Barbara Guest / Laurie Reid
Kelsey St. Press, 2000
$17 / 36 pages / ISBN 0-932716-52-0
$200 / (Limited signed edition with an original drawing)
Symbiosis is another of Barbara Guest's dynamic and breathtaking
collaborations with an artist. This particular piece expresses the
combustion of differences mergingthe symbiosis of the written
word and the painting, the poet and the artistand the weaving
process that joins these two forms together. "This is the point
where the strophes meet, / one line interweaves with another, / room
of liberal fountains, / a different speech and metabolism, / near
an ancient site of accord / and priority."
What happens when two artists meet and engage in their creating,
not in reflection, but in the present moment, inspiring each other,
working with many levels both seen and unseen? How does the invisible
of two energies resemble a poem, a painting, a "Poem-Painting?"
What does this intertwining do to narrative, telling, making? Guest
doesn't provide answers to these questions. Rather she suspends them
for us right inside the "perpendicular" of two bodies so
that perhaps we can see the questions: how malleable they are, how
delicate creation is.
Entering Symbiosis, the reader is immediately aware that she
is in a new spaceone that pushes, mixes, destroys boundaries
between different mediums of art. The space is non-traditional, but
it is almost useless to compare it to anything, any kind of other
form or style. Symbiosis is that space which blends and sifts and
joins and separates nownot any place, any where, any time, any
else. It is its own construction, its own language. One continuous
song, Symbiosis is minutely attentive to its own process.
The reader may be drawn at first to the earthen printed poetry strung
out throughout the unnumbered pages. Or she might be attracted to
the long "bronze green" lines watercolor brushed on an unfolding
canvas. She may catch herself "reading" the space differently.
She may see herself in the mirror of reading, creating, writing. The
space she has entered:
symbiosis aflame stroked
each line power wound up in volume,
when spoken to, fear in place of the woven,
it says, in place of the line.
Thinned down, staggering looks up to the drawing;
bodies all the way
up the hill.
As she begins to read, there is a momentum of conjoining spirits.
"The spirit / sails along, / amid live speech. / 'Ripening beyond
sheer height,' calls itself." The plurality is resounding, beckoningtwo
art forms corresponding and giving in to one another. The realization
of this relationship is not purely literal, nor visual, but most amazingly
a deliverance of two singings that interrupt and feed each other,
existing and changing in the same space. One becomes attentive to
a new concept of time that becomes through light, a time that speaks
to iridescence, one that inhabits fear and the struggle of creating.
over the surface perpendicular
is not something to chat about filled
loosened bones. Could be a shuttle
it worked in direct light.
The reader senses that each word, each gesture of green, each line
hinges on the former and the forward as telling becomes aware of its
tellingits property of taking on many shades, warpings, blotches.
The reader senses the clinging to each syllable and paper fiber, to
each bone of a body, to be at last "no weight, no thing to litter,
/ free as unusual."
This is the point: the reader is the writer, the painter at this
moment of interaction. Although there is a disturbance when letting
go of one's ownership of her art when collaborating, a violation perhaps
of self or ego, the explosion travels toward calm and flow, a nirvana
of sorts, a transcendence. "Positioning the strophes / ended
in calm, / after the strophes are positioned."
Mesmerized and meditating with the intersection of lines, the reader
begins to see many selves as well as the world's many affectations
that enter a piece of art, making it independent of one's self. There
is interdependence. Just as Symbiosis articulates the creating,
it also tiles the images of keen living: how the outside is the poem,
and also how the writer is the outside is the poem. Guest brings in
other scenes, images. Referencing and relevancy is put into "mid
air,... a suggestion" put into view:
Gas lights and lost
cares of thought, an oil lamp, Maupassant
it there. He stands at the window.
places her hands on her hair.
off its route,
to the bird of prey,
in another direction, the nineteenth
a plaid cap.
Knitting or singing a song, hair let down
from the blueranging and tumbling the blue
magnolia nestled, the wild berry, also.
The reader flits to others, the outside, as though skipping stones,
images being loosened yet carefully chosen. Whether they make sense
is no longer important. The unthinking of correspondence is. Attention
to sound and color and repetition. Randomness, "Rhythm / and
festivity." A world that hangs and overlaps as thoughts do, or
dreams, or being closer to fear. These outside images perhaps represent
the subject of the poem, the writer writing the poem, her presence
and intention, her looking at the world, and giving herself up to
it. Her awakening to reading/writing. "...Coming from outside
/ studying to be someone else, / why not? And write her own script,
/ write it then she did / first learn about pretense the make-up and
lounge dress, / authority and the syllabus."
Symbiosis refers to referring. Collaboration reveals clearly
the multi-clarity of "overlapping" with another artist.
How intimacy with oneself and one's work might be admitting to fluctuation,
the unfixed, the seamless. "This is a strange way to tell a story
being / where one does not wish, in the midst of a storm..."
If one chooses to resist one's work, to push up against it, to notice
its organism inside/outside of its subject, one may become the suppressed
as well as have the potential to revolutionize.
She can read the image in the overlapping
even from outside,
parts that overlap
and facial movement,
color of the image as it changes
her leg through the rippling
Reading Symbiosis is a transformational experience. It dances
with and questions the elements: color, syllable, paper, wood, image,
bone. It is the elements interrupting and consoling one another. If
not touched by the desire of the piece, one can sway in its "fluidity"
and elegance. "A sign of being gentle, / the scene is more mature...A
sign of being gentle, plain orange."