Iris Cushing speaks with the artist/poet couple, Marina Temkina and Michel Gérard, about their new book Who is I?
In Who is I?, the second installment in the Content Series, Marina Temkina and Michel Gérard offer a rare and welcome reading experience: a compelling narrative without words. This collection of instant photos, taken over twenty years of the artist/poet couple’s shared life, seems a fitting collaboration for two makers who don’t share a native language. The images are made in the now-antiquated mediums of the Photomat booth and Polaroid camera, snapped in spare moments during Gérard and Temkina’s extensive travels. They document a relationship continually in motion, evolving through multiple places and personas, with togetherness as the only constant. They document two lives seamlessly interwoven with art, and with each other.
Who is I? comes as a satisfying realization of the idea behind the Content Series. Conceived of and published by poet James Copeland, the series offers eighty pages in which the author (or in this case, authors) have free reign. Temkina, a poet and artist from St. Petersberg, is the author of What Do You Want? (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2009), among other books. Gérard, an artist from Paris, has worked on site-specific public sculpture throughout Europe, Korea and the United States. This is the couple’s third collaborative book. The three of us got together one night over tea to discuss how both the pictures and the book came into being. I was delighted to discover the variety of characters who influenced Gérard and Temkina’s collaboration—from Amerigo Vespucci to Buster Keaton—and, most importantly, Gérard and Temkina.
Iris Cushing These images make me think of multiple places—maybe it’s because photo booths are found in transient spaces, like train stations, all over the world. It gives the sense of travel, not just in physical space, but through time as well. How did you begin making them?
Marina Temkina The whole idea of a photo collection was Michel’s idea, from the very beginning. After we made the first one, he got an idea that we should start making them. On one of our first trips together in summer in France—we were going to the south for some reason, to Aix-en-Provence—I remember Michel saying, as we zigzagged through Europe, “our biographers will not have a way to follow us.” I was absolutely fascinated that he had that type of thing in his mind—that he was thinking about biographers.
Matthew Zapruder’s new book, Come On All You Ghosts, does what many great collections of poems do: it expands a reader’s sense of what is possible, both for poetic form and for reality itself. With dynamic, logically complex sentences, Zapruder posits a world that is both extraordinary and refreshingly ordinary.
“I see you striding through the down / and dust, blood spattered on your ankles, / your thin dress folding around your knees. / You’ve got an orange in each pocket, / and you walk by death with your head / held high, into the house and its shadow.” Iris Cushing reviews Maureen Thorson’s book of poetry Applies to Oranges.
Remember the kind of earth-map that’s made from a flattened orange peel? The skin transforms from sphere to plane, from organic waste to microcosm. Maureen Thorson’s Applies to Oranges embodies the do-it-yourself economy of such a map. In this collection of fifty-nine untitled prose poems, nothing is wasted; indeed, it is the remains, what’s left over after the fruits of joy have been consumed or lost, that gives the work its vision.
Hoa Nguyen on remaining inside mysteries and the alien alphabets of dreams.
Hoa Nguyen’s poems might appear fragmented at first— like pieces of broken china—as in “Bread”: “Next time I’ll crack/more pepper also knead/more cheese in there//(insert involuntary/ psychic activity)//I don’t believe the self-immolation tale/Can’t stay.” But after spending time with one of her books, the pieces of image and story that make up her poems prove to be more particle than fragment, each integral and necessary. The space between these particles is as meaningful as the space between stars. The poems move according to an order that reveals its presence slowly, offering humor and beauty as rewards along the way. Listening in on her particular language, a complex system can be heard at work; a way of being with thought and sensation as fully alive, unpredictable entities.
Nguyen’s lines often economize multiple senses into a single dense unit and feel effortless. Like pomegranate seeds, these poems attract the both the eye and the tongue: “What justice foreigns for a sovereign/We doom in nation rooms” (“Agent Orange Poem”) or “Hold and blow tough as night/Hope-bow tugged tight” (“After Sappho”). A pragmatic streak appears amidst of these jewels. Household errands and everyday vernacular intersect with the ecstatic:
Mash the sea