Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Featured Poet at Surreal Poetics

Featured Poet at Surreal Poetics
Published Summer 2017

Alison Ross
"Dust on a Vision of Hell" - Issue 02

Discuss your encounter with Surrealism.

I first encountered surrealism at my university in small-town Texas (of all places) via a literature class where we read Rimbaud and Baudelaire. We mainly read Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal, but also selections from Rimbaud’s Les Illuminations. The professor had seen, in the school newspaper, a particularly odious poem of mine (which was a juvenile, Sade-esque interpretation of themes relating to pleasure and pain) and figured I could only benefit from reading these French symbolists, who were the precursors of course to actual surrealism. I fell deeply, madly, frantically in love with the surrealist process.

I believe I am a surrealist practitioner in work and life; I would say that my pedagogy is guided by a surrealist, subconscious/unconscious impetus: my teaching is assertively dreamlike, driven by cerebral whimsy. For example, in the high school and college classes I instruct, I incorporate the arts, particularly the more surrealistic arts, as much as possible. My process is often spontaneous and humorous, but also sometimes confrontational, and I espouse an anti-establishment, even absurdist worldview that trickles its way into my class activities.

In my life, I have adopted a surrealist sartorial sense, adorning myself in daringly colorful garb and offbeat jewelry (necklaces bearing cultural symbols, skulls or large watches and the like, bulky silver rings of varying shapes, playful bracelets, etc.), immersing myself in the arts (I favor surrealist writing and painting), and I enjoy almost any film with an even slightly surrealist sensibility (“House” and “Inland Empire” are favorites with a more overt surrealist style, but I also love movies like “Metropolis” and “English Patient,” whose surrealism has a more implicit sense). My house, too, is suffused in surrealism - it's a madhouse of colorful, chaotic craziness. 

Discuss your poem that we published (if we published more than one then you should only discuss one—your choice).

The Cure, on their seminal, surrealist post-punk masterwork, Pornography, has a song called "Figurehead" which features the lines, "Dust on the lips of a vision of hell." So yes, I cribbed that line and altered it a bit to use for my title, which in turn triggered an avalanche of imagery. I was simultaneously inspired by a science film I had been watching with some kids at a school in Georgia, my state of residence, where I was substitute teaching. The film was about creatures in the ocean. I began making a list from the words and ideas in the film. Starfish have always fascinated me and I find the claws of lobsters and crabs quaintly menacing.

My favorite line in my poem is the one about the "cacophony of bones" contrasted with "Technicolor bells." Bells are euphonious, of course, and not cacophonous, but can also provoke an audio-visual synesthesia. Hence my use of the word "Technicolor." My poem also relies on the use of the word "psychedelic" because The Cure's music, particularly on Pornography and The Top, is psychedelically evocative, featuring otherworldly vocals, acid-addled lyrics, warped instrumentation. At the end of the poem, it cycles and echoes back to the phrases and lines from the beginning because I find that repetition is subtly forceful in urging an acute awareness of imagery and sound. Also, I just really enjoy rearranging words and images. 

Describe a time when you became aware of a found object—when you discovered a new, marvelous, unexpected use for or way of looking at a normal object.

I have frenetically eclectic tastes. My house is chaotically cluttered, with framed art prints, clocks and mirrors of all sorts crowding the walls, flea market finds such as rustic, rickety furniture loosely arranged, as well as artifacts from my travels (pottery, small sculptures) and yard sale art like old telephones and chipped art objects strewn about on tables and shelves. And of course, books, CD’s, vinyl, and movies abound and are arranged to be part of the decor. I would say my house subverts traditional modes of decoration. Objects I find are sometimes fractured, such as a mirror or a piece of pottery, and I assimilate it into the overall design because I do believe that all objects are infused with a higher purpose. In fact, since I have two cats, both of which thrive on periodic lunatic behavior, several of my objects have been broken, and often I retain the fragments of those objects and use them as part of the decor. Fragmented and fractured objects are just as meaningful as objects that have retained their coherence. 
Alison ross's surreal proverb
Broken clocks are cosmic catnip.

No comments: