In the "Looking Glass," we provide the space for contributors to share reflections on their work. "Looking Glass" provides a sort of parlor where authors reveal the genesis of their pieces, as well as provide meta-discursive insight into their textual and visual creative works.
Issue 2 Reflections
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"After That (The Quite World)" :
An Animation of Jeffrey McDaniel's Poem
"The Quite World"
Although this video was an assignment for a basic After Effects class, I think the simple imagery and limited motion works with the poem; I did not want to detract from the words themselves. With the aid of video hosting sites, there is an growing opportunity to share literary work with an entirely new audience.
“The Pearl Divers”
I tend to start stories with a clear image in my head which evolves into a scene. For “The Pearl Divers,” it started with a sound rather than a picture. I accidentally broke a vase and as I picked up the pieces, I couldn’t let go of the startling sound of the breaking glass and shards as they skipped across the floor. I wondered what it would be like to be consumed by sound, to crawl into it in order to escape another sense or feeling. The character of Elise, a passive runaway, came to mind.
I’ve always been fascinated with the adoption or cultivation of identity, especially when someone immerses themselves deeply into a culture that is not originally their own. To me, this goes beyond conversion, and the attachment and devotion is very complex and intriguing. Elise struggles with her mother’s obsession with Buddhism and Japanese culture—so extreme that she renames her daughter. In order to discover an identity of her own, and to define herself outside of her mother’s expectations, she leaves but remains in the shadow of her family.
With Elise, I wanted her to unknowingly mirror her mother’s lifestyle. She is isolated in her adopted city, living alone with barely any possessions—an almost monastic life. Her long walks and hikes into nature are her form of meditation. In the midst of this, and the appearance of her sister, Elise must define who she is. She must reclaim her given name rather than the one her mother later gave her.
My fiction focuses on the moments of young peoples’ lives when they are on the brink of self-discovery and independence. “The Pearl Divers” captures this moment, but Elise is older, not a teenager or even a college student. She’s been trapped in her mother’s world and I wanted to write a story that asked the question, can she leave? That, of course, is up to the reader to decide.
The genesis of my short story, Loyal American, was listening to the experiences of dear friends who are Japanese American and old enough to have been personally affected by the imprisonment of Japanese Americans during WWII. While their personal stories complemented my research to provide historical background, the story and characters are fictional. What struck me the most in writing this story was the patriotism of many of the persons who were imprisoned. Even in the camps, many remained loyal Americans, in spite of their mistreatment by their fellow Americans. Many Japanese Americans understood the bitter irony of their situation, yet remained loyal. I also learned that the core issue in Loyal American is independent of its historical circumstance of Japanese Americans during WWII, but is relevant in any situation we question out of fear the loyalty of entire groups and decide to treat them differently than the rest of us.
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"Vitality of Madness"
For me as an artist, there is a great thrill and excitement in experimenting with the variable materials of mixed media. One must learn how the mediums react and interplay with each other. Some mediums resist each other, while others attract, and become completely transformed by their union. As an abstract artist, I never have any preconceived idea of how any painting is going to turn out. It is for me, a journey of sorts. I am merely a conduit to administer a concept, expression, or emotion that moves through me.
One thing that I have had to learn with mixed media in contrast to utilizing only one medium, is patience with the process. Many of my oil paintings were created in a matter of minutes in a single sitting; whereas mixed media requires many hours and sittings between layers for drying or adding textures. In these particular pieces "Syzygic Alchemy" and "Vitality of Madness" I used heavy layers of gesso and embossing paste along with regular acrylics, liquid metallic acrylics and pigments, as well as glass beads, sand, and flakes.
"Very Good" was written in a bit of snit. I guess that shouldn't be a surprise. A then-friend had read my second book and wrote back to me a very measured assessment, full of restrained superiority. At that point, the book had been published five years before, and though I'm still proud of that work, it already felt far from me. My gut sense is that the former friend's response wasn't even about the book, but something else. I re-imagined the experience as a piece of fiction. I think the piece is a little kinder to him than he deserves, but such is the way of fiction.
The funny thing is that the story didn't come out in one sitting, although it wanted to look like that. I worked and picked at it for a span of several days. During the time I was writing it, I attended a Cavafy conference at Harvard. It wasn't as formidable as it sounds. I remember one scholar talking about Leonard Cohen's "Alexandra Leaving" in relationship to Cavafy's poetry. I happened to be sitting next to Jorie Graham. She was weeping a bit, and I remember being surprised that she was so moved by the song. I was certainly paying attention to the scholar's presentation. But another part of me was working on this piece in my head as all this was going on. On some level "Very Good" will always be about Harvard and Cambridge and a December afternoon and Cavafy and Leonard Cohen and Jorie Graham to me.
This piece will be a part of my book UNBUILT PROJECTS, which will be out from Four Way Books in Fall 2012