of my color names within them. We thought that Bianca’s poetry and my colors might end up as two separate parts, or even separate volumes within the book, like a partnership.

The “intrusions” of poetry on translucent slips of hand-lined paper was a wonderful discovery that we came to a little later. I had made a copy of a typed poem from Bianca’s book, Poetry Comics, because I wanted to see how typing would look with the pages of the book. It was a typed version of a poem called “Because You Love Me, I Can Fall Apart” with hand-scribbled edits—a rough draft.

I happened to start reading the poem with the pages of the book out and it gelled immediately. The poem alights on little vignettes of life, pointing them out, essentially labeling them. AHA! The wandering imagery of the poem perfectly complemented how the color names sampled from every part of life. The book has thirteen page spreads, so I tried breaking the poem into thirteen chunks to see how it read. When I assigned each to a page of the book in the original order, I was shocked at some of the beautiful serendipitous correspondences between the page and the poem.

For example, the photo of two young girls starts with “this is your mother speaking.” For a color grouping titled “Prideful, Loving Anger Is My Only Salvation” the poem starts with “My love…out of the depths.” In every case, the idiosyncrasies in Bianca's poem called out to the weirdnesses in my color names and made a world that felt lived in.

Most amazing to me is a part of the poem that reads:

“and the earth filled with the dead who decompose naturally in the mountains

in a vortex of quilts and roots. And they all want to be loved. and liked. these

goddamn children. and they all want to be given things and brought to the river

and fed coffee and blasts of warm air.”

The photo and grouping that fell into place with those lines really showed me the depth that Bianca's words brought to my book. I don't want to ruin the fun of finding all of these correspondences yourself, so I won't spoil it. (I want to, but it'll be better if you get to experience it for yourself.)

I only did a couple of adjustments to the page breaks in the poem to better match the photos and wording of the color system pages. It’s this kind of coincidence that makes me feel not only like we were on the right track with the book, but that our collaboration was kismet.

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