poetry • art • marriage • momhood • faith

Visual Verse

Before I considered myself any kind of writer, I was an artist.  I remember Mom saying, “Just give her a pad of paper and a pencil, and she’ll be quiet for hours.”  Of course, I tended towards “quiet” even without something to do, but still, she was right.  I would draw and create for hours on end.  I loved to color.  I loved making things out of findings before it was cool, long before it was called “upcycling.”  I have a set of paper “marionettes” I made when I was about seven, I think, all with joints hinged with staples.  I won my first coloring contest when I was three, and when I was five, I was coloring in a book on the floor when I had the epiphanous realization that “Five is good. I want to stay five forever.”

Though I wrote my first poem at the ripe age of seven, I knew art was where it was at for me. I was going to be an artist, if that doctor thing fell through.

I won some recognition through various contests, including having a piece win second in a Cricket Magazine competion, in addition to several Honorable Mentions through the years.  Meanwhile, I kept writing, and I started to do pretty well with that too.

But when I realized I didn’t have the stomach for medicine, I didn’t decide to study writing. No, I went for Art, of course.  I even managed a small scholarship to persue it.  Along the way, I did take a couple writing classes.  Then a couple more. And I picked up some work-study hours working as a writing tutor.  But Art—paint, charcoal, pastels…—was my love.

I graduated with a BA in Art.  With a minor in Creative Writing.

Then I left school.  Got married.  Had kids.  And gave up my time and space for Art.  I ache for it some days.  I long to draw and paint and create images.  Sometimes photography satiates for a time, but not for long.  Still, there’s not much I am willing to do to “fix” my predicament right now.

But I still need to let out that urge to create visual patterns and images.  So, naturally, I fall back on my writing.

* * * * *

I am currently working on a book-length collection of poetry, my second publication (with my first being my chapbook, Lemonade & Rumors).  One thing I’ve been noticing is that I really am particular and often peculiar about how I arrange my poems.  I use odd stanza shapes and irregular line breaks. I mix alignments.  I am conscious of whitespace.

In short, I am not going to make it easy to do layout.

But how could I simply write in “regular” lines, always left-justified?  I think how a poem looks on the page is almost as important as the title.  I’ll be honest, if I’m flipping through a lit journal, I’m more likely to read the visually interesting piece than something that is a block of text, shapeless. Even organically grown free-verse ought to have some cultivation.  Like sculpting a topiary.

At least, as long as the form or shape or whitespace supports the content and intent of the piece.

In the end, yes, it’s the words that remain, but for this visual artist cum writer, first impressions, are made by the image on the page.  I want that first image to say something.

And I ought to use this Art degree for something.

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torch bearing quietly

I will not act out, will not
yell or curse or slam doors,
will not make a scene -- you
do not deserve such a chance
to make an example out of me
to be proven right since you
are not. Instead, I'll stand
at this street corner, raise
my hand high and clench that
light which yet remains. It
will burn brightly, quietly,
fiercely before fading as I.

Then I'll be gone but found.

©JAC 2005

Poetry by Julie Ann Cook!

Order your copy of
Love Like Weeds
by Julie Ann Cook
through Main Street Rag Publishing Company.

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