Editorial note: Kiki Smith (b. 1954) is an artist, sculptor, and printmaker. Her work can be seen or has been shown in countless museums, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. An exhibition of her work Prints, Books and Things, ran at the New York MoMA from December 5, 2003 to March 8, 2004, and was followed by an interactive website. The following conversation focuses on Smith’s collaboration with poet Leslie Scalapino, The Animal Is in the World Like Water in Water (2010). A digital facsimile of the book is available from Reed Digital Collections. The show originally aired on KAOS 89.3 FM as part of Cross Cultural Poetics on February 6, 2011. The following was transcribed by Michael Nardone. You can listen to the full recording of the program at PennSound here. We would like to thank Kiki Smith and The Pace Gallery for permission to publish this interview. — Katie L. Price
Leonard Schwartz: Today’s guest, on the phone from New York, is Kiki Smith. She is an internationally known artist working in multiple mediums. About her work, it has been written, “Smith represents the female body as one of resistance and transgression. Her women reject the graceful refined poses of Western statuary, and startle by performing extremely private acts in a remarkably public and matter of fact manner.” The work of Kiki Smith’s I’d like to talk about today is a collaboration she’s done with the poet Leslie Scalapino: The Animal Is in the World Like Water in Water, published by Granary Books in an edition of forty or forty-five copies. We have one copy here at the Evergreen State College in our rare books room. Welcome, Kiki Smith.
Editorial note: Ted Berrigan (1934–1983) was the author of several books of poetry, including The Sonnets (1964), Nothing for You (1978), Easter Monday (1978), and A Certain Slant of Sunlight (1988). He also wrote a novel, Clear the Range (1977). His poems were collected in The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan by University of California Press in 2005.
Note: The first time I read an Aaron Shurin poem, I entered another poetic country where the sound of language, its gorgeous rhythms and contours, coalesced with image. I didn’t fully understand intellectually what the poem was “about,” but I did get the feeling it gave off. I interviewed Shurin recently, hoping to answer some of my questions about his writing process. On the surface, Shurin’s verse can appear confessional since many of his poems look autobiographical. In “The Wheel” from Into Distances, the speaker says, “I’m sitting here — the failure of things — as one is — all this complicated material must be beautiful. To speak about the white heat of iron — it seems cold — wrapped in a firm hand of nature — words are also white-hot. I was finding more that isn’t perfect, and feel older in order to ripen.” Much of his language and imagery emerges from associative thought, a skillful rendering of self as processed through language. In his prose poems in particular, Shurin borrows words and phrases from others, making them his own lens on the inner and outer worlds, allowing him to manifest many selves; they are all both him and not him.