Penteract Press and she tweets @ClaraDaneri.
Her visual poem “The Tyger” appears in the twenty-fourth issue of Touch the Donkey.
Q: Tell me about the “The Tyger.”
A: A lot of my poetry is about distorting classic literature into visual representations of the subject matter. I like to choose pieces that resonate with me and have strong imagery, so Blake’s “The Tyger” seemed perfect for this treatment. The face of a tiger is such an iconic image, and Blake’s poem so evocative, I really wanted to play with the idea of “perfect symmetry” within both.
Q: How does this project relate to some of the other work you’ve been doing lately?
A: My work tends to focus on the relationship between content and form. My first real venture into visual poetry was a triptych of female forms whose skins are made up of romantic poems about feminine beauty. Another work is an erasure palimpsest using text from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein with Karloff’s iconic Monster. An upcoming piece, due to finish up Penteract Press’ pamphlet series, sees me retell Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit using only emojis.
Q: What is it about reshaping or erasing text that appeals to you? What do you feel that utilizing the words from other texts allows that might not be possible otherwise?
A: It’s about exploring the relationship between word and form – bridging the gap between literature and the visual arts. By using existing works as my starting point, it gives me a constraint with which to work – I have to find a solution to the “problem”. If I were working with my own words, I don’t think that solution would be as satisfying, as I would have too much control over the outcome.
Q: I’ve heard that as a descriptor for art-making: we create problems that we can then solve. Is this how you see your practice? Who have your models been for this kind of work?
A: I always produce my best work when I have an initial starting point – a blank page/canvas is not a thing of inspiration for me, so I think that statement is true.
My husband, Anthony Etherin, has shown me what can be achieved with the right balance of freedom and constraint. Our founding of Penteract Press together has exposed me to so many great poets, and in the last few years I have taken great pleasure in seeing what can be done combining word and form. I don’t think I have any direct models, but I have taken a lot of inspiration from some of the poets with whom we have worked including Christian Bök, Mary Frances, Chris Warren, Lucy Dawkins, Kate Siklosi and psw.
Q: With a handful of pamphlets and other ephemera under your belt, how do you feel your work has developed? Where do you see your working heading?
A: I’m definitely more confident now – at first, I was very nervous about how my work would be received, but feedback has been good, so that spurs me on to keep trying new things. It has been really great that people have started reaching out to solicit work from me – that encourages me to continue. I haven’t created that much output yet, so I am still finding out what my particular poetic practice is. I am really keen on this “Icons” theme of working with well-known pieces that resonate with me, and this is forming into the early stages of a book – I just wish I had more hours in the day (but I guess most poets have the same problem)! Between working full time and helping to run Penteract Press, finding time to work on new pieces is challenging. Most of my poetic work requires a lot of concentration, so I have to have a few clear hours where I’m able to be totally focused. The book will come, in time, but at the moment building up the press takes precedence. However, if I’m feeling particularly inspired, I somehow manage to find the time!
Q: How many “Icons” have you produced so far, and how far do you see the project going?
A: I am looking to produce a short book, so perhaps 30 – 40 in total. So far, I have about seven, so still a way to go… I have had a few frustrating false starts with concepts that didn’t work out in the end – but that’s all part of the process!
Q: Finally, who do you read to reenergize your own work? What particular works can’t you help but return to?
A: I must admit, I don’t tend to revisit things on purpose for inspiration – it tends to be a more of a coincidental process when it happens.
I find my twitter feed very inspirational as so many of the people I follow are so generous sharing their work, as well as retweeting things that they admire both in poetry and visual art. It’s a lovely thing to scroll Twitter and come across an astounding painting/ visual poem you’ve never seen before, or be reminded of a forgotten favourite.
Outside of Twitter, Anthony helps me a lot. When I am stuck in a creative rut, we talk, and bounce ideas off each other. Maybe clarifying a half-formed idea, or helping me find a point of inspiration (“Aria”, which features in our “Reflections” anthology was a direct response to the bilingual palindrome he had written with Pedro Poitevin).