It’s not often that an art installation so perfectly embraces the written word. But Lesley Dill’s “Poetic Visions: From Shimmer to Sister Gertrude Morgan” exhibit not only embraces language but demands the words come alive.
To go with the exhibit, there is a “Tongues Aflame” poetry series designed to be a response to Dill’s fusion of language, costume and image.
For four dates in February, poets will read some of their work standing in the midst of Dill’s creations. The readings are co-sponsored by the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, the College of Charleston Department of English, Poetry Society of South Carolina and the literary magazine Crazyhorse.
Several of the poets came to The Post and Courier to share their work, and their responses to “Poetic Visions.”
Madeline Thieringer is a College of Charleston student who is working on attentive observation. For her, poetry is about observing her day-to-day world more closely. “Writing poetry is almost like writing dreams,” she says.
The imagery has meaning, but only in writing down the dream does the meaning become clear. She finds the more attentive she is to small details of life, the more they have meaning for her.
Her biography for the exhibition says: She would be outside all the time if she could. She picks up yellow ginkgo leaves that remind her of her sister. Her sister is dear to her. Maddie paints houseplants in watercolor, and ices cupcakes for work. She is liking Charleston. She will stay, for the time being.
Avis Elizabeth Norfleet is also a junior at the college, with a passion for fashion as well as the written and spoken word. She wears a daisy headband and says emphatically, “I want to make poetry cool again.”
Dill’s work resonates with her as much for the costumes as the words and letters flowing around the gallery.
“With every era, there are words for clothes that define it.” She says ’90s clothing was defined by the word “cool.” Other eras, like ’70s disco, had their own styles, too.
She says in her biography: Her poems explore the quiet desperation of the grotesque world of American Internet Gothic, and she has probably lurked on your Facebook page.
Kit Loney is the 2012 winner of the Carrie McCray Nickens Poetry Fellowship from the South Carolina Academy of Authors and is on the board of the Poetry Society of South Carolina.
She’s an experienced poet who draws inspiration from the middle school students she teaches. She understands the saying that poetry is something you do for a half-hour a day, and what do you do with the other 231/2 hours?
“My life is lived like that. I wake up early and write for half an hour, and then get on with my day. By the time I get home and eat dinner, I’m done for the day. But working on poetry for that first half-hour makes me pay attention to my world in different ways. I see things differently because of it.”
She, like Dill, comes to language from the visual arts. And the poetry she will read probably will come from a series of poems she has written about illuminated manuscripts. She became interested in the beautifully illustrated letters after taking a course at the College of Charleston.
“Writing a poem is like a ship. There’s a transport that occurs, an idea that I have at the end of the poem that I couldn’t have gotten any other way.”
Susan Finch Stevens’ chapbook, “Lettered Bones,” was chosen as a winner in the South Carolina Poetry Initiative Chapbook competition. Her poems have appeared in various publications and handmade books exhibited in nationally juried and invitational book arts exhibitions.
She relates to the idea of poetry as the exchange of energy, and often does workshops where writers share their dreams and then make sense of them. She came to poetry late in life and finds writing to be inspiring. That’s why the Dill work is fascinating to her.
“I love the energy she plays with between image and text. Sometimes she uses just a line, a word or a phrase, and I wonder why she would relate to those.”
All readings are free. They will begin at 7 p.m. starting Feb. 7 and take place in the Halsey Institute galleries. A reception will follow each reading.
Reach Stephanie Harvin at 937-5557 or sharvin@post andcourier.com.