Wednesday, September 30, 2015

the story behind: the 'dress of poetry ...'

"You only have to let the soft animal of your body

love what it loves."  Mary Oliver
'dress of poetry ...'  the story:  

'dress of poetry ...' 2007

this dress comes from my rediscovery of poetry and a deep desire to celebrate this revival. As I student I did not understand much of the poetry that I was taught, hence I didn’t read poetry once I was done with school. So for decades I avoided poetry but thanks to the magic of poet Mary Oliver, I wasn’t a lost cause.

me with author/poet Heather Panahi
It was near the start of the ‘dressproject’ and a friend introduced me Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese, and I fell in love. I suddenly saw that poems had so much to offer, they were paintings, but instead of paint and brushstrokes they used words, creating emotion, still-life and stories, little snippets of life and our surroundings. It was during this budding love affair that my dear friend and fine author, Heather Panahi, wrote a poem inspired by my dressproject and with that I knew that I was to make a dressproject dress/sculpture of poetry.

For the next weeks I could be seen carrying mountains of poetry books where ever I went. I read and researched many poems for this dress, choosing the ones that either represented a passage in my life; such as my experience in high school when I had the honor of hearing Gwendolyn Brooks read her poem We Real Cool, or ones that constituted a new discovery which spoke to me; like The Secret by Denise Levertov. I was immersed in the world of imagery, alliteration and rhyme and loving it.

my dad with me before the opening

As I collected more and more poems I decided to make this dress be one that I could wear, and this still is the only dress from my dressproject that can be worn. I was intrigued by the idea of wearing the poems, being surrounded and embraced by all the wondrous words. As the word spread that I planned to wear my ‘dress of poetry …’ to an opening reception friends became curious. They asked me if I was going to produce a book of the poems. They explained that I would need something so that people will be able to read the poems that they had watch me collect for months. My answer to this inquiry was a resounding ’no’. I explained that I had designed the dress so that the poems were printed on panels which people could lift up to read.

part of fashion show in SOWA

To this my friends laughed and reminded themselves that I had not grown up in the Boston area; then they explained to me, ‘no Bostonian is going to touch you or the dress, even if it is just to read the poems.’ They were quasi-correct, it was only later in the evening that some folks worked up the nerve to read my dress, and I believe that was thanks to the open bar.

' Upon further Consideration'
at Regis College, 2011
Since the opening reception the ‘dress of poetry ….’ has inspired myself and others in numerous venues, and has lead to other poetic projects. In 2012, I had the honor of working with the Attleboro Public Library and the Attleboro community , creating the collaborative installation, the ‘birds of poetry’. During the project, the ‘dress of poetry’ held court in the library as the ‘birds of poetry’ took flight through the library’s atrium.
'poetic' 4 dec. 2013
part of my decemberdresses series 

The ‘dress of poetry …’ cemented my personal love of poetry. Through its creation and its exhibits I have discovered more and more wonderful poems, and I have witnessed the power of poetry, in children, in adults, in students and in myself.

holding court at the
attleboro Public Library
'birds of poetry ...' 2012

'bird of poetry ...' 2012
 links to related blog posts mentioned above:

The Peace of Wild Things
mixed media illustration of another one of
my favorite poems ... but I have so many!!!
peace, va

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