‘Estuary’, edited by Harriette Lawler and Agnes Marton, Moon and Mountain 2012, $59.95 hardcover, $44.99 softcoverPosted: April 26, 2013
please click on the images in the gallery above to enlarge
Just as an estuary is the interface between land and water, ‘Estuary’ is built around the metaphor of ‘a confluence of art and poetry’. Each page pairs a poem and an art work, in a fabulous moment of symbiosis, fluid interchange, and synchronicity, and the crystallisation of two distinct yet related worlds. An innovative work, ‘Estuary’ also includes scannable barcodes that transport the reader to online videos of the poet reading their work, or the artist at work in their gallery or studio. ‘Estuary’ thus enables a confluence of the printed and digital worlds also, allowing them to live in harmony rather than playing on perceived antagonisms between digital media and the printed book.
One of the striking things about this volume is that it is a place where metaphor is concrete and powerful. Concepts are inextricable from the metaphors that poets and artists have for them, and from the landscape of the estuary. The estuary does not just represent thought, but helps to mould it. In JP Reese’s beautiful poem ‘Sand Dollar’ (pictured above), for instance, shifting sands sculpt, and bring distinction to, the speaker’s thought: ‘ The sand moves, sculpted by wind.| Endings clarify, chasten’.
This collection also brings out the uncanniness that eventuates when two disparate worlds – land and water – overlap. Indeed, Freud’s original definition of the most uncanny involved a description of walking across the bed of a lake where water once was. Kathleen Jones perfectly captures the overlaying of land and water in ‘The Estuary’ (pictured) when she speaks of salt dissolved not in the sea but in the air, and land that ‘wander[s]’ and ‘swills’. Her estuary, that ’empties and fills,| empties and fills’ evokes the temporal nature of the estuary: it is at one time land, and another, water. Imagining these two states of the estuary at once leads to precisely the uncanny experience of walking on dry land underwater. As Ágnes Lehóczky writes in ‘Balaton 2: Spiral’, with a perfectly placed line ending that tips the reader suddenly the right way up, making them realise they had been upside down, the estuary is ‘vertigo,| in reverse’.
Many of the poems in this book are wonderfully surprising. My favourite line comes from ‘Sand Dollar’: ‘I am the arid bone of flowered stars’. With the word ‘arid’ we might well predict the next word ‘bone’, but the movement from ‘bone’ to ‘flowered’ to ‘stars’ is totally unexpected, leading and shaping the reader’s thought in ways it would not possibly go alone. The same goes for Meg Tuite’s startling evocation of sound, an unwieldy instrument, and silence in her description of her mother’s girdle in ‘Unsheathed Behind Locked Doors’ (pictured), ‘The constrained texture of an accordion’s wings| Without the music’, and Lehóczky’s simple statement ‘stars and snails have something in common’. There is so much energy in the language throughout ‘Estuary’, perhaps most so in Agnes’ Marton’s sonorous ‘Apesanteur’, where ‘partless’ echoes ‘Harbour’ and the speaker has ‘no planiverse, no maniverse| no know-all, just naked verse’.
If there is one thing we have learned so far at Poems Underwater it is that writers love to use the sea as a way of evoking the highs and lows of society, commingling and clashing material cultures. They do this pervasively by simply listing objects that jumbled together by the sea (as Linda Ann Strang does in her ‘Wedding Underwear for Mermaids’, reviewed earlier in the project). And ‘Estuary’ is no exception to this celebration of the disparate objects of our society, and the power of the water and the silt to mingle them and to make them monochrome (Mani Bour’s art work beside Lisa Gordon’s wonderful ‘The Uneven U-Turn Poem’, and Pia Lehmann’s piece beside Reese’s ‘The Sand Dollar’, both evoke the weird shapes and part-objects unified by the colouring silt). In ‘Zones of Convergence’, Pippa Little succumbs to this love of collecting as she lists ‘sea glass and souls, bloated ships’ cats,| jellyfish and hag stones,| tampax applicators, drums and sleeves| kettles and car parts, cans of beans in Cyrillic alphabets’.
‘Estuary’ is a gorgeous book to own, full of surprises and of verse held taughtly in the hands that alters the contours of the mind.
All art work and poetry presented here are excerpts from the book “Estuary: A Confluence of Art & Poetry.” They are copyrighted by the artists and poets and may not be copied or reproduced in any way without the express written permission of the respective artist and poet. The excerpted pages are copyrighted by the publisher Moon and Mountain and may not be copied or reproduced in any way without the express written permission of the publisher.
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Agnes Marton is a Hungarian-born poet. She has been working in publishing since 1991.
She participates in exhibitions and art projects: ‘Opposition’ (USA), ‘Flow’ (Switzerland), ‘So What’ (New Zealand), ‘Stone Project’ (USA), ‘Gateway Project’ (USA), ‘Arts et Jardin’ (France), ‘Windows for Burns Night’ (UK), ‘Dharmic Angels’ (UK), ‘European Sculpture: Methods, Materials, Poetry’ (Sweden), ‘For Rhino in a Shrinking World’ (South Africa), ‘Appeal 2012’ (South Africa), ’Wool Symposium’ (Spain).
She collaborated with French sculptor Mani Bour and Japanese/American artist painter Midori McCabe. Both collaborations have been featured in London art magazines. Now she is in collaboration with Polish artist painter Malgorzata Lazarek.
Her Publications include ‘Sculpture/poésie’ (France); ‘Gateway’ (USA); anthologies and literary magazines in the USA, in the UK, Finland and Hungary; ‘The New Encyclopaedia of Hungarian Literature’ (co-author); filmographies; translations.
Her most recent publications are ‘Estuary: A Confluence of Art and Poetry’ (USA, poetry editor and contributor); ‘Poems for Pussy Riot’ (UK), ‘Binders Full of Women’ (UK), ‘Shorelines’ (UK).
She’s a member of the Federation of Writers Scotland, the English PEN and the (Germany-based) international Sculpture Network.
Art editor and designer Harriette Lawler is a sculptor who has shown her work in the USA and in Europe. After living and working in New York City for 20 years, in 2003 she relocated to the tiny mountain village of Jemez Springs, New Mexico, USA, where she currently resides. She also operates a guest retreat in her home there. During her career as an artist, she has curated and organized many exhibitions, was a co-founder and co-director for two artists’ cooperatives, has taught children’s art classes in New York, and is currently a member of the European based artists’ group 3rd Paradigm. Her publishing credentials in New York City include work at Rolling Stone Magazine, The Village Voice, and Popular Mechanics Magazine. Books published are “Privatsphären”, “Gateway: An Artists’ Time Capsule”, and of course “Estuary: A Confluence of Art & Poetry”.